5 Thrilling Autumn Festivals in Japan you can’t miss!

5 Thrilling Autumn Festivals in Japan you can’t miss!

Everyone wants to see sakura (桜) during spring in Japan. Others anticipate the powdered yuki (雪, snow) during Japanese winter. Summer in Japan calls for beach and bikinis. Autumn’s left out of this hype.

Contrary to popular belief, aki (秋, autumn) is actually one of the most festive seasons in Japan! The foliage is reason enough to be roaming around the country sightseeing. Japanese tourists try to catch an autumn festival (祭り, matsuri) or two while they’re in a different town. But here’s the thing: there are too many festivals to choose from! So we’ve shortlisted 5 of the most thrilling ones for you to look out for. 

1. Tori no Ichi (Nationwide)

Credit: Yoshikazu TAKADA on Flickr Creative Commons

An aki matsuri (秋祭り, autumn festival) you don’t want to miss is Tori no Ichi. This translates to “Day of the Bird”. This festival can be dated back to the Edo period and is celebrated nationwide. The biggest celebration of this festival you can find is in Tokyo. But don’t worry, if you’re not in the city during that time, there are others in various cities. The exact date follows the lunar calendar and falls on the day of the rooster. In olden days, this day let farmers know to harvest and sell their goods. Generally, it’s either early November or late November, around the 8th and 9th or 20th and 21st.

2. Takayama Autumn Festival (Gifu)

Credit: Johnathan Khoo on Flickr Creative Commons

Up in Gifu Prefecture, there’s the Takayama Autumn Festival. It’s one of the more famous ones. In a year, more than 100,000 guests from Japan and overseas travel to Takayama City just for this occasion. The celebration has been going on annually for more than 350 years. The main highlight of this festival is the floats. You’ll see rows of them parading down the street. Each float is based on a theme of Japanese culture (文化).

This festival usually happens in early October. If you miss out on this one, the Takayama Spring Festival happens in the middle of April. It’s just as thrilling and exciting.

3. Kurama Fire Festival (Kyoto)

Credit: Victorillen on Flickr Creative Commons

If you find yourself in the ancient capital city of Kyoto at the end of October, you’re right in time for the Kurama Fire Festival. This matsuri is all about fire (火, hi). It takes place not too far from the central city of Kyoto. It is in the mountains of Kurama, though, so bring your outdoor clothes!

Unlike the first two, this festival only starts after sunset. Those involved in the parade will be in costumes and carrying torches as they walk down the streets towards Yuki-jinja Shrine. This festival is like Obon, as it welcomes the spirits from the shrine to the village. It’s believed that the spirits can offer protection for the residents. Stay till the end for a huge bonfire!

4. Nihonmatsu Lantern Festival (Fukushima)

Credit: Ed Blankestijn on Flickr Creative Commons

Nihonmatsu Lantern Festival is all about lanterns. Duh! This festival takes place in Fukushima at Nihonmatsu Shrine at the start of October. You’ll be able to witness more than 300 lanterns all lit up, surrounded by approximately 65,000 people! The lanterns are arranged on 7 different floats and the celebration begins after sunset. You’ll hear taiko drums and flute music accompanying the parade.

This matsuri honours the Hachiman and Kumano gods of Nihonmatsu Shrine. Locals believe that they these gods give power to the rice plants and harvesting season.

5. Supernatural Cat Festival (Tokyo)

Credit: Hideya HAMANO on Flickr Creative Commons

Last but not least, we circle back to central Japan, in Tokyo! Out of all the crazy festivals this city has, Bake Neko has to be the one we highlight. Supernatural Cat Festival falls on the 13th of October every year in Kagurazaka neighbourhood. It’s all about…neko (猫, cat)! You put on a cat costume, pay an entry fee of ¥500, and join the parade! If you don’t have a costume, the on-site makeup artist can transform you into one.

Bake Neko isn’t just a parade, although that’s the main attraction. There are performances and food and souvenir stalls for you to enjoy. Not your typical traditional Japanese festival, but it is uniquely Japan.

Get Festive!

