Fall is one of the best seasons in Japan to travel around the country. Even the locals take time off to witness the leaves change colours to a mix of red, orange and yellow. Not to mention the various autumn festivals happening nationwide. There’s quite a lot to do and see in Japan in the autumn season. Trying to cram all of them into one trip is more of a problem than not having anything to do.
Instead of packing your schedule with too many activities, we’re going to highlight the 10 best things to do in Japan in the fall.
1. Enjoy the autumn foliage
The most popular activity in Japan during the autumn season is enjoying the autumn foliage, known as kouyou (紅葉) in Japanese. Locals and tourists alike take day trips to witness the vibrant leaves. Travellers go north and south for the best views. The most popular destinations include Kyoto and Nikko. Kyoto is just a half an hour’s train ride away from Osaka; Nikko is an hour and a half away from the capital city Tokyo by train.
Even if you don’t have the time to travel to these cities, the entire country is full of autumn-vibrant trees. Parks and gardens in Tokyo and Osaka are just as magnificent as any other.
2. Feast in autumn season cuisine
The weather is not the only thing that changes with the seasons in Japan. The Japanese love their seasonal dishes. Take this opportunity to feast in autumn seasonal cuisine. The most popular autumn dish is anything to do with Japanese sweet potato. This vegetable is known for its high nutritional value and rich flavours. You’ll likely find them roasted, known as “yakiimo” (焼き芋) in Japanese. They’re sold everywhere from street stalls to travel vans.
Autumn is also the best time to savour wagashi (和菓子), Japanese sweets. During the fall, you’ll get flavours of apple, permission, chestnut and, of course, sweet potato.
3. Visit fall festivals
If you don’t already know yet, Japan is full of festivities all year round. Most say that summer is the best season for festivals, but autumn has its fair share of exciting and thrilling neighbourhood events. Fall festivals (aki matsuri, 秋祭り) are mostly entertaining deities with dance and music. This is a way of thanking them for a successful harvest.
In Osaka Prefecture, one of the most famous festivals is called the Kishiwada Danjiri Festival. This is one of the more classic ones and historically practised as a prayer for a successful harvest.
4. Celebrate Halloween the Japanese way
For some of us, the biggest event in fall is Halloween. If you happen to find yourself in Japan during the time, don’t expect to celebrate this holiday the way you would in Western countries. Japan has their own unique way of celebrating this fun event.
You could definitely spend Halloween at theme parks like Disneyland, DisneySea and Universal Studios Japan. In October, these theme parks go through a makeover that includes the likes of pumpkins and spider webs.
But the best event you wouldn’t want to miss out on is on Halloween day itself at Tokyo’s Shibuya Scramble Crossing. Hundreds and thousands of people dress up and gather in this area. A similar but smaller-scale version happens at Osaka’s Amemura neighbourhood.
5. Drink up at Oktober Fest
If Halloween isn’t the first event that pops in your mind for October, then it definitely has to be Oktober Fest. Japan also celebrates this event in big cities like Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Yokohama. The most popular one is at Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse, where the event Yokohama Oktoberfest runs for almost the whole month of October.
From musical performances and other events to European snacks and a few pints of German beer, it’s almost like you’re not in Japan anymore.
6. Admire Kochia scrubs
A unique plant called “kochia” changes colour throughout the year. In fall, it transforms into a reddish-pink. This is a sight you don’t want to miss. If you find yourself in Ibaraki Prefecture, drop by Hitachi Seaside Park where there are hills of these scrubs. Definitely worth a visit and take a picture or two for the gram.
7. Stroll through pampas grass
Another nature spot to explore in the fall in Japan is the Sengokuhara area in Hakone. Hakone is just two hours away from the capital city Tokyo, making it the ideal location for a day trip.
During this time of the year, you’ll get to stroll through fields of tall, pampas grass in Hakone. With the cleared path making it easy to navigate through, you’ll be able to peacefully admire nature’s beauty. This is a perfect break from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo city.
8. Go hiking or trekking
For those looking for a bit more of an adventure, autumn in Japan is the perfect time to go hiking or trekking. The weather cools down enough for pleasant outdoor activities. You don’t have to venture too far. Close to Tokyo, Mt. Takao is a popular choice for those looking to break a sweat. In fact, this is the most climbed mountain in the world! Not only will you get a workout in but you’ll also be able to see the autumn foliage of the mountain. Kill two birds with one stone!
9. Frolick in the cosmo fields
I’m a sucker for flowers, and if you are too, don’t miss out on Tokyo’s Showa Kinen Park. Here, you’ll be able to view cosmo flowers in full bloom. In fact, you’ll get to frolick in cosmo fields as big as 15,000 square meters! There’s even a festival for these blooms called the Cosmos Matsuri. Definitely drop by if you’re in town any time from mid-September to the end of October.
10. Gaze at the harvest moon
One of the highlights of fall in Japan is the annual tradition of moon viewing. Known as otsukimi (お月見) in Japanese, this hundreds-of-years-old event happens between the middle of September and the start of October. Family and friends gather to view the full moon while eating dango (団子). Some areas hold events like a moon-viewing event for people to celebrate this occasion together.
Which will you be doing first?
The list of activities to do in Japan in the fall can go on and on, but these 10 are a good start to get you off on the right foot. Japan’s a country that’s always full of things happening. Even if you don’t plan your trip specifically, you’ll definitely be able to wander the streets and come across an activity randomly. So, which activity will you be doing first in Japan during the autumn season?