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Be Fascinated by Japan's Spectacular Fall Festivals

When the peak of heat and humidity of the summer subsides in Japan, the season of fall calls for a celebration like the harvest festivals. Spectacular processions, massive floats and traditional customs passed over generations will be portrayed. Wherever you go you will be fascinated by Japanese traditions as well as enjoying the colors of change and delicious delicacies associated with the fall season.

Here are a few of the most popular autumn festivals. Each one distinct in their own special way.

Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri (Osaka) Mid September


Feel the extremely powerful atmosphere. Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri, the "float-pulling festival" can be one of the most thrilling festivals in Japan. With almost 300 years of history, it is held every autumn in Osaka’s Kishiwada city. The festival depicts the soul and personality of the Kishiwada locals and they proudly devote their life to the festival. Danjiri are portable floats which are elaborately hand carved wooden structures weighing about 4 tons each. 35 floats are pulled and rushed through narrow streets one after another at recklessly high speeds. The biggest highlight is "Yarimawashi," Danjiri turning at an intersection. Just before the turn, they are accelerated to human running speed, causing an instant skidding of the Danjiri of up to 90 degrees. The night procession is calmer with bright red lanterns lit up on Danjiri where a slow, regal procession takes place along the main parade route. Those who enjoyed the daytime festival now get a chance to enjoy a completely different atmosphere of the night time Danjiri.

For more information, please visit here.

Takayama Akimatsuri Autumn Festival (Takayama city, Gifu Prefecture) Early October

Takayama Akimatsuri

Be fascinated by one of the three most beautiful festivals in Japan. The Takayama Festival consists of two seasons, Spring and Autumn festivals are both held annually. The lively attraction of the festival features eleven huge festival floats, constructed and decorated with gorgeous, intricate metal work and gilded wood. Several floats have the inside topped with large wooden marionettes, beautifully decorated with fabric. During the day time, the marionettes are pulled out from the floats and incredible performances can be seen dedicated to gods. The night procession is the main highlight of the festival when the floats are covered with hundreds of lanterns and feature traditional music. Despite their grand size, they seem to float gently in the pools of lantern light, appearing much larger in the dark. Enjoy the contrast of darkness and lantern lights.

For more information, please visit here.

Kyoto Jidai Matsuri (Kyoto Prefecture) Late October

Jidai matsuri

Slip back in time to Kyoto’s long history. Kyoto Jidai Matsuri was first held on October 22, 1895 to celebrate the 1100 year anniversary of the Emperor entering Kyoto in 794 and establishing the capital city of Japan. Since then the festival is held every year on October 22 to celebrate Kyoto’s birthday. This festival of the Age is a fantastic way to see history in a massive live parade with about 2,000 people. They are dressed in period costumes and accessories which represent each era of Kyoto's long history. Approximately 12,000 items of Costumes, ornaments and ritual equipment are precisely reproduced with Kyoto's traditional handicraft techniques. The festival begins at the old imperial parade and ends at the Heian-Jingu Shrine. This is a beautiful glimpse of old Kyoto history in all its glory. It’s almost like visiting a museum.

For more information, please visit here.

Reitaisai at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine (Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture) Mid September


Kamakura is situated south west of Tokyo, about one hour by train. Kamakura was once a political center of Japan like Kyoto and the first city created under the Samurai government system whereas Kyoto or Nara placed the Emperor at the center. Today, the city still sustains a wealth of history and culture.

With over 800 years of tradition, Reitaisai (Annual Major Ritual) is the most important function for the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine. Reitaisai consists of a number of rituals and events. Hamaori-shiki is a purification ritual in the sea before starting Reitaisai. For proof of purification, priests bring back seaweed to the shrine to hang on all the gates in the shrine. What follows next is an evening ceremony, main annual rite and portable shrine procession. Incredibly the highlight of all is Yabusame- Shinji. The Yabusame ritual originated from the middle of the 6th century as a Shinto ritual. Horseback riders shoot arrows at wooden targets and fragments of the target were in fact used to tell fortunes. Yabusame was popular among the samurai warriors. Experience traditional Shinto rituals in the historical town of Kamakura.

