Translated by Ellyn Barnes
Autumn Festivals In Japan: Major Events September-November
Written by MATCHA
There are many autumn festivals in Japan, held between September and November. From viewing the harvest moon at otsukimi, to the lively Tori no Ichi festivals and markets in Asakusa and Shinjuku, the fall season is full of lively tradition in Japan.
Guide to Japan's Autumn Festivals
Many traditional festivals and ceremonies take place during the fall harvest season in Japan, between September to November. Below are the major events held in Japan in autumn in each month, and where and how you can enjoy them.
September Events in Japan
Otsukimi - Moon Viewing Festivals All Across Japan
Source: Romance Hanamizuki (Japanese only)
The fifteenth of the eighth month in the ancient calendar (sometime between mid-September and the beginning of October in the modern day) is known as juugoya, the night of the full moon. This is the night of the harvest moon, also said to be the most beautiful moon of the year.
On this night, otsukimi, or moon viewing, is carried out throughout Japan. There is a traditional ceremony to show thanks and pray for a successful seasonal harvest for produce such as rice. Japanese pampas grass, which resemble rice stalks, are used as decoration, while dango which resemble the moon are used as an offering and a snack whilst taking in the gorgeous night sky.
Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri, Osaka Prefecture
Source: Kishiwada City Official Website (Japanese only)
The Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri is a famous festival that takes place every year in Kishiwada City, Osaka. Originally a festival to pray for a successful harvest, it is now focused around danjiri, large intricately-carved wooden festival floats which speed through the streets pulled by around 500 people. This energetic and exciting event attracts many spectators.
With the floats' sudden turns, the sound of the hayashi's traditional instruments and the people in charge shouting directions from the roofs of the floats, this festival is something you cannot miss. In order to enjoy this event to the fullest, we suggest doing some background reading at the official website (Japanese only) before you go.
October Events in Japan
Jidai Matsuri at Heian Jingu Shrine, Kyoto
Photo by Pixta
The Jidai Matsuri is one of Kyoto's big three festivals normally held on October 22 every year at Heian Jingu Shrine. During this event, you can watch an extravagant parade celebrating the former capital's birth, history, and culture. This procession of around 2,000 people represents the flow of time throughout history since the Meiji Restoration, the political and social reforms that took place between the late Edo period and early Meiji Period. Each and every outfit and prop used by the participants was made in secret under the supervision of specialists.
November Events in Japan
Shichi-Go-San - Ceremonies Across Japan
On or around the 15 November, three-, five-, and seven-year-olds don their smartest clothes (usually traditional Japanese style) and head to their local shrine to celebrate the healthy growth of children across the country.
This was originally a ceremony for certain turning points in a child's life, namely girls starting to grow out their hair at age three, boys starting to wear hakama at age five, and seven-year olds being able to wear the same type of kimono as adults. Nowadays, the original meaning has faded and instead people pray for a long life for the children whilst eating chitose ame: red and white candy sticks.
Tori no Ichi, Asakusa Ootori Shrine and Hanazono Jinja Shrine
Dedicated to the oriental zodiac rooster, the Tori no Ichi festival began as a celebration of the harvest and takes place in Asakusa and Hanazono Jinja in Shinjuku. Now, it's become a large-scale fair and market to buy good luck charms, pray for a successful business, and welcome in the new year. It's also famous for the large array of kumade (decorative rakes made of bamboo said to bring luck) for sale. Kumade were originally used for sweeping up fallen leaves, but it is said that using them to decorate your home rakes in happiness.
These festivals and events are the perfect opportunities to get close and personal with traditional Japanese culture. If you get the chance, be sure to experience one (or all of them!) for yourself.