Visiting Japan in August


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<p>I will be visiting Japan in August and have a few days on my own in Tokyo and Kyoto. I was wondering about the weather (I don&#39;t do very well in heat and humidity) and about air-conditioning in the hotels. &nbsp;I would appreciate any&nbsp;advice/recommendations as well as suggestions on what to see and do during&nbsp;my extra days. &nbsp;Thank you.</p>

Dear Pinky, By coincidence, I just happened to post information on another travel forum in response to a similar question, so I will borrow from what I wrote there.                                                                                                                                                         Even if one is generally used to the humidity, I think it is a good idea if one can either plan to be someplace indoors that is air-conditioned during the hottest part of the day, or at least make a Plan B to substitute such a place into the originally planned itinerary if it gets too hot. As I mention below, Japan is now teeming with tourists, so crowds may make the problem of heat even worse. Museums are a good choice as a place to escape the heat as are department stores, many of which have their own museums. The basements of department stores usually specialize in a wide variety of food and sweets and often have a number of tasty samples. There are ubiquitous coffee shops around as well.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          There are also public swimming pools that are not very expensive, some of which are open in the evening. The local tourist offices and  hotel receptionists could tell you about their locations. If you pack a bathing suit you could go to a pool if you wanted to cool off.            I would also carry around a fold-up umbrella. It will be useful when it rains and could also be used against the hot sun. Many Japanese women carry parasols so you’d fit right in.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       To reply to your question about air-conditioning, I think almost all places now do have air-conditioning of varying temperatures, with some being too cold at times. Some trains have ‘mildly air-conditioned’ cars and some have ladies-only cars to try to deal with the problem of gropers (‘chikan’).  It’s probably a good idea to carry a light jacket or shawl around to use if necessary. On the other hand, other places could use more air-conditioning, as some places strive to save energy and promote a ‘Cool Biz’ strategy. You did not mention when exactly in August you will be visiting, so I will give some general information, which might be helpful to others as well.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               First, the Buddhist holiday of Obon (when people believe their ancestors' spirits return to this world in order to visit their relatives) is celebrated in August in many regions of Japan.                                                                                                                                                                                                                         “The Obon week in mid-August is one of Japan's three major holiday seasons (the others are New Year’s and Golden Week at the end of April / beginning of May), accompanied by intensive domestic and international travel activities and increased accommodation rates. In recent years, travel activity in mid August has become somewhat more spread out and less concentrated, but it is still considerable on certain days.”                                                                                                                                                  “In 2015, the peak of the Obon travel season is anticipated to take place between August 8 and August 16. The busiest days are expected to be August 8, 12 and 13 with people leaving big cities and August 15 and 16 with people returning to the big cities.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Therefore, trains and other public transport and major sightseeing places in Japan usually get very crowded during Obon. One might luck out if one is in Tokyo, for example, at that time if people have left it to go travelling.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                However, in terms of what you might expect, places may be even more crowded than in past years during Obon and other times in August (as well as the rest of the year). It has been reported that, due to the weak yen, Japanese people are more likely to travel domestically than internationally. Moreover, due to the weak yen, easier visa regulations and incentives, there has been a very significant increase in tourism in Japan (more than 50%), especially in the number of Chinese and other Asian tourists, with the result that sightseeing venues, hotels, stores, etc. are now often very crowded. To add to this, Japanese students are on vacation in the summer.                                                                                                                                                                                                           Therefore, I suggest that in planning your itinerary for free time, in addition to a Plan B for air-conditioned places, you might want to have a Plan C to go to some lesser-known temples or shrines or other sightseeing venues where tourist groups are less likely to go. Or even better make a Plan D that would kill those two birds with one stone. (The same expression is used in Japanese by the way.)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Although there is a downside, there is also a plus side to Obon and August because there are a number of festivals as well as fireworks displays.                                                                                                                                                                                             Regarding such, you can google in advance and check with the local tourist offices to see if anything is happening while you are in a particular location.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      But to give you an idea:                                                                                                                                                                                Fireworks in August                                                                                                                                                                                     Tokyo Bay Fireworks are the Second Saturday of August from 18:50 to 20:10 (August 8, 2015)      Viewing spots around Harumi, Toyosu and OdaibaThe Tokyo Bay Fireworks are held north of the Rainbow Bridge in Tokyo Bay. They feature about 12,000 shells launched from barges anchored in the water. The best views are from official spots at Harumi Park, a 15 minute walk from Toyosu Station. Some areas are free, but you have to arrive early enough to secure them. The fireworks can also be seen from other places around the bay such as Odaiba, but note that the Rainbow Bridge is closed to pedestrians during the show.