12 amazing things to do in Tokyo this summer

Make the most of the warm sunny days with the city's best events, festivals and rooftop venues

Emma Steen

Everyone loves to harp on about Tokyo being far too hot and humid in the summer, but this time of year also comes with a host of season-specific perks that make the city all the more lively. Colourful yukata and the sound of cicadas mark the beginning of summer in Japan. From traditional street matsuri (festivals) to raging music fests spotlighting international artists, it’s hard not to get swept up in all the vibrant festivities Tokyo has to offer during the longest days of the year.

Besides, beating the heat is easy enough with the right pair of shorts and an ice cream in hand. Or better yet, just embrace the balmy weather by slapping on some factor 50 and hopping on a train to the nearest beach. And while some events like music festivals will require booking tickets far in advance, no time of year offers more opportunities for spontaneity and adventure. Here’s a list of unmissable activities to revel in the best of the summer. 

RECOMMENDED: If you only do three things in Tokyo... as recommended by our editors

  • Things to do
  • Festivals

Your phone screens will never do these dazzling displays justice. Japan takes immense pride in its fireworks, with shows often lasting between one to two hours. The biggest spectacles are divided into four parts, much like an orchestra symphony, and feature different shapes and colours chosen to symbolise certain themes or events. You’ll want to get there ahead of time to secure a prime viewing spot as the grounds get busy quickly with clusters of families, friends and couples setting up their picnics to watch the display. 

  • Things to do

There’s something about the atmosphere of a matsuri (festival) with its street stalls, lanterns and attendees in yukata that makes it the pinnacle of a Japanese summer. Matsuri are held throughout the year for different occasions, often tied to Buddhist or Shinto practices, but the biggest ones are held in the months of July and August, making them unmissable occasions for anyone looking for a large helping of Japanese food, culture and entertainment.

Most shrines and temples will hold matsuri big enough for residents in nearby neighbourhoods to attend, but festivals such as the Fukagawa Matsuri means closing main roads to make way for the grandest procession of the year. 

  • Things to do
  • Weird & Wonderful

How much Disney is too much Disney? Because in Tokyo at least, it seems we can never get enough. While our city has not one but two separate Disney parks for fans of every generation, Tokyo DisneySea recently expanded by opening up a whole new world (okay, three worlds rolled into one exciting new area, to be precise). 

The highly anticipated Fantasy Springs comprises the three sections of Frozen Kingdom, Peter Pan's Never Land and Rapunzel's Forest, plus a hotel within the park grounds. Unfortunately, you can't just rock up to this new area even though you have a day pass. Here are three ways to visit Fantasy Springs, including the pros and cons of each option.

  • Ice-cream parlours

Tokyo has its fair share of quality gelato shops, with flavours ranging from classic chocolate to salted caramel, but let’s face it, you can find those flavours in any other city.

Trade your run-of-the-mill ice cream and soft-serve for something more exotic and Japan-specific, like sakura, roasted green tea or ume plum. You might even discover a new favourite flavour.


World-class cocktails are best paired with killer views, of which there are no shortage of in Tokyo. While the sight of city lights illuminating the night sky are second-to-none, there’s no real reason to wait until the sun goes down to get started on cocktails during the summer. Get a side of nachos with your frozen margarita to admire the city in broad daylight, or watch the sunset with a cosmo in hand from one of the highest bars in town. 

  • Things to do

You don’t have to pay exorbitant prices for a beach getaway as sandy shores are just a short train ride away from Tokyo. If you fancy combining your day of tanning with some sightseeing, head to the seaside city of Kamakura, which is home to the Great Buddha at Kotokuin Temple.

For beach lovers with small children in tow, the island of Enoshima features an interesting aquarium and feels a world away from Tokyo with its surfer-style cafes and coffee shops. Whatever coastline you head to, don’t forget to pack plenty of sunscreen and a pair of shades. 

  • Things to do
  • Shiba-Koen

There are plenty of ideal picnic spots in town but the iconic view of Tokyo Tower at Shiba Park is hard to beat. If you’re too short for time to pack your own provisions, grab some sandwiches and other baked goods to-go from the nearby Le Pain Quotidien. Apart from the stellar view of a Tokyo landmark, the park has its own fair share of sights worth exploring, including the Zojoji Temple and the Mausoleum of Tokugawa Shoguns. 

  • Roppongi

Noodles are a Japanese staple through any season, but slurping a piping hot bowl of udon doesn’t seem appetising when you’re also sweating into the broth. Thankfully, there are plenty of mouth-watering noodle options that will satisfy your appetite as well as cool you down.

Most udon and soba shops offer zaru udon or zaru soba, where the noodles are rinsed in cool water before being served on a bamboo basket for you to dip into a broth. In addition to classic zaru udon, Tsurutontan’s summer menu features season-limited specials like the beef shabu udon in chilled sesame noodle soup with a citrusy tang of ponzu.

  • Cafés

In the sweltering summer heat, no Japanese dessert is more refreshing than a snowy mound of kakigori. While syrup-drenched shaved ice continues to be a popular feature at seaside shacks and matsuri stands, these days the city has given the humble kakigori a gourmet makeover with a growing list of unique flavors and premium toppings. Classic strawberry will always be there– so why not opt for something fancy like red wine and white peach yogurt or avocado mascarpone?

What’s better than sitting on a sunny terrace, sipping an ice-cold IPA on a warm summer day? Craft beer culture is currently having a moment in Tokyo, making this the perfect time to dive into the city's array of domestic brews.

While excellent bottles from diverse breweries are widely available at specialist stores and supermarkets throughout the city, there's nothing quite like enjoying artisanal beer fresh from the keg, especially in the great outdoors. 

  • Music

Traditional matsuris aren’t the only kind of festival Japan is known for in the summer. Some of the biggest names in the music industry are hitting Fuji Rock at the end of July, with artists by the likes of Sza, Peggy Gou and The Last Dinner Party headlining this year's three-day fiesta. 

Later in August, the Tokyo Summer Sonic will see another exciting line-up of international acts including Italian rock band Måneskin, Norwegian singer-songwriter Aurora, American indie pop group AJR, Madison Beer and South African singer Tyla.

  • Things to do
  • Walks and tours

You know the one. Mt Fuji is only open to climbers from the first of July to September, making this mammoth trek a common item on the summer to-do list of many locals –  but few get around to actually climbing it. Whether you’re in it to one-up your friends on Instagram or for the quiet glory of seeing the sun rise from the highest peak in Japan, the journey is bound to be an unforgettable one. 

Do more in the summer

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