From summer festivals to comic conventions, Japan has so much to offer during this season of warm weather! But what kind of fun are you looking to have in Japan when it heats up again? Let’s take a quick look at what you can expect during summer in Japan!
Suikawari means “split the watermelon”. It’s a traditional Japanese game where players have to attempt to split a watermelon with a stick while blindfolded on the beach! Think of it like their version of piñata! Players can participate individually or in teams, but the first person to split the watermelon wins, and everyone eats it afterwards!
Because suikawari and watermelon are such a huge part of Japanese summer culture, there’s so many tasty watermelon-flavored snacks and drinks! One famous candy is Watermelon Seed Ramune Candy, a sweet treat that looks like watermelon seeds!
Legend has it that suikawari came from old samurai training where they would use watermelons for target practice. If you ever want to play your own game of suikawari, always make sure you have some cardboard or some tarp underneath to make sure the watermelon doesn’t get dirty!
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Enoshima Island is an hour-long train ride away from Tokyo Station. It’s also a major summer resort with a popular beach where everyone loves to eat food and party! The most popular food to get there is ikayaki (grilled squid), tako senbei (octopus cracker) and Enoshima croquettes, which are filled with shirasu (whitebait)!
The island is also home to a shrine of the same name. It houses Benzaiten (aka “Benten”) , a Buddhist goddess who rules over water, music, arts, wisdom, wealth and fortune! Legend has it that she caused Enoshima Island to rise from the bottom of the sea way back in the sixth century! If you head over to Enoshima shrine, you can see one of three major statues of her!
In addition, there’s a street named after her called Benten Nakamise Dori. It’s a very popular ara for shopping and restaurants!
Other notable features in the area include the Enoshima Electric Railway and the Enoshima Sea Candle (aka Shonan Observatory Lighthouse). As a matter of fact, the Sea Candle was erected in 2002 to celebrate the railway’s 100th year anniversary! The railway is notable for its coastal scenic views, while the Sea Candle is perfect for enjoying beach sunsets!
So if you want to really liven up your summer in Japan, you definitely should visit the Enoshima area at some point!
Obon is the annual summer holiday where people commemorate their deceased ancestors. It’s similar to Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos and it usually falls around mid-August. During this time, many Japanese people return to their hometowns to be with their families! Plus they eat lots of delicious food like taiyaki (sweet red bean filled fish-shaped pastry) and takoyaki (octopus dumplings).
This is a Buddhist festival that has been celebrated for over 500 years. According to the legend, a man named Mokuren used Buddha’s powers to see the spirit of his deceased mother. When he saw that her spirit was suffering into the Realm of Hungry Ghosts.
Buddha then told Mokuren to make offerings to monks. Mokuren did, specifically on the 15th day of the 7th month (solar calendar: July 15th, lunar calendar: August 15th). Because of this, his mother was released from her suffering and he danced with joy! This exact moment is where the Bon Odori dance ritual comes from!
Another famous ritual during Obon is the toro nagashi (floating lanterns) ritual! This is where families place beautifully-lit lanterns into the nearest river and watch them float away! With the lanterns lighting the way, the ancestors can head back to the sky, after spending time with their living families!
Comiket 100 is a doujinshi (self-published) comic convention that happens twice a year, but we’re focusing on the summer version! It’s the largest fan convention in the world, with its 2019 event boasting over 750,000 attendees! Many famous mangaka (manga creators) got their start from creating doujin works! Examples include Fujio Fujiko (Doraemon) and the CLAMP team (Cardcaptor Sakura)!
However, Comiket’s biggest draw is cosplay, which is a performance art where people dress up as characters from media. While some people can wear store-bought costumes, most make their own highly-detailed costumes and even act in character. It’s really a sight to see!
So if you’re into comics, cosplay and anything pop culture-related, you should definitely take a quick stop over to Comiket! They have another festival in the winter, but the summertime is much more fun!
By the way, we had a summery theme box this past August that perfectly captured summer in Japan, so if you’re interested in future boxes, you should definitely consider subscribing!
Writer living in Tokyo who likes stories, music and video games. <3
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