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Miyajima Fireworks (in case you are going there) are held evening in mid August from 19:40 to 20:40 (August 11, 2015)  on  Miyajima Island around Itsukushima Shrine                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Around 5000 fireworks are launched from boats just off the north shore of Miyajima Island every year in mid August. The fireworks are best viewed from around Itsukushima Shrine, and when combined with the shrine's giant torii gate make up one of Japan's most iconic firework scenes that regularly ranks as one of the top spots for photographers in Japan. The fireworks can also be seen from the town and shrine area of the island, as well as from boat tours that cruise the bay.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   As for festivals, there are at least two big bonfire festivals, one in Kyoto and one in Nara.                                                                             Kyoto – August 16    Daimonji Festival     See                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Nara  August 15 See http://japan-attractions...tivals/daimonji-okuribi/                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Also, one can see cormorant fishing in various areas of Japan.In and near Kyoto, one can go out on a boat and see cormorant fishing in Arashiyama (the western part of Kyoto City) and in Uji (which is south of Kyoto City between Kyoto City and Nara).                                                                                                                                                       In Arashiyama – from 7/1 to 9/23, 2015  (1,800 Yen, no reservation needed, cancelled during and after heavy rainfall)     Boats depart at 7 PM and 8 PM (7/1 to 8/31, except 8/16)    and at 6:30 PM and 7:30 PM (9/1 to 9/23)                                                                                                                                                                                In Uji – from 6/14 to 9/23, 2015 (2,000 Yen, no reservation needed, cancelled during and after heavy rainfall)Boats depart at 7 PM (except 8/16)                                                                                                                                                                                  Some Additional General Japan Travel Tips............For planning trips, I highly recommend the JNTO practical travel guides that can be found at:                        They usually include travel info, sample itineraries, maps, details of many places to visit in an area, as well as accommodations.                                                                                                                                                                                                      As in any place, I think when planning itineraries it is best to organize them by location, that is, visit several sites in one area at a time to save on transport time and cost.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Re Restaurants and Food ..........   There are many different types of food here. For example, last weekend I had Chinese food on Friday night and Indian food for lunch and Mexican food for dinner on Saturday. Obviously, in smaller cities and rural areas it is harder to find many different types of ethnic foods, but typical Japanese coffee shops usually serve spaghetti, ‘curry rice’, ‘pilaf’ and ‘hamburg’. Moreover, Japanese food itself is very varied and does not consist solely of sushi, sashimi, tempura and noodles, e.g., there is tonkatsu and other fried food, okonomiyaki (an egg, cabbage and other ingredients ‘pancake’), etc.                                                                                                                                                                                There are always many convenience stores, which along with the basements of Japanese department stores are good places to get food to go if one wants to make a picnic or eat quickly and spend more time on sightseeing.                                                                                                                                                                                     There are also many so-called ‘family restaurant’ chains throughout Japan where one can get inexpensive (you can eat and drink for less than $10 if you choose) Japanese or non-Japanese food. They usually have all-you-can-drink bars. One that emphasizes Italian food is Saizeriya. A good Italian food chain on a higher level but not very expensive is Capricciosa.                                                                                                                                                                                   Another way to save money on food is to eat a big meal at lunch time, when there are lunch specials. Especially at lunch time, but also sometimes at dinner, you can order sets called ‘teishoku’.                                                                                                                                                                                     Some tips for places where there are many restaurants, both Japanese and non-Japanese.......Big department stores generally have dedicated restaurant floors usually on their upper levels........Around train stations (e.g., Kyoto Station has zillions of restaurants, including in the basement area called Porta and on the 10th and 11th floors)........In covered shopping street arcades (called ‘shotengai’)                                                                                                                                                                                    Re Tokyo and Surrounding Areas:                                                                                                                                For many ideas on possible Tokyo itineraries see:                                                                                                                                                                                                       I would highly recommend the observatory on the 45th floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku. It is free. If you are lucky you can see Mt. Fuji from there. It’s a nice place to watch the sunset and has a bar.                                                                                                                                                                                    