Fall in Japan is a spectacular season of stunning colors, celebrations, and cuisine. It can be overwhelming trying to figure out what to do & see during this time to ensure that you get the most out of the season, but don't worry. You can't go wrong if you simply remember the three Fs of fall: food, festivals, & foliage. Check out these great suggestions for making the most of your autumn trip.
While food in Japan is fantastic no matter the season, fall is a particularly special time to enjoy traditional Japanese cuisine as it is commonly referred to as the season of food. Woodsy Matsutake mushrooms, seasonal fish, chestnuts or gingko nuts, and savory pumpkin or sweet potato are the must try staples of fall. Kaiseki or traditional multi-course meals created with seasonal ingredients are often elaborately decorated during this time with maple leaves and other symbols of the season.
The harvest season brings with it an abundance of festivals ranging from the standard autumnal celebration to the unique and even fiery traditions practiced in Japan for centuries. The Takayama Autumn Festival, which takes place during the first weekend in October, is perhaps one of the more well-known and is a must see for fall travelers. Enjoy autumn like a local by savoring special sweet dumplings at a traditional harvest moon viewing party or tsukimi. For those looking for a truly unique experience, take part in an autumn fire festival such as the Kurama no Hi festival in Kyoto or the Otokunchi fire festival in Hiroshima, both held during the last weekend in October.
It wouldn't be autumn in Japan without those spectacularly colored leaves. Similar to cherry blossoms, fall foliage can be enjoyed most anywhere in the country but the numerous gardens and temples of Kyoto make it particularly equal to the task. Kiyomizu Temple (pictured above) also provides stunning views of the surrounding city. The Japan Alps is another excellent place to take in the fall colors and Nagano is a great place to start with its easy access from Tokyo by bullet train. If you want to truly get close to nature while observing fall foliage, Japan's national parks are a must. Although Mt. Fuji is the obvious choice, travelers wanting to stray off the beaten path might visit Akan National Park in Hokkaido as well.
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