Autumn in Japan – a Complete Guide to Autumn in Japan
Autumn in Japan has to be seen to be believed. You'll be one step closer to doing so after reading our complete guide to autumn in Japan.
Each season in Japan has its own charm and characteristics, qualities which attract millions of visitors to the islands throughout the year. Nevertheless, autumn is for many the season in which to experience Japan at its best. It is a beautiful season with much going on throughout the nation – let us be your guide:
Japan Autumn Weather and Foliage Guide
In Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, the leaves begin to change in late-September, signalling the beginning of autumn. Gradually, the process moves south, reaching Kyushu in early December.
The climate in autumn greatly depends on region. Highs of 16°C can be seen in Hokkaido and 20°C in Kanto (Tokyo region), whilst at the other end of the scale, temperatures can dip below freezing in the north and hit single digits in Kanto.
When planning a trip it is advised that you check local forecasts regularly and plan accordingly.
Autumn Food in Japan
Sanma or Pacific saury pike is one of the nation’s favourite autumn foods. Sanma is available throughout the year, but the higher fat content and inexpensive prices in autumn make it particularly good at this time. Traditionally, the fish is grilled with salt, lemon, soy sauce and finished with some grated radish.
A rare and very expensive mushroom, famous for its uniquely smoky aroma and flavour. The mushroom cannot be cultivated, only foraged, meaning it is very much a delicacy. Try Dobin Mushi if you get the opportunity: in a teapot the mushrooms are steamed in a clear broth of vegetables, chicken and shrimp and served with a drop of citrus and rice.
Autumn is the time for the annual kuri (chestnuts) harvest in Japan. Chestnuts can be prepared and served in a variety of ways, though popularly they are simply steamed and served with rice.
Kaki is Japanese persimmon and the most popular fruit during autumn in Japan – the fruit’s colour a perfect reflection of the season as a whole. There are soft and hard types, both possessing a sweet and mildly tangy flavour. They are best served fresh as a dessert or made into a dried fruit and sprinkled with icing sugar to make a snack know as hoshigaki.
Autumn Festivals in Japan
Autumn in Japan is the season of the harvest and accordingly is also the season of the harvest festival. Festivals celebrating the country’s agricultural past are rife in the major cities and countryside both. Take a look at some of the best:
Takayama Autumn Festival
One of the most beautiful and biggest autumn festivals in Japan. Takayama Festival is held twice a year: two days in spring and two days in autumn in Takayama city, Gifu prefecture. Though the origin of the festival remains unknown, it is said to have first taken place in the late 16th century. The highlights are the magnificent parade of floats through the streets and the proliferation of traditional lanterns lighting up the city.
Website: Takayama Official Website
Sawara Grand Festival
This festival is also held twice a year: in July and October in Katori city, Chiba prefecture. The highlights of the festival are the decorated carts adorned with giant dolls, a weirdly wonderful tradition dating from the Edo era. Sawara Grand Festival is officially marked by the Japanese government as an important intangible folk-cultural property.
Read more about Sawara and the festival, here: Saware – the Little Edo of Japan
Website: Katori Official Website
Meiji Shrine Autumn Festival
This festival at Tokyo’s Meiji Shrine is held annually for three days at the beginning of November, usually from the 1st to the 3rd. The purpose of the festival is to celebrate the birthday of Emperor Meiji and Meiji Shrine’s establishment. There are several ritual ceremonies and noble arts over the three days.
Website: Meiji Shrine Official Website
Autumn Leaves Spots in Japan
An autumn in Japan without taking the time to marvel at the spectacular autumn leaves would be an autumn wasted. To help you avoid this fate, check out some of the best spots to see the leaves below:
Daisetsuzan in Hokkaido is Japan’s largest national park and the first place in the country to be treated to the autumn leaves extravaganza. Strictly preserved, this is the perfect place for connecting with nature at its most beautiful. If you’re not too outdoorsy, there also plenty of nice onsen resorts dotted around for some much-needed relaxation.
Hachimantai, a small city in Iwate prefecture is home to some of the most striking autumn views in Japan. The city also has a number of natural hot spring resorts and Japanese ryokans to welcome visitors.
Website: Iwate Official Website
Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka in Autumn
Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, Japan’s three major cities, also offer plenty in the way of autumn entertainment. Check out our in-depth aritcles below: