Japan is uniformly hot in July, but conditions do vary from north to south. Sapporo, capital of the northern island of Hokkaido, sees an average July high of 77° F (25° C), and a low of 63° F (17° C). Almost every major city across Honshu and Kyushu (Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Fukuoka) experiences highs around 86° F (30° C), and lows of 75° F (24° C), so you don't get much respite at night. Average temperatures in Naha, capital of Okinawa, are similar, although the lows are even warmer.
The good news, though, is that the rainy season typically ends by mid-July. So, while humidity remains high and quite uncomfortable across most of the country, later in July you won't experience as much rain.
Crowds and Costs
The rather uncomfortable conditions make July low season for international travelers in most of Japan, with the exception of Hokkaido and Okinawa. Japanese tourists (as well as international ones) head to these places either to escape the heat (Hokkaido), or to embrace it and swim in the sea (Okinawa). When booking travel and accommodation in Hokkaido and Okinawa for July, book as far in advance as possible, and expect high-season prices.
From late July, Japanese schools are on holiday for several weeks, so expect increased crowds at popular amusement parks, beaches, and anywhere that might appeal to young people and families.
Where to Go
While much of Japan swelters in July, you don't have to look so hard to find coastal, highland, or more northern destinations that are more comfortable.
Hokkaido is especially popular as a summer destination because it gets warm rather than unpleasantly hot. The northern part of the island of Honshu, Tohoku, is also cooler than the southern parts of the island, and because it's less densely populated there are many outdoor attractions to enjoy. The islands of Matsushima, just northeast of Sendai, are a highlight.
Japan is a country of many mountains, and at slightly higher altitudes you may find cooler temperatures. The Japan Alps are a popular hiking destination, and a marginally cooler than other parts of Honshu in July. For a quick escape from Tokyo, the beautiful and culturally important town of Nikko should be a priority, as it sits at a cool 4258 feet (1298 m.). If you make a trip further up to Lake Chuzenji, you may even feel cool.
To enjoy some beach time, either head to the sub-tropical and tropical islands of Okinawa, or find other islands off the coast of the main islands. The island of Iki, accessible from Fukuoka, has gorgeous beaches and mostly only Japanese tourists. The Seto Inland Sea, between the three main islands of Honshu, Kyushu, and Shikoku, also has many beautiful little islands worth checking out, such as Naoshima.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
What to Do
Aside from the activities mentioned above, July is the start of the Mt. Fuji climbing season. The season officially runs from 1 July until 14 September. While this is hardly an off-the-beaten-path wilderness experience (there are drinks vending machines near the summit!), it shouldn't be taken lightly. Travelers with reasonable fitness and hiking experience will enjoy it most, and the views from the top are worth the effort.
Fireworks displays. Through July and August, many cities around Japan put on summer fireworks displays. In the larger cities, such as Tokyo, these can be absolutely spectacular events. Take a blanket to a park or the banks of a river and expect well-managed crowds and fireworks that just keep going on and on... and on.
Natsu Matsuri. Japanese summer festivals, or natsu matsuri, are held in many towns, cities, neighborhoods, and even small local streets throughout the country, all summer long. These usually include traditional dancing, music and costumes, portable shrines, large crowds, and plenty of food and drink.
Each festival has some unique and distinctive characteristics. It would be impossible to list all of the festivals held in July that are worth checking out, but wherever you travel to you won't be too far from one that could be built into your itinerary. Ask your local specialist if this is something you're interested in experiencing.
Traveling to Japan in July? Check out these great itineraries
Japan's Culinary Heritage - 11 Days. Eat your way through the Land of the Rising Sun on this immersive culinary tour. Get to know Japanese history and culture through its legendary cuisine, and treat your taste buds to everything from home-brewed sake to the freshest sushi.
Best of Tokyo & Kyoto - 7 Days. This week-long adventure splits its time between two of Japan's most important cities with a mix of customizable tours and free time to explore on your own.
Japan Golden Route - 10 Days. This 10-day itinerary follows the path of Japan's ancient Tokaido Highway (the Golden Route) from the skyscrapers of ultra-modern Tokyo to the cultural heart of Kyoto.