(B)eat the Heat: 10 Best Japanese Summer Foods

By Annika Hotta
Updated: May 14, 2024

If you’ve ever been in Japan during the summer, you know firsthand how miserable the heat and humidity can be! Luckily, Japanese people have their own creative ways of beating the heat (or at least distracting themselves from it): refreshing summer foods and spectacular festivals. 

No matter where you are in Japan, you can easily find these summer foods at a supermarket or festival near you. Stay tuned to hear a few ideas on how you can make this summer in Japan your best one yet! 

When is summer in Japan? 

Summer in Japan begins in early June with the rainy season and ends in August, though the muggy heat has been known to last well into September. The hottest months in Japan are July and August, but you can escape the heat by going up north to Hokkaido and Tohoku or retreating to the mountains. 

How hot does Japan get in the summer? 

A woman fanning herself at a Japanese festival.

Japan gets extremely hot during the summer season, with temperatures hovering around 16 degrees Celsius (60 degrees Fahrenheit) at night and rising to over 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit). Temperatures as high as 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) were recorded in Tokyo last year, so it’s important to be cautious of heatstroke by staying indoors during the peak of the day. 

What summer festivals can you attend in Japan? 

Two people wearing kimono walking together at a Japanese festival.

We have an entire blog post dedicated to all the festivals in Japan, but here are a few categories of Japanese summer festivals you can look out for: 

Music festivals in Japan

July and August are prime times for music festival lovers. To see your favorite artists in Japan, be sure to book tickets well in advance so you don’t miss out! 

You can check which festivals are available near you at Japan National Tourism Organization’s guide to music festivals in Japan.

Holiday festivals in Japan

Two people hanging up their paper wishes at a Tanabata Festival.

Tanabata: August 6-8

The so-called “star festival” is a romantic summer holiday celebrating the Chinese legend of two star-crossed lovers. Although the festival is held all across Japan, Sendai is an ideal place to come and celebrate. 

Decorating the downtown area with colorful washi paper streamers, cranes, kimono strips, and more, the streets come alive with live music, traditional dancing, and street food vendors. 

Obon: August 13-15 

As the third biggest holiday in Japan, Obon is a special time when, according to the Buddhist tradition, ancestors are said to come back to the earthly world to visit their relatives. Lanterns are hung to guide the way, food offerings are made, and Obon-specific dances are performed, making this an exciting occasion! 

Cultural summer festivals in Japan

A crowd carrying a shrine at Tenjin Matsuri in Osaka.

Tenjin Matsuri, Osaka: July 24-July 25

To experience all that Kansai has to offer, head to Osaka for the third-highest-ranking festival in Japan! Along the river, festival boats packed with participants in traditional costumes will pray to the scholarship deity. The best part? The glorious fireworks on the second day and all the Kansai-style food served throughout the festivities! 

Awa Odori Festival, Tokushima: August 12-15

If you’re ready to dance till you drop, head to Tokushima for the 400-year-old tradition of the “Fool’s Dance.” The streets are blocked off for the Obon festivities, leaving plenty of room to dance your heart out with travelers and locals alike! 

What to eat during summer in Japan 

1. Kakigori shaved ice

2. Nagashi somen

3. Zaru soba / udon

4. Watermelon

5. Mizu shingen mochi

6. Hiyashi chuka

7. Reishabu

8. Hiyayakko

9. Goya

10. Festival foods

1. Kakigori shaved ice 

A hearty serving of kakigori shaved ice, with a mango syrup poured on top.

Japanese shaved ice is probably the most well-loved summer food in Japan, and for good reason. This icy treat comes in so many different flavors that trying them all might be a fun summer challenge! 

2. Nagashi somen

Nagashi somen, in which noodles slide along a water spout made of bamboo.

Nagashi somen, or flowing noodles, is a quintessential summer dining experience in Japan for all ages. Want to add a fun twist? Try this Katsuo nagashi ramen and sand bath experience in the tropical Kagoshima prefecture! 

3. Zaru soba/udon

A helping of zaru udon. Cold udon served on a bamboo tray.

