Summer in Japan – Food, Fashion & Festivals

Aomori, Japan - August 3rd, 2004: Paper monsters at the August Nebuta Matsuri (Festival) in Aomori in Northern Japan.

Summer in Japan is hot – really hot, so it should come as no surprise that Japanese people have found ways to keep themselves nourished, cool and entertained during the hottest months of the year. In this blog post, we will share with you some of the best ways to keep cool in Japan.

Food

  1. Kakigori

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Perhaps one of the most famous summer snacks found at festivals and special cafes is kakigori – due to its refreshing and cooling nature. This shaved ice dessert is usually flavoured with syrup and condensed or evaporated milk to sweeten. Over the past decade, fun and daring flavours like melon, green tea, cherry and lemon have found their way onto the scene. During the hottest summer months, kakigori can be found anywhere in Japan – including convenience stores and cafes who serve it with ice cream and adzuki beans. Learn how to make your very own kakigori sauces with our recipes here.

2. Hiyashi Chuka Ramen

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Hiyashi Chuka ramen is a delicious and savoury dish which combines the cooling taste of chilled ramen noodles with colourful and filling additions like eggs, ham and cucumbers. If you’re looking for a quick and easy meal to cool you down while you enjoy the summer sun, then this is the dish for you. Find our easy recipe here.

3. Cold somen

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For those boiling days where all you want to do is lay flat on a huge block of ice, we recommend staying cool with some cold somen noodles. Somen noodles are famous for being thin and delicate, this makes them easier to chew, swallow and digest so you won’t feel bloated or too full. You can dip your somen noodles into a cold soup with delicious toppings, and for those blazing hot days – add some ice cubes for an authentic Japanese touch. See our recipe here.

4. Rei shabu

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Rei Shabu is a type of cold pork shabu shabu. The pork is cooked and put in cold water first, then eaten with carrot strips, green beans and sauce. If you want to try some Rei Shabu without having to make it yourself, then why not pop into any Shoryu Ramen branch and enjoy a freshly made bowl of this Japanese summer staple.

5. Ramune

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We can’t list Japan’s favourite summer foods and not mention the classic Japanese soda pop – ramune! Known and loved by many all over the world, ramune is the perfect summer cooler as its fizzy nature offers an invigorating yet refreshing taste. Unlike many other soft drinks which claim to hydrate your body and end up leaving you thirstier than before, ramune actually quenches your thirst – satisfying! Browse our in store and online ramune range for some exciting flavours. What’s your favourite?

Fashion

  1. Yukata

Developed from the full and formal kimono, a yukata is an unlined garment which is usually made from cotton, synthetic fabric or other delicate materials. Because of how lightweight and casual the yukata is, it is often referred to as the summer version of the kimono. When visiting onsens or outdoor spas, it is common to see people in their yukata as it is much more comfortable to wear.

Yukata styles and accessories for men and women

Kyoto, Japan - July 11, 2015: Japanese people wear traditional Japanese clothing (Kimono and Yukatas) walking to inside at Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, Japan
Kyoto, Japan – July 11, 2015: Japanese people wear traditional Japanese clothing (Kimono and Yukatas) walking to inside at Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, Japan

One of the main distinguishing factors between the men’s yukata versus the women’s is the sleeve length. For example, the men’s sleeve extension from the armpit is approximately 10cm long and 20cm for the women. This is because a longer sleeve length allows for an added femininity factor as well as elegance and poise. Longer sleeves also bring out the feminine shape a little more. Yukata are also usually worn with geta or wooden sandals.

The last twenty years have seen an evolution of the yukata with many high end Japanese designers like Kenzo, Yohji Yamamoto and Commes des Garçons including avant-garde yukata in their spring/summer collections. This has seen the increasing popularity of the “modesty-wear” trend.

Festivals

  1. Tanabata festival
Tanzaku at Tanabata Festival
Tanzaku at Tanabata Festival

Tanabata is a festival which celebrates the annual meeting of Japanese deities Orihime and Hikoboshi. Separated by the milky way, these two deities are forced to meet only once a year, on the 7th day of the 7th month.   To celebrate Tanabata, people write wishes in the form of tanzaku (Japanese poetry) on small pieces of paper, and hang them on a bamboo tree. The official date for this festival varies from region to region but the first festivities begin on 7 July every year.

   2. Gion Yamakasa

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The Gion Yamakasa festival is one of the most unique festivals in Japan which sees a total of seven neighbourhoods in Fukuoka’s Hakata district compete in a 5km race with festival floats through the city. This year, the festival will run from 1 – 15 July. With spectators being treated as a part of the race – there is a lot to see and do at this festival. Find out more here.

  3. Aomori Nebuta festival

Aomori, Japan - August 3rd, 2004: Paper monsters at the August Nebuta Matsuri (Festival) in Aomori in Northern Japan.
Aomori, Japan – August 3rd, 2004: Paper monsters at the August Nebuta Matsuri (Festival) in Aomori in Northern Japan.

Held annually from 2 – 7 August in Aomori city in Tohoku, the Aomori Nebuta festival is a week long matsuri that brings with it an exciting array of entertaining activities. The main feature is the daily parade of over twenty distinctive massive illuminated nebuta (floats) based on kabuki plays, mythical tales, dancers, taiko drums, or musicians.

Whichever way you decide to celebrate your summer this year, just know you can keep cool like the Japanese in a stylish yukata or by making yourself a delicious summer dish.