Summer break is exciting. Students are out of school, and they can enjoy the beautiful weather of summertime.
Some of our favorite memories are of childhood summers, when we have the freedom to enjoy ourselves without focusing on studying.
You may be surprised to learn that summer break is not strictly a U.S. phenomenon. In fact, nearly every country in the world, including Japan, has some type of summer break.
How long is summer break in Japan?
Japanese students typically get around 40 days off for summer break, with time off ranging from 32-44 days. This usually begins at the end of July, and lasts till the end of August.
The Length of Summer Break in Japan
Like America, Japanese schools have different schedules when it comes to breaks. In Japan, they have prefectures, which are similar to school districts in the U.S. Each prefecture sets its own schedule.
Summer break in Japan is typically between 1 and 2 months or 4 to 6 weeks. The average length of break is 40 days including weekends. The schools with the shortest break are closed for 32 days, while the schools with the longest break are out for 44 days.
When does summer break start and end in Japan?
In 2022, most schools in Japan closed on July 21st, but a few ended the term on July 16th. When did they return? The earliest return date was August 21st, and the latest start date was August 29th.
That means the normal beginning of summer break in Japan is sometime in mid-July and the end date around late August.
Differences in Summer Break In Japan vs. the U.S.
There are some interesting differences between summer break in Japan and the United States. These include shorter school days, and when the school year begins and ends.
Gradual Decrease and Increase in Class Time
In America, school days continue with regular hours until the last day of school, which is typically a shorter day.
In Japan, things work a little differently. Japanese schools have six periods each day.
Around one week before summer break, students attend four periods each day, and get home early. They have lunch, clean up, and then they are done for the day.
Then, the day is shortened to three periods, and students head home for lunch. On the final day of school, students will have 1 or 2 periods.
When school resumes, this process is reversed. Students will have 1 to 2 periods on the first day. Then, they go to school for three periods for a few days, and then four.
After a few days of four periods, students will return to their regular six-period schedule.
American students are free from school assignments during the summer, although savvy parents may give them some work to do. In Japan, students are expected to do homework throughout the summer break.
They are typically given a workbook that covers different subjects or a large stack of worksheets. They are also given one or more projects. This may include calligraphy, a science project, or drawing.
Students are expected to work on their assignments a little bit each day. However, many students will put off their studying until close to the end of break. Then, they will have to work really hard to get everything done.
The School Year
In America, summer break marks the end of the school year. However, Japan is different. Their school year begins in April, after spring break.
They have one semester of school, and then summer break. When they return after summer break, they begin their second semester of the year.
Differences in Childcare
In America, there’s a lot of controversy over summer break, because many parents rely on school as a form of childcare while they work. This poses a problem when school is out for summer.
In Japan, younger children whose parents work outside the home typically attend Gakudo. This is a form of childcare, usually located beside the school. Older children are responsible for getting themselves to school and home by themselves, so the changing hours aren’t a concern.
What do kids (and parents) do in Japan during summer break?
In America, week-long vacations during summer break are common. However, in Japan, vacations are shorter and less common. Some families will go on trips within Japan. Hawaii is also a popular vacation destination.
Many Japanese workers are given five days of vacation time during the summer, but many don’t use all five of these days. There’s a strong work culture in Japan, which plays a role in this.
Instead of elaborate trips, Japanese parents are more likely to eat out, or go visit nearby places, including the library, during break.
Many parents will make a few trips to the pool with their kids, but this isn’t as common as it is in the U.S., either.
In cities, many parents choose to send their children to Juku during the summer. You can think of this as a summer school. However, instead of helping students catch up, these schools are devoted to getting ahead.
Obon is a Japanese holiday, which occurs from August 13th to 15th, when the Japanese honor their ancestors. Many employees use their vacation during this time to visit their family or their ancestors’ graves.
