Schools in Japan break for summer holidays at the end of July. Kids go back to school after summer vacation at the end of August. As a result, Japanese children only have four weeks of summer holidays, as opposed to the US where they have 12 weeks. Universities also follow this schedule, but with six weeks off in the summer. In addition, university students have another four to six-week holiday in the springtime. These two long holidays together give Japanese college students the same amount of holidays as American college students.
Much of Japan’s summer activities are based around the four-week holiday, from the end of July to the end of August, a short window when families can go places together because the kids are out of school. These four weeks are the “high season” for places such as beaches, amusement parks and other family-oriented tourist attractions.
Plan your trip to Japan wisely. The high season is not a good time to visit crowded amusement parks! On the other hand, the high season may be the only time you can visit a public beach and go swimming, as many of the beaches prohibit swimming outside of the designated swimming season. Accommodation, camping and outdoor activities will also be very hard to schedule during the short summer season. Early booking is necessary.
When visiting tourist attractions during the high season, try to go on a weekday when it is much less crowded. If you must go somewhere on a weekend, try to go on a Saturday. Many Japanese people get only one day off a week, leaving Sunday the and only day for family time.
I have not noticed great savings in Japan for traveling during the low season. Where I live on Shiraishi Island, for example (a summer destination with a beach, camping and water sports), the local accommodations do not raise their prices in summer nor drop them in the off-season. So while traveling in the low season may allow you to visit places without the crowds, don’t expect it to be any cheaper. In addition, many places are likely to be closed completely during the low season, as Japan still adheres to a rigid seasonal schedule for certain activities.
List of beaches and waterparks in Japanhttp://gojapan.about.com/od/attractions/a/japanbeachlist.htm
List of Amusement Parks (including food theme parks!)http://gojapan.about.com/od/themeparksinjapan/
Amy Chavez is a columnist for The Japan Times. Visit her website at http://www.moooobar.com