For more information, please visit here.

Niihama Taiko Festival (Niihama, Ehime Prefecture) Mid October

Niihama Taiko Festival

The Niihama Taiko (drum) Festival is an energetic festival held in October every year. It was started to give thanks for an abundant autumn harvest. Massive 53 drum floats blazing with beautiful gold embroidery with features such as tigers and dragons weigh about 2.5 ton each and are hoisted in the air by about 150 bearers dressed in the costumes of Edo Era firemen. The drum floats are seen mostly at fisherman villages and port towns along Seto Inland Sea. Among these towns, Niihama Taiko Festival is the most famous drum float festival because of its gorgeous floats and braving style. Approximately 200,000 people enjoy the festival every year.

For more information about Ehime prefecture, visit here.

Let’s visit Japan’s Natural Arena, Fall Foliage

When autumn finally arrives in Japan, the nation’s mountains, forests and parks are stunning with nature's fall colors. At this time of the year, Japan displays a wide variety of deciduous trees, offering a breathtakingly array of colors in a blaze of red, orange, yellow and gold. Starting around mid-September in the northern region (Hokkaido and Tohoku), and then gradually flowing down to the southern region (Kyushu) around December, this spectacle evolves as the weather gets cooler. This exquisite fall foliage holds considerable importance for the people of Japan and during the fall season, a great number of people head to famous places to see this natural beauty. The fall offers some of the best climates during the year as people also enjoy hiking and picnics while the fall foliage displayed as a remarkable backdrop.

There are a number of famous spots for fall foliage to visit throughout Japan. Specified below there are six remarkable suggested trip ideas that will point you in the direction of a miracle from Mother Nature.

Taisetsuzan National Park (Hokkaido)


Enjoy the earliest fall colors in Japan. Called "The roof of Hokkaido," Taisetsuzan National Park is Japan’s largest national park located in central Hokkaido. Within the perimeter of the 892 square miles, you can explore Mt. Ashi-dake, part of one of the tallest and rugged mountain ranges in Hokkaido. With its deep gorges, clear waterfalls and fascinating columnar joints, this expansive alpine zone is abundant and blessed with unique wild nature. There are over 250 species of plants as well as wild animals such as the Ezo deer and Japanese red foxes. Dense forests of Japanese rowans, birch and maple offer spectacular scenery in September when foliage erupts with fall colors. The colors around the Kogen hot spring are beautiful. The park does feature cable gondolas that operate throughout the year.

For more information about Taisetsuzan National Park, please visit here.

After a long day of hiking, why not enjoy a natural hot spring? There are numbers of hot springs at each mountain base in the national park. Sounkyo hot spring is a large hot spring village in central Hokkaido with sulfuric spring water. The village is one of the major stops during a Hokkaido tour and a convenient location for sightseeing at Taisetsuzan national park.

For more information about Sounkyo, please visit here.

Mt. Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi-ko (Yamanashi Prefecture)


A picture of fall leaves with a well-known symbol of Japan, Mt. Fuji would be one of the best post card shots. Among the startlingly beautiful scenes of fall colors occurring in mid-October, the most impressive scenery is over Lake Kawaguchi-ko, located at the base of Mt. Fuji. The Fujikawaguchiko Autumn Leaves Festival is held annually in November over a three week period. Maple Corridor around Nashikawa is also a must to see. About 60 giant maple trees are lined and at night are charmingly lit up. Take a stroll through the stalls to enjoy local food and crafts. The highlight of the festival is the over 490 foot Koyo Tunnel (autumn leaves tunnel), which is located 15 minutes by car from the heart of the festival. Along the Northern shore of the lake is a unique display of maple trees. These trees picturesquely frame Mt. Fuji in all its majesty.

For more information, please visit here.

For more information about Fujikawaguchiko Autumn Leaves Festival, please visit here.

