5 ways to enjoy Tokyo like a local in summer

Tokyo, Japan is one of those destinations that travellers can’t seem to get enough of no matter how many times they visit. The country’s capital city is home to a number of attractions ranging from historic monuments to futuristic skyscrapers and unique cultural experiences that attract tourists from around the world. However, perhaps the best way to immerse yourself in this fascinating city is to explore it as the locals do.

Next summer, when international travel is hopefully back in full swing and Japan is buzzing with the hype of the 2020 Olympic Games (which were postponed due to the coronavirus), it might be worth planning an itinerary around some of the best local attractions rather than tourist hotspots.

So, from dancing in the streets to getting in touch with nature, here are the top five experiences to do during Tokyo’s summer season (June – August).

1. Celebrate with festivals and fireworks

Join the locals as they take to the streets for Tokyo’s spectacular festivals and fireworks. Most evenings through July and August you will hear the rhythmic taiko drums in every neighbourhood, calling locals to celebrate summer and honour their ancestors with dancing, paper lanterns and summer kimonos (yukata). The Obon festival is a Buddhist tradition also known as the ‘festival of the dead’ or the ‘festival of souls,’ and is one of the most widely celebrated religious festivals in Japan.

Fireworks in Tokyo
© Shingo Tamura

2. Stay cool at island beaches and urban pools

There’s nothing more refreshing than a swim on a hot summers day. So, do as the locals do and escape the bustling city to check out some of Tokyo’s lesser-known beaches and resort-like pools to cool down. Some beaches to consider, include Tokyo Bay and Kasai Kaihin Park (when the water quality is good), or Odaiba if you just want to splash your feet. Otherwise many locals flock to an aquatic theme parks – with Tokyo Summerland and Yomiuriland’s WAI being the most popular. Many of Tokyo’s major hotels also open their pools to the public in summer, though the cost for non-guests can be high. If you have a few days, check out the subtropical Islands to Tokyo’s south, many of which offer beaches and outdoor activities galore.  Find out more about where to swim here.

Tomari Beach, Shikinejima Island
Tomari Beach, Shikinejima Island © Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau

3. Enjoy an afternoon at a rooftop bar

When the afternoon hits, there’s no better spot to enjoy a balmy summer night than a beer garden or rooftop bar. From mid-May through the end of September, you’ll see office workers and groups of friends flock to the closest one to enjoy their all-you-can-eat packages. Of you’re after a rooftop bar, check the major department stores in Shinjuku, Ginza, Shibuya and Ikebukuro. Alternatively, if a beer garden in the park is more your scene, head to Hibiya Park for its “Hibeer Garden,” with craft beers, live music, and food stalls, or to Tokyo Midtown in Roppongi. In summer, The Beer Terrace Sekirei within Meiji Jingu Shrine also opens on the grand lawns offering a stylish take on the traditional beer garden.

Tourist enjoying Tokyo nightlife

4. Explore the great outdoors

Explore a greener side of Tokyo with an easy day trip from the city centre or an overnight trip at some of the regions best camping locations. A local favourite is the Okutama area and surrounds where you can enjoy the benefits of forest bathing. Hike up to Mt. Mitake or Mt. Odake and cool off with a dip in pristine rivers. There are also three fishing sites in the region that offer rental equipment and everything you need for a BBQ. You might even fancy a dip in one of the onsen hot springs in the area. Stop in at the Okutama Visitors Centre once you get there to get your bearings and check if there have been any bear sightings.

Mt Mitake
Mt Mitake © Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau

5. Uncover seasonal treats

As the seasons change in Tokyo, so to do the flavours and unique treat on offer. So if you’re someone who has only been to Tokyo in winter, you’re in for an all-new culinary experience in summer. As festivals kick off around the city, street-food-style stalls take centre stage, offering the Japanese version of traditional ‘fast food” such as yakisoba and okonomiyaki, slices of watermelon, chocolate-dipped banana on a stick and flavoured kakigori shaved ice. Cold noodles are also a popular choice in summer as well as dishes that feature the fish of the season, Ayu – a small freshwater fish.

kakigori shaved ice dessert
kakigori shaved ice dessert © Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau

Find out more: gotokyo.org/en

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