When to Visit Japan on Summer Vacation
If you want to visit Japan while your kids are out of school, you may want to be there while Japanese children are also on break. American children typically return to school in mid to late August, with some returning in early September.
Since Japanese schools usually close in late July, it is possible to go to Japan when both countries are on summer break. There are more family-friendly activities and events occurring during this time.
Because fewer people travel in Japan during summer break, you’ll also encounter fewer crowds than you can expect in the U.S.
Of course, there’s no rule stating that you must visit Japan during their summer vacation. You can plan your trip for late June or early July if you want to visit while Japanese children are still in school.
Summer Vacation Destinations in Japan
Considering going to Japan during summer break? Japan is an incredible place to visit. Your children, and yourself, will get to experience and learn about a culture very different from your own.
There are many things to do and lots of options when it comes to destinations. You’ll also find events and festivals that happen in the summer, making it a great time to visit.
Mount Fuji is truly a can’t-miss Japanese destination. You can start at the base of the mountain, with Fuji Five Lakes. You’ll get a great view of Mt. Fuji, particularly when viewing the reflection from the lakes.
You can also relax in hot springs. If you have an active family, you can hike to mysterious caves and forests.
If you want to climb the mountain, you can do so from July to September. You will need to submit an application and plan your trip well before heading out.
The most common route is to begin at the Fifth Station, and hike the Yoshido path. This usually takes 5 to 7 hours. You don’t need special experience or climbing gear, but you should be aware that the climb is strenuous.
Kyoto is a popular destination year-round, but it’s particularly popular in July when the Gion Matsuri is held. It’s considered one of the most impressive festivals in Japan, and you’ll find festivities all month long.
However, the biggest event happens on the 17th of July. There’s a huge parade, known as Yamaboko Junko, with wooden floats weighing as much as 12 tons. Instead of being pulled by vehicles, locals themselves take on the strenuous task of pulling the floats through Kyoto streets.
Cool off in Hokkaido
Hokkaido is Japan’s northernmost island. Most of Japan gets very hot in summer, but Hokkaido has a subarctic climate. You won’t find skiing or snow in the summer, but temperatures are significantly cooler than in most parts of Japan.
You can enjoy the wilderness if you are adventurous. If you prefer a more relaxed approach, you can take a hot air balloon ride or a cruise to view the scenery without hardcore hiking.
Tokyo is the most heavily populated city in the world. You’ll find many things to do, including shopping, nightlife, and fine and casual dining.
Bathhouses are something you shouldn’t miss in Japan. The entire family can enjoy a bathhouse. Genders are divided into different areas, but younger children can stay with either parent.
The weather in the Japanese Alps varies greatly based on the location and time of year. In fact, you can visit the snow tunnel in Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route through June. Less than a month later, the snow is replaced with wildflowers.
Obviously, hiking is a popular activity during the Alpine summer. In addition to breathtaking scenery, you can hike to temples in Nikko or Takayama.
However, you can also visit historic towns, which feel like a trip back in time. These towns, including Shirakawa-go, can provide a unique understanding of Japanese culture.
Matsumoto is located in the Japanese Alps. One of the best attractions in Matsumoto is Matsumoto Castle. It’s one of only 12 ancient castles still intact in Japan.
It’s a great way to capture your child’s imagination, and it can spark an interest in history.
Taisho Pond is a great way to experience Japan’s natural beauty. The pond was formed in 1915, with the eruption of Mt. Yakedake. The eruption caused the damming of the Azusa River, which formed the pond.
You’ll see stunning mountains, forests of trees, and marshlands. Popular activities include hiking and canoeing the pond.
Nikko is a great place to visit during summer vacation in Japan. It’s fairly easy to get to. It’s only a 2-hour train ride from Tokyo, with much cooler temperatures during the summer.
Nikko offers several world heritage sites, including Nikko Toshogu, Rinnoji Temple, and Nikko Futarasan Shrine. Nikko Toshogu is a shrine dedicated to Tokugawa, a famous samurai leader. It features a 5-story pagoda. The pagoda is designed to represent the elements, earth, water, fire, wind, and void.