Kurobe Gorge Railway Ride (Toyama Prefecture)


Take an open-air train to explore the vast wilderness and autumn scenery. The Kurobe Gorge Railway operates a sightseeing trolley train that snakes through Japan’s deepest gorge, Kurobe Gorge. To the Kurobe gorge, it takes 3 hours from Tokyo by bullet train and local train. It winds through 22 bridges, 41 tunnels along 12.5 miles and takes about 90 minutes for the entire route. Just after leaving Unazuki, the bright red Shin-Yamabiko bridge marks the entrance to the gorge. The combination of the bright red and vivid leaves is splendid. Take a stroll on the trekking course to explore the gorgeous mountains and rivers. After the walk, hop into the bath and stretch your feet. A number of hot springs are dotted along the rivers on the railway route. These natural hot springs are open air baths surrounded by glorious nature. Reservations for the railway ride are highly recommended due to the high season.

For more information on Kurobe Gorge Railway, please visit here.

Hozu-gawa River Boat Ride, Sagano (Kyoto Prefecture)

SaganoJapan's top sightseeing destination, Kyoto is also blessed with spectacular nature and numerous sites that are famed for fall foliage display. One of the many spots are the Sagano and Arashiyama districts on the western outskirts of Kyoto. The districts have a lot to offer and great unforgettable experiences. Take about 10 miles on a sightseeing tour of the rapids of Hozu-gawa River. The traditional style, flat-bottomed boats are heated during the winter and shielded under the rain. Viewing the forested mountainside awash in colorful fall colors for an exciting 2 hours is a fantastic way to experience Sagano in autumn.

The area of Togetsukyo Bridge, Arashiyma’s most iconic landmark offers natural beauty during the fall. In the evening of mid-December an exhibition called, "Kyoto Arashiyama Hanatouro" displays the wonderland of Japanese beauty. Arashiyama’s proud spots are lit up with about 2,500 open-air lanterns. Togetsukyo Bridge and waterside is illuminated in a majestic atmosphere. Do not miss the famous walking route of the Bamboo forest to indulge in the lit up and awe-inspiring natural beauty.

For more information about the Sagano-Arashiyama area, please visit here.

For more information on Hozu-gawa River boat ride, please visit here.

For more information about Kyoto Arashiyama Hanatouro, please visit here.

Okuboji Temple, Kagawa Prefecture

OkubojiOkuboji is located halfway up Mt. Yahazu on the Island of Shikoku and about a one-hour drive from Takamatsu or Tokushima JR station. The temple is the last stop of the Shikoku pilgrimage route, which in fact connects 88 Buddhist temples in Shikoku. Many worshippers, called “Ohenro-san” for the Shikoku pilgrimage visit here to conclude their journey. The Ohenro-san are dressed in white clothes with sedge hats and are dedicating their walking sticks at this last temple. Okuboji is also quite famous for one of the best foliage spots in Shikoku. When the leaves of maples and ginkgo display picturesque fall color around November, people visit here to capture the best shot of Okuboji through the year.

As Kagawa has a nickname as "The prefecture of Udon noodles," enjoy Udon noodles after the walk. There are Udon restaurants around the temple that make Udon noodles from the local wheat and sacred natural water from the mountain behind Okuboji. This coming fall, explore a truly local experience in Kagawa. For more information about Kagawa, please visit here.

Warm Up Your Soul with Japan's Winter Festival

In Japan, vast numbers of "matsuri" (festivals) are held throughout the four seasons. Summer is the peak season for matsuri but there are still many matsuri in winter across the nation. There are always stories, historical activities and customs that are behind traditional matsuri. Immerse yourself in the local community and discover Japan’s tradition, gourmet and hot springs nearby. Warm yourself up in the hot spring and at the same time you can warm up your soul with Japan’s spectacular and energetic winter festivals.

See below for an introduction to some of Japan’s most popular winter festivals.

