[2018 Edition] Things to Do in Japan in the Fall
Fall in Japan comes with various nicknames – “Fall of Hunger”, “Fall of Reading”, “Fall of Sports”, and so on. It is a season full of charm due to the magnificent autumnal colors and the various fall festivals held across the country. Refer to this guide to ensure that you can enjoy fall in Japan to the fullest – be it for sightseeing or for the delicious cuisine!
Japan’s fall runs from September to November, when the extremely hot and humid days of the summer have calmed down. While the morning and evening are cooler and require an extra layer of clothing, traces of the summer heat can still be found during the day, when visitors can comfortably wear short-sleeves.
October 1st is known in Japan as the day to change your summer clothes to fall clothes. Days where you can wear short-sleeves comfortably after this date are said to be few and far between. Long-sleeve shirts and sweatshirts are more suitable items of clothing.
Sweaters and jackets are needed during November, with some regions even needing a coat. The humidity of the summer will completely disappear, leaving behind a comfortable climate that isn’t too hot or too cold. It is an ideal time for sightseeing!
September: Traces of the summer can still be felt. Outdoor activities such as pear picking, grape picking, barbecues, and camping are popular.
October: Depending on the region, some trees may start to change color, exuding a sense of fall. Lots of sports events are held during the holiday known as “National Sports Day”.
November: Fall is in its peak. Traces of winter will soon arrive. Excursions to hot springs to view the fall leaves are particularly popular during this month.
Enjoy the beauty of the fall foliage by visiting the shrines, temples, mountains, gardens, or fields of Japan. There are a large number of tourist spots to enjoy the vivid red and yellow fall leaves. With lots of tourists anticipated, local television channels and newspapers announce useful information on when people can see the fall leaves. The next section introduces some fall foliage viewing spots, so make use of this information when planning your trip!
The settling climate of fall introduces an abundance of delicious, freshly harvested ingredients, such as chestnuts and premium matsutake mushrooms. While these ingredients can be enjoyed at classy restaurants, they can also be savored relatively inexpensively at convenience stores and family restaurants. Mackerel and salmon are popular seasonal fishes to enjoy. Pear and grape picking can also be enjoyed during this season. All of this stimulates the appetite, which is why fall is often nicknamed “The Fall of Hunger”.
The idea that fall is ideal for reading is said to have been started by a scholar in ancient China after he read a poem with the lights on during “the long nights of fall”. Fall has also become associated with reading due to the fact that the temperature is more comfortable and thus increases concentration. The shortening amount of daylight is also a factor.
The seedlings planted in spring have survived the summer and are ready for harvest by fall. The vast majority of festivals during the fall are held to entertain the deities with music and dance as a way of giving thanks for a successful harvest. Classic fall festivals that attract thousands of people each year include the Kishiwada Danjiri Festival (commonly called the “Kenka Festival”) in Osaka Prefecture, as well as the flamboyant dance performances of the Nagasaki Kunchi Festival. There are a variety of exciting festivals across the country that all celebrate fall in their own unique way.
Peak: Mid-October to mid-November
Naruko Gorge is the iconic fall foliage spot of the Tohoku region. This 100-meter deep V-shaped valley was eroded by the Oya River. It is completely covered with trees shedding fall leaves, which beautifully color the landscape during the fall. The view from the lookout is breathtakingly beautiful. While it is possible to come to Naruko Hot Spring Village for a day trip from Sendai, why not enjoy it to the fullest and stay at a hotel?
Peak: Mid-November to early December
This is the best spot to enjoy the fall foliage in the capital. Built over a span of seven years starting from 1695, this famous Edo period (1603 - 1868) garden has a long history. Over 500 trees that have shed the fall leaves are planted here, and their fall colors are visible from the small artificial hill and wide lake. Don’t miss out on the magical evening light-up of the trees, which is held daily after sunset.
Rikugien Garden (Tokyo)
Official Name: Nagarasan Onjo-ji Temple
Peak: Mid to late November
Fall foliage can be enjoyed at Mii-dera Temple, which has over 1,000 years of history. This temple is both a national treasure and an important cultural property. The magnificent contrast of the wide Niomon Gate with the vivid red leaves is what first greets visitors. Pass through this gate and walk down the approach, which looks like a tunnel of fall leaves, towards the main hall that is a national treasure. Each spot is magnificently lit up during the evening. Don’t miss out!
Peak: Early to late November
With a vast area of approx. 260,000sq.m., Katsuo-ji Temple in Osaka is specially lit up in the evenings during the fall so that visitors can fully enjoy the spectacle. The approach to the main hall, which looks like a tunnel made up of fall leaves, as well as the magnificent backdrop of the green mountains against the vivid red and yellow fall colors, are very picturesque and popular. Lots of worshippers come to pray here for a successful life due to it being known as the “Temple of Winning Luck”. It is conveniently located only 30 minutes away from downtown Osaka by train or taxi.
Peak: Mid-November to early December
The long history of Eikando Zenrin-ji Temple started in the year 863. It is a leading fall foliage spot in Kyoto that has even had a poem written about its fall leaves. A vast number of people visit every year during fall in pursuit of its overwhelmingly beautiful red, yellow, and orange leaves that come from around 3,000 trees. It is even beautiful to visit the temple after the leaves have fallen to see the “fall carpet”. The temple is magically illuminated in the evening, with gagaku (ancient court music and dance) being performed hourly.
Every single one of the four seasons of Japan has something unique to enjoy. The climate during the fall is particularly ideal for activities, sightseeing, and eating. Please enjoy the uniqueness that fall has to offer!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.