As autumn leaves blanket the country in vibrant hues, many towns celebrate traditional festivals. Kyoto’s Jidai Matsuri features historical costumed participants and geiko in a procession through town. There are numerous incredible fall festivals in Japan.
Hosotsu Hachimangu Shinto Festival features thirteen breathtaking floats that require one year to build, depicting gods, warriors, kabuki actors, and animals as breathtaking sights.
1. Kurama Fire Festival
Kurama Mountain Village comes alive during this breathtaking festival in October and is a must-see fall festival in Japan. Locals take part in carrying torches and large portable shrines (mikoshi), in a parade lasting until after midnight to pay their respects to deities who protect from evil spirits – it’s truly stunning and an impressive display, considered among Japan’s premier fire festivals.
Chubu region of Japan is well known for its breathtaking natural scenery and dramatic mountain peaks, but this area also offers an array of traditional cultures. One highlight of any visit in autumn to this area is Kurama Fire Festival when the streets come alive with torches and a mikoshi procession. This festival gives a perfect taste of rural Japanese culture while giving insight into local traditions and values.
Hachiman Matsuri in Takayama, Gifu Prefecture is another fantastic fall festival worth witnessing, featuring massive floats the size of buildings paraded through streets as traditional kamishimo samurai costumes are paraded past with accompaniment from orchestras, garaku court music, and shishimai lion dancers – an absolutely magnificent and spectacular display that has earned this festival its spot on UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Experience traditional Japanese culture through Tokyo’s version of the Awa Odori festival, drawing over one million visitors each year to the Koenji neighborhood in Tokyo. Awa Odori’s dance competition attracts around one million spectators annually who come for its dynamic dancing, stylized singing and instrumentation performances, huge taiko drumming performances by 30 teams competing against each other, and an incredible nighttime display containing dynamic dancing, highly stylized singing/instrumentation arrangements, as well as spectacular taiko drumming displays from 30 teams competing to outdo each other!
Make the most of Japan’s incredible autumn festivals by traveling there between late September and early October when temperatures remain mild but leaves have started changing color. Our Into Japan Team would be more than happy to include any of these events in one of our scheduled tours or tailor one just for you; just let us know when planning your trip so we can assist.
2. Nagasaki Kunchi Festival
At Japan’s fall festivals, this unique and animated celebration involves a parade of portable shrines (mikoshi) which are fiercely competed for by revelers. At the beat of drums, bearers of mikoshi (chariots shaped like gold phoenixes or dragons and snakes) attack one another at high speeds in an attempt to knock their opponent over onto his side and win a match. Once upon a time, November 15 was traditionally observed to mark certain milestones in children’s lives: three-year-old girls began growing their hair; five-year-old boys donned hakama for the first time; and seven-year-old girls received permission to wear adult-style kimono garments. Today’s event has transformed into a lively festival where visitors can witness huge mikoshi floats and an energetic display of “mikoshi shishi,” with bearers of two different chariots colliding into each other with reckless abandon in an exhilarating battle between their bearers ramming their chariots into each other in what looks more like a competition than an ordinary festival parade.
This colorful, energetic festival dates back over 400 years. Held annually at Suwa Shrine and featuring Chinese and Dutch elements as a result of Nagasaki being Japan’s early center for foreign trade – with influences coming in from China, Netherlands, and other nations like Korea; now these festivities give tribute to Nagasaki’s multicultural roots through performances like Chinese dragon dances and Dutch comedies.
Another highlight is the Lion Dance, an exciting family event where parents and their children act as lions together. Additionally, don’t miss the incredible Orandasen ships which recreate those used by Dutch traders at Dejima port and which are pulled by men wearing geta shoes and women with hachimaki headbands wearing hachimaki headbands, both twirling in unison as they bring joyous thrills to audiences everywhere!
An annual spectacle, this festival takes place each October 7-9 across multiple sites throughout Tokyo including Suwa Shrine, Otabijo, Yasaka Shrine, and Kokaido-mae Plaza. Each district (odori-cho) only holds this celebration once every seven years so even returning visitors will discover something fresh to admire at this vibrant celebration!
3. Shinminato Hikiyama Festival
Niigata’s autumn festival is all about getting your heart racing and enjoying delicious local fare. Participants travel through the streets on climbing floats decorated with giant creatures such as lions, warrior helmets, tortoises, and sea bream. Flute players and taiko drummers keep participants moving along their route through this joyous festival!
Takayama, Japan is host to one of Japan’s most magnificent festivals each autumn: Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine Yomatsuri. This night festival offers an exquisite visual treat as enormous floats- some as tall as buildings- filled with traditional puppets perform for amazed audiences below, with gold phoenixes decorating their sails to create a captivating parade through town.
Takayama’s spring festival (Haru no Takayama Matsuri) serves as an opportunity to pray for an abundant harvest, while its autumn celebration (Omiko Takayama Matsuri) offers thanksgiving for the fruits of the season. Both festivities bring people out onto the streets adorned in their finest clothes to dance and sing for each other before culminating in spectacular yatai processions where hundreds of candles illuminate floating stages carrying performers who sing and dance throughout town.
Kyoto’s Jidai Matsuri (“Festival of the Ages”) is an astonishing reenactment of its one-thousand-year reign as Japan’s capital city. Samurai warriors, Heian court princesses, and geisha parade through Kyoto streets for this spectacular procession that cannot be missed during any visit to Japan in autumn.
Hiroshima’s Sera Kogen Flower Village hosts the Yellow Cosmos Festival for an enjoyable celebration of spring. Stroll through a sea of dahlia and chrysanthemum flowers during this nationally recognized Intangible Folk Cultural Property festival and see 13 floats parade through town and an engaging kabuki theater performance – not forgetting delicious apple and pork dishes available seasonally as treats for visitors as part of its last day festivities! It is truly an event suitable for the whole family to enjoy together!
4. Hirosaki Castle Snow Lantern Festival
Hirosaki town transforms into a winter wonderland every winter during its festival, where visitors can admire snow lanterns inspired by historic architecture as well as enjoy activities such as ice skating and large slides.
Jidai Matsuri (or Festival of the Ages), one of Japan’s vibrant cultural events, provides one of the best ways to experience Japanese history and its vibrant culture. This colorful event marks each period from historical Japan with thousands of participants wearing costumes from each period while performing wordlessly through streets to emotive melodies of traditional string instruments like shamisen and kokyu (Japanese string instruments).
While Japan hosts many float festivals throughout the year, none are more impressive than Nebuta Matsuri in Aomori Prefecture. Attractive lantern floats adorned with images depicting gods, warriors, kabuki actors, animals, and TV celebrities fill Aomori City streets for an incredible parade!
This annual celebration marks the victory of Tokugawa Ieyasu’s Eastern Army over Ishida Mitsunari’s Western Army at Awazu during their civil war in 1600. At this festival, 13 floats displaying images representing different regions of Japan travel through Katori Castle Town streets during a procession that winds throughout.
Matsue Suitoro Festival stands out among matsuri in that the canals of Matsue Castle Town are lit up beautifully during October evenings on weekends and national holidays, creating a romantic yet nostalgic ambiance.
At this festival, local residents create over 2,000 small shrines known as hokori out of colorful paper and decorate them with ornaments in order to pray for health and good luck. Visitors from across Japan come for this event; its stalls offer food, drinks, and souvenirs while giving people an opportunity to experience Japanese people’s intense connection to their own region and its people. There are also cultural performances and traditional music at this event.