There are all sorts of festivals happening in Japan all year round. Autumn festivals are abundant, but these five shouldn’t be missed! Whether it’s appreciating the gods or shape shifting into a feline, trust Japan to have a celebration for that.

Japanese Summer — How Long, How Hot & How to Survive!

Japanese Summer — How Long, How Hot & How to Survive!

We’re almost in the middle of the year, which means that the weather’s going to warm up. Whether it’s to have a dip in the ocean or lie on the soft sand, summer’s greatly anticipated. Japan’s summer, though, is no joke. Not only is it packed with events and festivals like neighbourhood matsuri (祭り) and music shows, but it’s the peak of heat and humidity.

You hear a lot of people talk about Japanese summer and how hot it can get here. How hot are we talking about? I’m telling you, it really is, coming from a girl who grew up on a tropical island.

So before you get packing for your next Japanese summer trip, here are some things you need to know.

People at a summer street festival in Japan.

Image Credit: Kentaro Toma
Natsu (夏) in Japan is something everyone should be talking about. I personally have never experienced humidity like this. And like I said, I grew up in tropical Singapore, so I didn’t think anything could be worse than that.
 

Japanese summer starts around June and lasts all the way till August. It’s roughly three months, but it can vary depending on exactly which part of Japan you’re in. There’s also global warming, so summer can start as early as late May and last as long as mid-September.

If you find yourself in the southernmost part of Japan, like the Kansai region and Okinawa, you’re going to get a longer summer. Don’t forget the humidity as well. The Kanto region, where the capital city Tokyo is, is not too far off the heat and humidity levels, too. However, if you’re up north in Hokkaido, you not only get a shorter summer but also the cool and not-so-humid weather. That’s why lots of locals travel up north during this time!
If you’re wondering where you should spend the summer in Japan, Tokyo’s your best bet. Here is where you get all the great festivities and events.
Don’t worry if you’re early for Japanese summer. Late May and early June are the best times for flower viewing. Hydrangeas bloom everywhere, along with some other summer florals. Kamakura’s Meigetsuin Temple is famous for its blue hydrangea garden.
Be prepared with umbrellas, though. The start of summer in Japan is also the start of the rainy season (tsuyu, 梅雨). You might even get a typhoon (taifu, 台風) or two. The rainy season can be a week of non-stop rain and strong winds, usually at the end of June to the start of July. You might want to avoid these dates if you’re not a fan of the rain.

Summer Temperature in Japan

Large crowd at a summer festival at a shrine in Japan.

Image Credit: Julie Fader

The temperature in Japan during the summer can fluctuate. One day it can be a great summer’s day, and the next it can be as unbearable as it can get. Some of my Japanese friends have noted that summer temperature in recent years has been particularly high. We’re advised to take precautions so as to not get heatstroke.

June’s weather is comfortable. You’ll get a cooling 22ºC in the afternoons and it drops to about 18ºC in the evening. Since it’s also approaching the rainy season, you can expect a few rainy days. Pack an umbrella!
It warms up in July after the rainy season. You get 22ºC evenings and warm and humid 28ºC afternoons.

Nothing beats August. It’s the hottest month of the year. 31ºC afternoons are conservative. It can go as hot as 35ºC for a whole week or two. Sunscreen and a bottle of cold water are going to be your best friends.

Summer Humidity in Japan 

Japanese Lanterns

Image Credit: Atul Vinayak

Sure, you can gauge the heat in Japan from the temperature, but it’s the humidity that gets you. You see everyone’s dressing going from chic to casual in a matter of days.

Some say it gets humid in June, but I say it’s already slightly humid in late May. June’s humidity level is at an average of 75%. The previous month’s humidity levels are 60%-65% on average. That’s quite a big jump from spring to summer.
July is looking at 79% humidity. It’s especially humid after the rainy season. August’s humidity level drops to 73% as it gets closer to autumn, but combine that with the hot temperature and you get the hottest month of the year. Don’t avoid August, though. It’s the month of festivities and events. Just pack a few caps and sunglasses.

Now you know. Japanese summer can get not only pretty hot but humid as well. What do you think, will you still be visiting the country during the summer? The Japanese festivities are a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so it’s a lose-some-win-some situation, I might say. Don’t get scared off by the Japanese heat!