I would also recommend, the Edo-Tokyo Museum in the Ryogoku area (  In the same area there is a sumo museum in the Kokugikan (Sumo Hall) and the Kyu-Yasuda Teien (former Yasuda Garden).                                                                                                                                                                                    There are several museums in and near Ueno Park if you feel you’d like to spend more time in an air-conditioned place. Actually, there is no shortage of museums in Tokyo and you can check to see what will be showing when you are there. As I mentioned in the other thread, when making your itinerary check for museum closure days; most museums in Japan are closed on Mondays (or the following day if Monday is a national holiday but there are no Japanese national holidays in August).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             I think it would be a nice way to try to beat the heat by taking a boat trip such as the Sumida River cruise from the Hama Rikyu Garden [a pretty green oasis in the city] to Asakusa (or vice-versa). It may also be possible to catch a waterbus from Asakusa to the Ryogoku area.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Asakusa's Sensoji Temple and its numerous shops are considered must-sees for Tokyo visitors.                                                                                                                                                                                                                While in Tokyo, you can also go to Meiji Shrine and the Imperial Palace gardens, two other famous Tokyo landmarks.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Some people like to visit some relatively unusual venues in Tokyo, such as the maid cafes or cat cafes. I haven’t been to any so I cannot comment on them. The places I mentioned above are the places usually recommended in general for first-time visitors, especially with limited time. Of course, where you visit will depend on your particular interests.                                                                                                                                                                                                                             I don't know how many days you will actually have in Tokyo or whether you will also be visiting specific places in the city or other places on a tour as part of your overall trip, but in addition to spending time in Tokyo you might want to take one or more day trips.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The three day trips I always recommend to people visiting Tokyo are Nikko, Kamakura and Hakone. For useful details on these places, see:Nikko – and Kamakura –                                                           For Nikko, I think it would be easiest to go on a guided tour. The downside of a pre-arranged tour, of course, is that you don’t know what the weather will be like on that particular day but at least if it rains you will be spending time on a bus that has already been organized. When I accompanied my friends on a guided day-tour to Nikko in August some years ago, it poured the day we went there and we could not see Kegon Waterfall at all. I think my friends were a bit disappointed in the trip to Nikko, perhaps due to the inclement weather.                                                                                                                                                                                 Although Kamakura could be visited on a guided tour or on your own, I think the latter is nicer to see more places and soak up the atmosphere there. In Kamakura, I would recommend visiting both the north section to see, e.g., Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, as well as the Hasedera area with the Hasedera Temple and the Great Buddha. You can hike between the two areas if you’d like.                                                                                                                                                Re Kyoto and Surrounding Areas:The JNTO useful practical guide for Kyoto is at:                              I always recommend to people that they check out the Kyoto Visitor’s Guide, which you can find online by googling the name.There is also a pretty good tourist information center on the second floor of Kyoto Station next to the Isetan Department Store to pick up maps, brochures, pamphlets, and other info after you arrive.                                                                                                                                                             I definitely recommend a day trip to Nara, but going there on your own and not on a pre-organized group tour.  There are sometimes guides at the train station in Nara who do short walking tours or you can arrange for a volunteer guide in advance to accompany you if you so wish. For info on Nara, see     If your time is limited, you could combine Nara with Fushimi Inari or Uji (mentioned above). Trying to combine all three would be really rushed. Uji is famous for its green tea and the Byodoin Temple, which appears on the 10-yen coin.                                                                                         Additionally, Himeji Castle just reopened after a 5-year renovation and Himeji is a very good day or half-day trip from Kyoto as well. (See I hope this information will help you in your planning.                                                                                                                                                                    ---------------------------  Moderator note:  I apologize for the formatting. The webmaster is working on it. Even though members post in correct paragraph form, messages often appear to be one long paragraph.   He is working on it.  I have tried to break up this post as best I can to make it easier to read.     

Karyn: thank you so very much for your help. You have given me a good basis for planning my free time in Tokyo and  Kyoto.    I appreciate the time and effort you put into the response.    

I read your post with great interest as I am planning a 5 week visit to Kyoto, Sept/Oct, 2016. I watch NHK World daily and am a great fan.I have gathered valuable information there. I am a frequent traveler and usually rent accomodations in a neighborhood as it allows me more interaction with local residents.Therefore, I am searching the internet for a suitable "machiya". My last trip to Japan was in 2005 and I also accompanied the Philadelphia Orchestra (USA) on their 1971 tour of Asia. I am looking forward to my rerturn as I feel such an affinity to everything Japanese.