Fall in Japan is the time of harvest following the hot summer. A variety of festivals are held throughout the country, ranging from ones to show appreciation for the harvest, to thrilling festivals with great power and impact. Here are the best 10 select fall festivals to go to in the Kansai Region.
- 1. Otsu Festival (Shiga)
- 2. Jidai Matsuri (Kyoto)
- 3. Arashiyama Momiji Matsuri (Kyoto)
- 4. Kurama no Himatsuri (Kyoto)
- 5. Zuiki Matsuri (Kyoto)
- 6. Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri (Osaka)
- 7. Yao Kawachi Ondo Matsuri (Osaka)
- 8. Sakai Matsuri (Osaka)
- 9. Gobo Matsuri (Wakayama)
- 10. Nada no Kenka Matsuri (Hyogo)
1. Otsu Festival (Shiga)
This is the annual festival of Tenson Shrine in Otsu City, Shiga Prefecture that is held over two days (festival eve and main festival). The highlight is the parade of 13 hikiyama (festival floats) that were made during the Edo Period (1603-1868). The gorgeous hikiyama are decorated with Gobelins tapestry and elaborate metal fixtures, and have ingenious mechanical dolls. The festival is most crowded around noon of the main festival day so be sure to arrive before then.
2018 Dates: Saturday, October 6 and Sunday, October 7
2. Jidai Matsuri (Kyoto)
This is a festival of the Heian Jingu Shrine, and is one of the three major festivals of Kyoto, along with Aoi Matsuri and Gion Matsuri Festival. The festival reenacts the history of Kyoto from the approximately 1,000 years that it was the capital. The 2km parade of people wearing gorgeous historical costumes that are replicated down to the smallest detail is a walking picture scroll of Japan's brilliant cultural history. There is a paid (2,050 JPY) area to watch the parade with English commentary (at Oike Dori only), which is recommended for those who wish to understand the festival better.
Date: October 22 annually (postponed if raining)
3. Arashiyama Momiji Matsuri (Kyoto)
This is a festival held in the Arashiyama area, which is considered to be the best place in Kyoto to see the fall foliage. During the festival, the Oi River, upstream of Arashiyama's symbolic Togetsukyo Bridge, is filled with stage boats featuring a variety of traditional Japanese performances including Gagaku (traditional Japanese music). There are activities held by the riverside in the morning and afternoon, and in the afternoon, you can see Tayu, who are the highest-ranking geisha, walking around with their attendants. This festival is held by a river so it can feel cold - be sure to bring warm clothes.
Date: Second Sunday of November annually (cancelled in the event of rain)
4. Kurama no Himatsuri (Kyoto)
Kurama no Himatsuri, which is an annual festival of Yuki Shrine, is considered to be one of Kyoto's three extraordinary festivals. At 6:00 pm, approximately 250 iron and wood torches called Eji are all lit up all at once, and the neighborhood is filled with a torch parade of people shouting "sairei, sairyo". The festival reaches its climax at around 9:00 pm, when those holding the torches reach the stone staircase in front of the main temple gate and sacred objects are transferred to portable shrines called "mikoshi". The festival ends late at night.
Jidai Matsuri is held in the morning the same day, so the area will be filled with tourists. Be sure to book your accommodation early or check when the last train leaves.
Date: October 22 annually
5. Zuiki Matsuri (Kyoto)
This is a festival for the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine. A Shinto deity is welcomed into a portable shrine called "horen", and together with elaborate zuiki (the pattern of yam leaves) mikoshi decorated with vegetables and dried goods, is paraded to show appreciation for the fall harvest. It is held at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine and Otabisho, which are not close to each other, and the schedules differ so be sure to check in advance. Otabisho have food stalls during the festival for you to enjoy as well.
Dates: October 1 - October 5 annually
6. Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri (Osaka)
This is a festival with a history dating back 300 years, and in which danjiri (the term for decorative portable shrines in Western Japan) measuring 4m high and 4t in weight are paraded around at great speed. The highlight is the Yarimawashi, in which the direction of the shrine is changed 90 degrees while still moving at top speed. A successful change in direction is met with great applause. It is an exciting festival that will have you on the edge of your seat. The Danjiri Matsuri held in September is more famous, but the one held in October is just as exciting, even if smaller in scale.
2018 Dates: Saturday, September 15 - Sunday, September 16; Saturday October 6 - Sunday, October 7
7. Yao Kawachi Ondo Matsuri (Osaka)
This is a festival held in Kyuhoji Ryokuchi. Kawachi Ondo is the song for Bon Odori (a dance to welcome ancestors) that begins with greetings and goes on to sing about historical tales and current affairs. There is no sheet music, and there is an element of improvised performance of words freely added to the music. The dancers dance to the Kawachi Ondo around a watchtower. The dance movements are repetitive and can be learned easily, so try joining in. This is a great opportunity to enjoy traditional Japanese popular culture by dancing and enjoying the food sold at the stalls.
2018 Date: Sunday, September 9
8. Sakai Matsuri (Osaka)
This is a festival that is enjoyed throughout the city starting from the eve of the festival. Its main event is the great parade of people wearing a variety of costumes that represent each period in Sakai's 1600-year history. The Futon Taiko drum performance by the Sakai Matsuri Futon Taiko Preservation Association also cannot be missed. There is much more to see, such as the Namban Market of local products from Sakai, performances on a stage in front of City Hall, and a gourmet fiesta.
Dates: Third Saturday (festival eve) and Sunday of October annually
9. Gobo Matsuri (Wakayama)
This is the greatest festival in the Gobo and Hidaka area, and is held at Shino Hachiman Shrine. It is a gallant festival otherwise known as Kenka (brawl) Matsuri, and today, many people visit for the excitement of the joint parade of yotsudaiko (structure holding 4 boys playing taiko drums) that are held up high by hand, originally meant to be supplementary entertainment. At the main festival, Kehon Odori, a dance designated as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property both by the prefecture and national government, is performed, and the yotsudaiko (festival float and banners) converge in front of the shrine for the climax. The festival goes on late into the night.
Dates: October 4 and 5 annually
10. Nada no Kenka Matsuri (Hyogo)
This is a festival held at Matsubara Hachiman Shrine. It is one of the largest of the numerous Kenka Matsuri held throughout the country, and is so famous it is said one should see it at least once in a lifetime. It is a thrilling festival in which three portable shrines are slammed against each other, and it is said that the harder the brilliantly decorated shrines compete, the happier the deities are. Tickets to the paid seats are not publicly available, so the general public must stand. Approximately 150,000 people visit it each year, so be sure to arrive early.
Dates: October 14 and 15 annually
The fall festivals are events that many Japanese people look forward to. The thrill and power of the festivals create a wonderful experience of Japanese culture, so be sure to take the opportunity to go to one if you can.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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