Japanese summer arrives after the wetness of the rainy season. Accompanied by a haze of humidity, the sweltering temperatures only rise throughout July and August. Japan makes the most of the hot weather, however, with events and special activities to enjoy in summer. 

We’ve rounded up the top day trips from Tokyo, which all take only a couple of hours from the center of the capital at the most. Whether it is a beach day or frolicking in a sunflower field, there is something to please everyone this summertime.

1. Sample Flowing Somen Noodles in Yamanashi

Many restaurants in Yamanashi Prefecture offer local seasonal food throughout the year. In winter, it is the thick hearty hoto noodles and in summer it’s the thin and light nagashi somen noodles. 

For those new to the Japanese summer custom of nagashi somen: it involves running cool water down open bamboo sticks and somen noodles alongside it. Hungry diners are seated down the length of the bamboo tubes, using chopsticks to quickly grab the somen as it goes past. It is then eaten with tempura and dipping sauce.

2. Bathe at Atami Sun Beach

Summer equals the beach, right? Well, Atami Sun Beach in Shizuoka makes for a fantastic summer destination. And, it’s just a two-hour train ride or car journey from the center of Tokyo. 

The sandy beach was renovated to create a safe space for punters to bathe from 9 to 5pm every day in the summer. Hire a beach chair or bring a bathing towel to spend the day swimming and sunbathing. Also, stay around for the light up which illuminates the 200-meter beach every night. 

If you go in August, you can catch the impressive Atami Sun Beach Fireworks festival, now in its 71st year. One of the most popular summer fireworks events in the country, it attracts watchers from far and wide, keen to experience the 5,000 fireworks set off promptly at 8:20pm. It’s generally held on Fridays throughout August and the occasional Thursday. The timetable is here (Japanese). 

3. Shoot Down the Slides at Kawagoe Water Park

Kawagoe Water Park in Saitama attracts thousands of people each summer with its family friendly facilities. Featuring swimming pools, futsal courts and fishing areas, it is the slides that prove most popular. 

The Aqua Snake Slider, at the height of a four-story building, sees the longest tube slide twist and turn over 148 terrifying meters. The shorter blue slide is 118 meters. Both are safe for elementary school children and above. For all the fun but a little less dizziness, try the Straight Slider, which has added bumps going down for extra bounce. Catering to youngsters is the smaller Elephant Slide in the shallow pool. Experienced daredevils, meanwhile, will love the diving pool, which has a deep-water depth of 3.5 meters. 

Make sure to stop off for some shaved ice after a hard day of swimming and splashing around. 

4. Go to a Summer Festival in Kamakura

Most shrines in the country will host a summer festival. This summer, we recommend catching one at the renowned historical town of Kamakura. 

During the hotter months, Kamakura’s Zaimokuza Beach in Kanagawa Prefecture hosts a jubilant Summer Festival, which sees Mikoshi (portable shrines) being carried into the sea. Crowds come to dance, sample delicious local ice cream and buy street food from pop-up stalls. You’ll also see many people dressed up in a yukata. Summer festivals in Japan are an important staple of Japanese culture, so it’s an exciting time for many people. 

5. Have a Beach Barbecue in Chiba

One of the top activities on summer lists must be barbecuing. Not only is it fun to do but the smoke deters pesky mosquitoes too. Barbecuing in Tokyo residential areas can bother the neighbors, which is why many locals head to designated grounds. 

Wild Beach Seaside Glamping Park in Chiba Prefecture can be reached in just over 30 minutes directly from Tokyo Station. You can head over empty handed, as the beach prepares everything you could possibly need. The sea is a short stroll away, with palm trees and surfboards to get everyone into the summer mood.

Barbecuing must be booked in advance and there are three time slots to choose from: early afternoon, afternoon and evening. Make sure to reserve a spot up to three days in advance. 

6. Try River Tubing in Hinohara

The hamlet of Hinohara is just about in Tokyo, at the sweet spot where the prefectures of Kanagawa, Tokyo and Yamanashi meet. A true hidden gem, Hinohara is a little off the beaten track. However, it offers a wealth of activities throughout the year in order to tempt visitors up into the countryside.

One of the most popular jaunts is river tubing, an exhilarating dash down the river in inflatable rings. With no prior experience necessary, river tubing is a great way to appreciate the sights in a novel way, staying cool and refreshed to boot.

Partway through the river course is a giant rock, which the enthusiastic guide encourages tubers to dive off. It’s the ultimate way to refresh. 

7. Do a Photoshoot in a Sunflower Field

Just 90 minutes from Tokyo lies one of the most Instagrammable fields in Japan. With over 500,000 sunflowers packed into four hectares, the Tsunan Sunflower Field in Nigata Prefecture is a sight to behold. The field is unabashedly a perfect Instagram destination, running its own yearly photo contest, regularly attracting hundreds of entrants. 

Visitors are greeted with a variety of food and drink stalls, selling summer foods such as choco-banana and shaved ice in various flavors. Elsewhere is a scarecrow contest which sees scarecrows dressed in bright colors and funny faces to please even the sullenest teenager.