As we’re about halfway through the sweltering summer season, it’s not surprising that most people in Japan have sought to flee the intense heat of the big cities. In my beloved Kansai, I have plenty of plans to escape the heat, such as Shin-Kobe’s Nunobiki Waterfall and the Akame Falls.
To help you make your plans, Gaijinpot goes on a quest for some of the coolest and most accessible places in Japan to visit in summer.
1. Karuizawa (Nagano)
But, in summer, a popular destination to visit is Karuizawa. A resort town home to art galleries, top-notch restaurants, shopping streets and beautiful trails and waterfalls such as Karuizawa Shiraito Falls canopied by lush green forest. It has just enough attractions for a quick weekend getaway.
While exploring the town is much more accessible by car, there are several places to rent bicycles and bus services, making it easier for budget travelers.
2. Shinhotaka (Gifu)
Japan’s Aichi Prefecture, which includes Nagoya, is known for its intense summer heat with temperatures of 34 degrees or more. Nagoya residents love nothing better than to escape the town’s heat to the nearby Gifu Prefecture.
Nestled deep in Japan’s Northern Alps is the secluded onsen (hot spring) village of Shinhotaka (in Takayama City). Popular among skiers and hikers, this village is one of the highest in the area. Whether you stay overnight at a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) or just drop by for a quick bath, there are several options.
Of note are the riverside baths at Yarimikan Hotel and the massive onsen at Shin-Hotakanoyu. Nearby is the Shinhotaka Ropeway, which features fantastic views and leads further up into the mountain range; a popular spot for hikers.
3. Rikubetsu (Hokkaido)
Located in the far North of Japan, Hokkaido naturally has a lot of cool places to visit in the summer. Many people associate the chilly north with cities like Furano, which have summer temperatures in the 20s and fields of lavender that are perfect for photographers, and the hiking courses near Lake Mashi with their fantastic colors.
Among these, a fun option is Rikubetsu, officially the coldest city in Japan. Given the city’s location, the hottest temperature goes up to 31.8 celsius in summer but as low as -28.8 in winter. Located East of central Hokkaido, Rikubetsu is famous not just for dairy products but also for soy and azuki beans.
Popular attractions include the Galactic Forest Astronomical Observatory, watching rally car races, and the Galaxy Line Rikubetsu Railway which features characters from the popular anime Galaxy Express 999.
With its closeness to Akan-Mashu National Park, Lake Alan and beautiful views from Bihoro Pass in the town of Bihoro, it is an excellent place for those that like hiking and nature.
4. Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route (Toyama)
Open from April throughout November; the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is a route taken through Japan’s Northern Alps using a combination of buses, cablecars and a ropeway. The course starts in Nagano Prefecture and ends at Toyama Prefecture, taking you through beautiful natural and man-made sights.
It makes the list because it is an unusual location where you might have the opposite problem to most people in Japan’s summer: needing to wear a jacket. After all, it is too cold. But, as I write, it is mid-august, the temperature is a high of 16 degrees, and the forecast for parts of Murodo is snow.
The best way to have a chilly summer is by completing the route in a long day trip from Toyama City. Luckily, Toyama also has pleasant weather and its famous castle.
5. Hirosaki (Aomori)
Although Aomori is mainly known for its summer festivals with the colorful floats of Neputa attracting visitors from all over Japan. More importantly, the summer air is much cooler than in cities such as Tokyo. You might even eat the best apple you’ve ever had in your life.
Hirosaki is also the gateway to the World Natural Heritage site Shirakami-sanchi, a mountain range bordering Aomori and Akita Prefectures and home to one of the last virgin forests in Japan. Like Kanazawa, Hirosaki City was one of the cities unscathed during World War II.
The town contains many historical sights, such as several samurai houses, temples and a Five-storied pagoda. On top of this, Mount Iwaki and Hirosaki castle are accessible all year round, making it easy to combine sightseeing with a chill down.
But, of course, as a Brit, we don’t have anything like the temperatures in Japan…[Googles the weather in the UK]…Wait. What?!?
Where is the nicest summer climate you’ve ever experienced in Japan? Let us know in the comments.