“Zaru'' refers to the bamboo sheet that these cold noodles are served on. Dipped in a tangy mentsuyu sauce and served with crispy tempura on the side, this dish is perfect when you want something simple and light. 

4. Watermelon

A close-up shot of lots of slices of fresh watermelon.

Want to partake in a fun Japanese game on the beach? Bring a watermelon! Suikawari is a summertime game that involves smashing a watermelon with a stick while blindfolded until it splits open. Equal parts refreshing and entertaining! 

5. Mizu Shingen Mochi 

A serving of Mizu Shingen Mochi, served on a leaf and looking like a large raindrop.

If you’re a fan of Jell-O, you might want to try mizu shingen mochi, also known as “raindrop mochi.” This clear gelatin dessert has a nutty flavor thanks to its toppings: kinako (roasted soybean powder) and kuromitsu (black honey). For a melt-in-your-mouth experience, check out this list of shops where you can try the viral summer dessert! 

6. Hiyashi chuka

Hiyashi chuka, a cold ramen dish topped with fresh, chilled veggies and meats.

Originally from China, this chilled noodle dish is topped with sliced egg, crab or ham, sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, and a dressing. Hiyashi chuka is recommended for those days when you want something that’s cooling but flavorful. 

7. Reishabu

Reishabu, or chilled hot pot. A meat-packed salad.

A cold salad version of shabu shabu, this pork dish is great for getting your protein in. Eat as an appetizer or a main dish! 

8. Hiyayakko

Soy sauce being poured onto a chilled block of hiyayakko.

Hiyayakko is a chilled tofu dish consisting of a block of tofu that’s been marinated in a zesty sauce overnight and topped with fresh ginger, garlic, green onions, and more. Learn how to make it yourself with this quick recipe

9. Goya 

Goya salad, with chopped bitter melon, vegetables, and tofu on a plate.

Goya is a bitter melon hailing from Okinawa that you’ll either love or hate. For those wanting to try it, here are three dishes you can make with the funky ingredient. 

10. Festival foods 

People being served at a festival food stall.

No matter which summer festival you go to, trying the street foods sold there is a must. Popular summer festival foods include kakigori, takoyaki, okonomiyaki, cotton candy (wata-ame), taiyaki, and more. 

We hope this article helped you feel more prepared for the sweltering Japanese summer. With great food and plenty of festivals, you too can enjoy summers in Japan! 

Looking for more ideas related to summer in Japan? Check out Japanese beer gardens, Japanese summer-exclusive snacks, activities to add to your Japan summer itinerary, and an exclusive sand bath and ramen experience in Kagoshima

Summer in Japan FAQs

 Summer decorations in Japan, with jellyfish-shaped wind chimes.

What to wear in Japan in the summer? 

Fabric choices are crucial to surviving the Japanese summer in style. Loose-fitting linen and cotton fabrics in lighter colors are always a good option. 

But if you are sweating through all your clothing no matter what you wear, have no fear — it’s normal! Bring a spare change of clothes, deodorant, and cooling wipes (which you can purchase at drugstores) to help you feel fresh throughout the day. 

What to pack for Japan in the summer? 

If you’re planning to travel to Japan during the summer, light-colored, loose, and breathable fabrics are your best friend. You’ll notice that Japanese people tend to wear layers even in the summer. This is in part to protect the skin and preserve their modesty, but wearing natural fabrics such as linen or cotton also helps keep the skin feeling cool. 

Once in Japan, you can pick up clothes from the Airism line at Uniqlo. Made from sweat-wicking cotton, these clothes offer maximum relief at an affordable price point. 

Additionally, you can embrace your inner grandma and purchase a UV umbrella or sun hat. These accessories can reduce the temperature around you and protect you from sunburn at the same time!

We strive to be as accurate as possible and keep up with the changing landscape of Japan's food and travel industries. If you spot any inaccuracies, please send a report.
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Annika Hotta
After studying abroad in Shiga prefecture in 2019, Annika moved to Japan in 2021. In her writing, she highlights the best dishes and places to eat in Japan for both the picky and the adventurous.
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