Planning a summer trip to Japan, but not sure where to start? Look no further: here is our list of the best summer destinations in Japan!
Okinawa (沖縄県) is Japan’s southernmost prefecture made up of a few dozen small islands. Okinawa is known for its beautiful beaches and unique island culture. It’s no surprise that this famous place tops the list, as the sand here is pure white, and the water so clear you can easily see the ocean floor. Okinawa is a hub for fun beach actives, including SCUBA diving, snorkeling, surfing, and more. Many tourists also take a ride on a boat with a glass bottom to enjoy all of the colorful coral reefs and tropical fish. You may even spot a sea turtle!
Last year, Okinawa’s Ishigaki Island was named the ‘number one travel destination for 2018’ on TripAdvisor, a title that is very hard to earn. To determine this award, Trip Advisor takes into consideration positive reviews of everything from accommodations, restaurants, and attractions to even online interest. Ishigaki Island is well-deserving of this honor, as it is a peaceful paradise with incredible untouched beaches, a unique culture and some of the most delicious food in the world.
Kagoshima Prefecture (鹿児島県) consists of the southernmost part of Kyushu and the northern half of the Nansei Shoto island group. Kagoshima includes a unique variety of both incredible forests as well as beautiful beaches.
One of the most famous destinations is Yakushima (屋久島) a lush island off the southern coast of Kyushu. Yakushima is blanketed by a vast cedar forest that contains some of the oldest living trees in all of Japan. Many of them are more than 1000 years old, and some as ancient as 7000 years old. These forests were the inspiration for the famous Studio Ghibli film Princess Mononoke.
Another popular destination in Kagoshima is the beautiful Yoronjima Island (与論島). This island is home to the picturesque Yurigahama Beach (百合ケ浜) on its East coast. This beach is known for having a pure white “phantom” beach that only appears during certain hours of the day: from one hour before low tide, to one hour after low tide. The sands of this beach are else quite special, because among them are star-shaped grands called “Hoshisuna“. If you hold some sand in your hands, you may be able to spot the star shaped grains. And, it is said that if you happen to pick up the number of grains that correspond to your age, you will find lasting happiness!
Hokkaido (北海道) is Japan’s second largest and northernmost island. The weather here is notoriously harsh in the winter, and there is heavy snowfall, below-zero temperatures, and frozen seas. However, due to it’s Northern location, the summers here are wonderfully mild and pleasant! During Japan’s summer months, Hokkaido does not get as hot and humid as in the other parts of the country. This makes Hokkaido an incredibly popular destination during summer in Japan.
A notable summer highlight in Hokkaido is the unkai (雲海), or “sea of clouds”. This natural phenomenon occurs in several places across Japan, but Hokkaido has a few of the best, such as Unkai Terrace in Tomamu and the Tsubetsu Toge Outlook near Lake Kussharo.
Hokkaido is also popular in the summer with cyclists and campers, but the biggest draw to Japan’s northernmost island in the summer is definitely the endless flower fields. Flowers in Hokkaido bloom much later than in the rest of Japan, but it is certainly worth the wait.
Farm Tomita (ファーム富田) is known for being the largest lavender field in Japan, and attracts millions of visitors every summer. The farm has several fields with various kinds of flowers that start blooming from early May to mid October. If you want to see the famous lavender field, the best time to visit is in July.
Another famous field is Shikisai Hill or Shikisai no Oka (色彩の丘), which is a famous flower field located in the town of Biei. The vast 7-ha hill is covered with a variety of colorful flowers during the summer season, and visitors can take in the sights via fun and unique vehicles such as a tractor bus or even a go-kart. And finally, the Hokuryu Town Sunflower Field (北竜町ひまわりの里) is a well-known sunflower field located in Hokuryu, about 100 kilometers north of Sapporo City. There are over 1.5 million sunflowers in this 23.1-ha field, and every summer, thousands of visitors come to wander the incredible golden field.
If you’ve ever thought of climbing the iconic Mt. Fuji (富士山), the time to do it is in the middle of summer. The months between early July to mid-September are the only times the mountain is actually open for people to scale its famous 3,776-meter (12,388 ft) peak. The climb can be completed in a single day, but most people like to begin the journey at night in order to make it to the top for the sunrise. On the mountain, there are cabins available for overnight accommodation in case it gets too cold for tents.
