5 Autumn Festivals To Celebrate In Japan


5 Autumn Festivals To Celebrate In Japan

Autumn in Japan is a period of breathtaking beauty, marked by the changing leaves and a sense of renewal. This season is also celebrated with various festivals that reflect the country’s rich cultural heritage and connection to nature. Here are five autumn festivals in Japan that offer unique experiences:

Jidai Matsuri (Festival of the Ages) – Kyoto

Held annually on October 22nd, Jidai Matsuri is one of Kyoto’s three most significant festivals. It commemorates the anniversary of the foundation of Kyoto as the capital in 794. The highlight is a historical parade that transports spectators back in time, featuring participants dressed in accurate costumes ranging from the Heian Period to the Meiji Era. The procession starts from the Imperial Palace and winds its way to Heian Shrine, showcasing Japan’s rich history and cultural evolution.

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Koyo Viewing Festivals

Autumn in Japan is synonymous with “koyo,” or the viewing of autumn leaves. Various regions across the country host festivals celebrating the vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows of the season. Popular spots include Kyoto’s Arashiyama, Tokyo’s Rikugien Garden, and Hokkaido’s Daisetsuzan National Park. These festivals often feature nighttime illuminations, where the foliage is lit up, creating a magical atmosphere. Street stalls selling seasonal snacks and souvenirs add to the festive mood.

Takayama Autumn Festival – Gifu Prefecture

Held in mid-October, the Takayama Autumn Festival is centered around the Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine. It is famous for its elaborate floats (yatai), which are intricately decorated and lit up at night. These floats are considered some of the most beautiful in Japan, featuring mechanical dolls (karakuri ningyo) that perform during the festival. The event also includes traditional music and puppet shows, making it a vibrant celebration of Takayama’s culture and craftsmanship.

Niihama Taiko Festival – Ehime Prefecture

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Chiba, Japan

The Niihama Taiko Festival, also known as the “Fight of the Drum,” takes place in mid-October in Ehime Prefecture, Shikoku. This energetic festival features teams from different neighborhoods competing with large, portable taiko drums. The highlight is the dynamic performances atop these drums, which are carried through the streets. The combination of rhythm, physical strength, and community spirit makes it a thrilling spectacle.


While not a festival tied to a specific location, Shichi-Go-San is a nationwide celebration held on November 15th. It is a rite of passage for children aged three, five, and seven. Families visit shrines to pray for the health and well-being of their children. Boys typically wear hakama pants, and girls wear kimono. Although it’s a family event, visitors can often see participants at major shrines and temples, adding a touch of cultural beauty to the autumn season.

Each of these festivals offers a unique window into Japan’s cultural traditions, natural beauty, and community spirit. Whether it’s through historical reenactments, nature appreciation, artisanal craftsmanship, or communal celebrations, autumn in Japan is a season rich with experiences waiting to be discovered.

Additional Insights into Autumn Festivals in Japan

Beyond the vibrant parades and the stunning displays of autumn colors, these festivals provide deeper insights into the Japanese way of life, showcasing the harmonious blend of history, nature, and community values that define the country.

Embracing the Seasonal Transition

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Tokyo, Japan

Autumn festivals in Japan are not just celebrations; they are a profound acknowledgment of the changing seasons. Japanese culture places a strong emphasis on the beauty of nature and the transient quality of life, encapsulated in the concept of “mono no aware.” The appreciation of autumn leaves during koyo viewing festivals is a perfect example of this, encouraging people to reflect on the ephemeral beauty of life.

Cultural Preservation and Education

Festivals like Jidai Matsuri serve as living museums, offering a dynamic way to educate both locals and visitors about Japan’s historical epochs. By witnessing the parade, one gains a visual and experiential understanding of the various periods in Japanese history, the evolution of clothing, and the historical figures that shaped the nation. These festivals play a crucial role in preserving traditional arts and crafts, from the making of the yatai floats in Takayama to the performance of ancient music and dance.

Community and Unity

The Niihama Taiko Festival exemplifies how autumn festivals foster community spirit and unity. Preparations for these festivals often involve the whole community, from constructing the floats and costumes to practicing the music and dances. These events bring people together, strengthening bonds and ensuring the transmission of cultural traditions to future generations.

Spiritual Significance

Shichi-Go-San and other autumn festivals have deep spiritual significance, rooted in Shinto and Buddhist traditions. They are occasions for expressing gratitude, praying for good fortune, and commemorating milestones in the natural world and human life. Visiting shrines and temples during these festivals provides a moment of reflection and connection with the spiritual aspects of life.

Tourism and Economic Impact

Autumn festivals attract visitors from around the world, eager to experience Japan’s culture firsthand. This influx of tourists provides a significant boost to local economies, benefiting small businesses, traditional artisans, and the hospitality industry. The global interest in these festivals also contributes to the international appreciation of Japanese culture, promoting cultural exchange and understanding.

Japan’s autumn festivals are a beautiful tapestry of traditions that celebrate the season’s change, cultural heritage, community values, and spiritual beliefs. They offer a unique opportunity to engage with the heart and soul of Japanese culture, against the backdrop of the country’s stunning natural beauty. Whether you’re participating in the lively energy of a parade, marveling at the autumn foliage, or observing a moment of spiritual reflection, these festivals provide unforgettable experiences that highlight the richness of life in Japan.