Every season in Japan is unique, offering its own version of the country’s scenery as well as exciting opportunities to discover authentic Japanese culture.
Autumn is one of the best seasons to visit Japan, the landscape turns spectacular shades of red, orange, gold, and yellow and there are numerous autumn festivals which visitors must see given the chance.
Japan knows how to celebrate a festival in spectacular style and there’s an autumn festival for everyone. You can expect music, dancing, fireworks, and mouthwatering food at most of the festivals and there are also more niche festivals, such as the spectacular hot air balloon festival and a cat festival.
Where should you go to Japan in autumn? To help you choose a festival to enjoy during your autumn visit, we have compiled a list of 7 of the best autumn festivals in Japan.
Kichijoji Autumn Festival (Early September)
Tokyo’s cool Kichijoji neighborhood is transformed during the Kichijoji Autumn Festival in the second week of September. The beginning of the season is welcomed as a lively parade carries a mikoshi shrine through the town center.
The festival began in 1972 as has grown in popularity and size ever since. There are now 10 procession teams that have their own chant, costumes, and rhythm, and they compete with each other to get the crown going. It’s the best time of year to visit one of the capital’s most bohemian neighborhoods.
Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri (Mid-September)
Danjiri Matsuri (float-pulling festivals) is celebrated throughout Japan. However, Osaka’s is considered the best of them all. Carved wooden floats, shaped like shrines and temples, are pulled on carts by ropes through the center of town as fast as possible!
It’s a thrilling experience and spectators go at their own risk. Every year there are several injuries resulting from the floats and ropes hitting people. However, thousands of people go the risk is relatively small (as long as you’re vigilant!).
Sapporo Autumn Fest (September)
Japanese food has a well-established global reputation and there’s no better place to sample it than Hokkaido’s biggest food festival in Sapporo. The festival has several themed venues and each one has its own vibe and range of dishes.
You can find a range of freshly-caught seafood, locally-grown produce, gourmet dishes, as well as high-quality wine and sake. The festival lasts for most of September which give visitors plenty of time to go.
Hachiman Matsuri (Early October)
The mountain village of Takayama hosts one of the most stunning Japanese autumn festivals, known as the Hachiman Matsuri. Huge floats (the size of buildings!) containing traditional puppets acting out famous scenes to over the crowds below.
In total there are 11 floats to see and they are all decorated with gold phoenixes as well as intricate carvings and embroidery. The floats are recognized as important cultural assets and visitors have to take care not to touch them.
Saga International Balloon Fiesta (End of October/Early November)
The Saga International Balloon Fiesta is the largest hot air balloon festival in Asia. Over 50 magnificent balloons filling the skies is an unforgettable sight that captures the imagination of both adults and children. If you’re looking for a spectacular Japanese festival in October, this is ideal.
The balloons take off very early in the morning, at around 5:30 am, and there’s usually a show at night. Visitors can also get involved in a range of activities including hot air balloon classes. There’s also a huge market where you can find a range of traditional crafts.
Zuiki Matsuri (October)
The Zuiki Matsuri Festival in Kyoto began in 947 to show thanks for a good harvest. Zuiki (taro stems) decorate the Mikoshi (shrine) which is carried by around 350 priests and shrine parishioners. It’s a local festival which gives visitors an intimate insight into a more sacred aspect of Japanese culture.
The procession starts from the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine on the first day, carrying several omikoshi. The festival lasts 5 days and includes traditional dances, tea ceremonies, and a range of ancient rituals.
The Kagurazaka Bakeneko Festival (November)
Cultures around the world have believed cats hold mystical powers for centuries and Japan isn’t an exception. The Bakeneko (demon cat) is one of Japan’s yokai (supernatural creatures) and the festival has become very popular in Japan in recent years, becoming one of the busiest Japanese festivals in November.
The cat-themed parade is held about 2 weeks before Halloween and it’s a fun-packed day of feline events including street performances, dances, cat costumes, and food and drinks stalls.
If you’re heading to Japan you will probably need a visa to enter. Find out which type of Japan visa you need.