Chichibu Yomatsuri, Night Festival (Saitama Prefecture, Early December)


This ancient Shinto Chichibu Shrine in Saitama Prefecture, located about one and a half hours from central Tokyo, has a history of more than 2,000 years. The shrine celebrates Chichibu night festival in early December. The annual festival is regarded as one of Japan’s three greatest float festivals. Six gigantic, beautifully decorated floats complete with lanterns, gilded woodwork and tapestries propel through the city. The floats are massive, weighing up to 20 tons and requiring nearly one hundred people per float, they are a sight to behold. Traditional drum sounds add an alluring atmosphere. These floats transform the stage with incredible Kabuki performances. The highlight of the festival is when all the heavy floats are pushed up the steep Dango slope to their final spot. A spectacular fireworks display dazzles the crowd. If you are around the Tokyo region, do not miss this excellent opportunity to discover Japan’s tradition in Chichibu.

For more information, please visit here.

Nozawa Fire Festival (Nozawa hot spring village, Nagano Prefecture, mid-January)

Nozawa Fire Festival

The Nozawa fire festival (Dosojin Matsuri) is held in the village famous for ski resorts and hot springs. When the peak season arrives at this winter haven, Japan’s top three fire festivals can be seen. Men aged 25 and 42 from the village take a special role for the festival. In Japan, 25 and 42 years of age are regarded as "yakudoshi" (unlucky ages). A massive wooden shrine tower is constructed at the center of the festival. The highlight is heroic but almost dangerous "fire setting battle." This is the battle between villagers and men aged 25 & 42. The Villager’s offensive team aim to set fire on the tower by blazing torches made by pine branches. The Defending team (42 years old) stands on the top of the tower and the 25 years old group guards the tower from being set on fire by striking attacker’s fire. The battle is courageous and both parties are covered with sparks. Finally, the tower is lit up and a massive bonfire lights the sky. The next morning local people toast rice cake in the embers. There is a belief that this can contribute to good health for one year if you eat this. Singing, chanting and free sake under the snow near the hot spring are offered. Everything you want in Japan’s winter season is here in Nozawa.

For more information, please visit here.

Kawarayu Onsen Yukake Festival (Kawarayu Hot spring, Gunma Prefecture, Late January)

Kawarayu Fes

Kawarayu’s hot spring town with over 800 years’ history is a small village situated in Gunma Prefecture about 2.5 hours from Tokyo by express train. This is a unique but wet festival and its origin dates back about 400 years ago. One day, the hot spring water suddenly stopped gushing out. A villager could sense the boiled egg smell so they caught chickens and dedicated them with prayers. The hot spring water started to flow again and they celebrated by splashing water. This was the beginning of the festival. The festival is held annually in late January, commencing early at 5 o’clock in the morning at freezing cold temperatures. The Men who are shivering with cold only wear fundoshi (traditional Japanese men’s underpants). With a bucket of hot spring water, the men are split into two groups for battle to pour and splash against each other. After the battle, "pinata-like" a traditional decorated paper ball is torn open by men aiming and splashing water at the ball. Chickens come out from the split ball then the chickens are captured to be dedicated to the altar. Be prepared to get wet as the lively battle unfolds and the water splashes into the audience!

For more information, please visit here.

Events in the US: Save the Date!

Japan Fair 2016

September 3 (Sat) and 4 (Sun), 2016
Venues: Meydenbauer Center Hall, Bellevue, Washington

Japan Fair

This year the Aki Matsuri Japanese Fall Festival that has a long 18-year history in the Bellevue community will be transformed to the Japan Fair 2016. The festival will introduce and exhibit the latest traditional Japanese arts, culture, performances and so much more.

The Japan Fair 2016 will be the place to immerse yourself to a lively Japanese atmosphere. Enjoy the great opportunity to discover Japan in Washington!

For more information, visit here.

Japan Fair

Information is provided as a courtesy to users of this website. Though the JNTO endeavors to ensure the information is accurate, users of the information are to act on such using their own judgement and at their own risk. Neither the JNTO nor any holder of copyright to the information shall be held responsible in any way whatsoever for any loss or misunderstanding, either direct or indirect, that is incurred as a result of utilizing the information.

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