You’ll also find plenty of accommodation in Nikko, including hotels, villas, and luxury homes.
There’s plenty of nature in Nikko as well. Kegon Falls is a personal favorite. The falls connect to Lake Chuzenji, within Nikko National Park. The main falls is more than 300 feet tall. The area is also adorned with 12 smaller falls.
You’ll find hiking and water activities near Kegon Falls. Many people travel there yearly to enjoy the incredible views and feel the serenity of the location.
Okinawa Island is beautiful, with crystal clear blue waters, coral reefs, and white sand beaches. You can relax on the beach, snorkel or dive, kayak, or kick back on a pleasure cruise.
You’ll also find mangrove trees and evergreen, subtropical forests. You can spot rare animals, including the Yanbaru long-armed scarab, the largest beetle in Japan. The forests also boast over 1,000 species of plants.
Okinawa is the only subtropical region in Japan. If you are dreaming of a tropical vacation, Japan is a surprising option.
There are several world heritage sites in Okinawa, including royal tombs, natural sites that are considered spiritually sacred, and the remnants of castles. This is an excellent way to experience the cultural history of Japan.
Tokushima is best known for the Awa Odori festival, which occurs in mid-August. More than 1 million people attend the festival each year. The festival occurs during Odon. Dancers, both professional and amateur, participate in the festival.
Tokushima offers many other things to do as well. White water rafting and surfing are popular activities. You can also sample local sake.
You can take a cruise, and view the Naruto whirlpools. The whirlpools are located in the Naruto strait and feature some of the strongest currents in the world.
Things to Do In Japan
If you are interested in a particular activity, use this as the starting point for deciding your destination. Here are a few of the many popular activities to do in Japan during summer vacation.
Okinawa Island is only one of many stunning Japanese beaches. Japan is itself an island, and includes small islands off its coasts, so it’s not surprising that beach-going is popular during the summer.
Southern Japan and the islands off the southern coast are the most popular beach destinations.
We’ve covered a few festivals, but there are many more to consider. Japanese festivals typically include celebrations, dancing, and music. Popular festivals include Atsuta, Hakata Gion Yamakasa, and Kanto.
Go to a Theme Park
Of course, Japan also has plenty of original theme parks. Fuji-Q Highlands is near Mount Fuji, and is a perfect destination for thrill seekers of all ages.
Edo Wonderland is a cultural park instead of a traditional amusement park. You’ll learn about the Edo period. You can even try out a career as a ninja or explore the Edo Museum. It’s a great way to add some education to your vacation.
Things to Know When Visiting Japan in Summer
If you want to visit Japan during your kid’s summer vacation, there are some things you should know before you book your flight, in addition to determining your destination.
Some parts of Japan, including Tokyo, have temperatures that soar around 100 degrees during summer. To cope with the heat, do what the Japanese do. Pack light, breathable cotton fabrics.
You don’t have to wear a kimono. In fact, few people in Japan wear them today. However, modest clothing and muted colors are the norm. Shorts and tank tops are acceptable in most places, excluding religious sites.
Early summer is the rainy season. The weather can quickly switch from hot and humid to rain. A light rain jacket or a simple umbrella is essential. Waterproof shoes will also make your trip more comfortable.
Plan Your Itinerary Around the Heat
It’s best to consider the temperatures when planning your itinerary, particularly if you have younger children who are sensitive to the heat.
Visit outdoor locations in the morning and evening when the temperatures are lower. During the heat of the day, make plans to enjoy indoor activities.
Consider Cooler Locations or Activities
Another way to stay cool during summer in Japan is to visit cooler locations or engage in water activities.
Beaches are popular in Japan, and provide a way to keep cool. You can also visit northern areas of Japan, or mountain regions, where the temperatures are a lot cooler than the majority of the country.
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