This time of year, Mount Fuji is basically free of snow, making it relatively safe and not too challenging even for beginner climbers. One obstacle you will have to be prepared to face is the thousands of Japanese and international tourists who all come to the peak during the limited climbing season. And, if you can, try to avoid coming during Obon, a national holiday period that is held every year for a few days in the middle of August. It is one of the busiest times of the year for Mount Fuji.
If you’re not much of a climber, but still want to see Japan’s symbolic mountain, there are a number of famous fields surrounding Mount Fuji in Yamanashi Prefecture that provide incredible views of both endless flowers and the peak together. One of the most popular is Yamanakako Hanano Miyako Park (花の都公園). This 300,000 square-meter park is filled with millions of seasonal flowers, and visitors can enjoy the incredible view of Mt.Fuji as it serves as a backdrop for the endless flowers. The park is located close to one of the famous 5 Fuji Great Lakes, Lake Yamanaka, and Oshino Village. From early to mid July, the colorful poppies all bloom, and throughout August the field turns golden with sunflowers.
5. Tsunoshima Island
Tsunoshima (角島) is an island located located in the north west of Yamaguchi Prefecture in the Sea of Japan. This lesser known 4.1 square-km island is home to a number of beautiful beaches with crystal white sand and clear blue water. The charming little island has close to 900 residents, and aside from the beaches, visitors can enjoy driving through the island, visiting the lighthouse and checking out the nature museum.
Tsunoshima island is also home to the Tsunoshima Bridge (角島大橋), which is known as being “the most beautiful bridge in Japan”. Tsunoshima Bridge connects the mainland at Shimonoseki City, Yamaguchi Prefecture to Tsunoshima Island. The 1,780-meter-long bridge was constructed in 2000, and at the time it was the longest tool-free bridge in Japan.
Tsunoshima Bridge crosses over the Sea of Japan, and the view of the bridge from afar is absolutely breathtaking. Drivers crossing over the bridge can enjoy the 3-minute ride across the ocean with stunning views of the beautiful blue water.
Niigata Prefecture (新潟県) on the west coast of Japan’s Honshu Island, is known for its ski resorts, national parks and many onsen (hot springs). The coastal capital, Niigata City, is renowned for its incredible seafood as well as its massive aquarium, the Marinepia Nihonkai. Due to its northern coastal location, summers in many parts of Niigata are relatively cool and pleasant.
The city of Nagaoka in Niigata Prefecture is famous for its annual Nagaoka Festival Fireworks festival held in early August. The fireworks are launched on the evenings of August 2nd and 3rd. The Nagaoka Fireworks Festival is set apart from other large fireworks festivals in Japan because the fireworks are synchronized in time with music. The entire show is about 2 hours long, and launches an impressive 20,000 fireworks.
In addition to the fireworks display, the close-by Mount Yahiko has hiking trails as well as a ropeway to the peak of the mountain. And, you definitely don’t want to miss the Tsunan Himawari Hiroba (津南 ひまわり 広場) located in Niigata prefecture’s Nakauonuma-gun district. Every year in July and August, this massive 4-hectare field is filled with 500,000 blooming sunflowers.
Miyazaki Prefecture (宮崎県) was once known as the top honeymoon spot in Japan. Though many Japanese couples now honeymoon in places outside of Japan these days, Miyazaki is still one of the most colorful tropical getaways Japan has to offer. Miyazaki has one of the warmest climates on the main islands of Japan, making it a haven for a number of resorts, beaches and even sports facilities. Miyazaki is also home to a number shrines, caverns, rivers, and cliffs, giving it a unique atmosphere. In Nichinan City, located south of Miyazaki City, is the incredible cliff-side Udo-jingu Shrine (鵜戸神宮). It is a shrine built inside of a cavern by the ocean. Udo-jingu Shrine offers a great view of the ocean and is also popular for its unique history and rituals. It is said that if you successfully throw a rock off the cliff into the crevices below, you will receive good luck.
The most famous destination in Miyazaki is Aoshima Island (青島). Aoshima is a small, beautiful island just off of the southern coast of Miyazaki City. Aoshima is connected to the mainland by a bridge that is easily walked across. The island is mostly a subtropical jungle with Aoshima Shrine at the island’s center. Aoshima Shrine is said to bring luck to married couples.
During the low tide, the shallow water around Aoshima Island pulls back to reveal perfect rows of stones and tide pools. This is a natural geological phenomenon known as the Devil’s Washboard, or “Oni no Sentakuita” in Japanese.
Video: The Best Summer Destinations in Japan
Check out this quick video about these incredible summer destinations in Japan: