Calendar of Japanese Events – September & October Edition –
There are many seasonal events and traditions in Japan. This post introduces some that are held between September and October.
This is the practice of spending the evening appreciating the beautiful moon. It is traditionally held on August 15 under the Lunar Calendar (between mid-September and early October of the current calendar).
Members of the Imperial Household and aristocrats historically held moon-viewing events during August of the Lunar Calendar, which is when the skies tend to be clear. The practice eventually spread to the general public as harvest events. During such events, Tsukimi Dango (mochi balls made with rice flour), as well as taro (a seasonal produce), are offered to the moon – an object of devotion – and a Tsukimi Banquet is held. Otsukimi events are held throughout the country at this time of year, so be sure to participate!
Ohigan is held twice a year in the spring and fall. The September Ohigan spans seven days, with the Autumnal Equinox at the middle. During this time, people honor their ancestors by cleaning their graves or Buddhist altars, as well as by offering them flowers and sweets. This practice stems and grew from the belief that because the sun rises from due east and sets due west on the Spring and Autumnal Equinox, the Higan (ancestors’ world) and Shigan (this world) are most easily connected on both days.
During Ohigan, it is traditional to eat Ohagi, which are sweets made with a mixture of mochi and regular rice covered in azuki bean paste. The mochi represents a healthy harvest and the azuki beans are meant to guard against evil spirits.
Akimatsuri are held around the country between September and November. Many of them are held to celebrate the safe harvest of crops, and one of the most famous is the Zuiki Festival held from October 1 – 5 at Kyoto's Kitano Tenmangu. It is a festival in which a portable shrine decorated with crops such as taro stalks and vegetables is dedicated to the deity.
There are many other unique festivals held throughout the country during this time. Two of the most popular are the Nagasaki Kunchi (October 7 - 9 every year) in Nagasaki and the Kishiwada Danjiri Festival (mid-September and early October every year) in Osaka.
In Japan, people change their wardrobes twice a year to prepare for the upcoming seasons. This is called Koromogae. There are no particular dates for koromogae at home, but school uniforms all change into winter uniforms on October 1 (the change into summer uniforms is June 1).
This practice is especially important for traditional Japanese clothing, meaning that the seasons that kimono can be worn depends on their design and tailoring. Kimono often have seasonal patterns and it is stylish to wear the patterns slightly in advance of the depicted season.
Momijigari is one the most popular fall leisure activities in Japan. It refers to the tradition of enjoying the beauty of trees in gardens and mountains that have turned vibrant colors such as red, yellow and orange. It was considered a refined activity of aristocrats during the Middle Ages, but spread to the general public after the Edo Period (1603 – 1867).
Make sure to check when the best time to see the foliage is, as it differs from place to place. Some areas that are recommended in October include Jozankei in Hokkaido, Senjojiki Cirque in Nagano, Nikko Iroha-zaka in Tochigi, Okutama Lake in Tokyo, and Kodai-ji in Kyoto.
In October, when the weather is good, field days and athletic festivals are held throughout the country by schools, businesses, and local communities. They are usually full-day events during which teams compete in various athletic games. Programs include a wide variety of activities, ranging from track and field competitions like foot races, hurdles and relays, to fun games where small or large balls are thrown into baskets or rolled down a course, as well as dance exhibits.
During the fall, many universities, high schools and junior high schools hold school festivals or cultural festivals that are organized primarily by the students. At most festivals, groups consisting of students from the same class, extracurricular team or volunteer group perform music, dance, plays or present their research.
The festivals at universities tend to be the largest and are, in most cases, open to the public. Most festivals have food stalls called “mogiten” and many have guest appearances by celebrities and musicians.
Although Halloween (October 31) is an event that originates from Europe, it has recently become popular in Japan. It is especially popular with the younger generation, who enjoy it in a uniquely Japanese way, void of any religious connotations.
It is common for people to hold costume parties among friends or attend Halloween parties held in their towns. In Tokyo, many people in costume gather at Shibuya and Harajuku. In Osaka, many go to Ebisubashi and Amerikamura. There are also numerous costume parades throughout the country, such as the Harajuku Omotesando Halloween Parade.
There are many interesting traditions in Japan that take place during the fall. Please use this extra knowledge on Japanese culture to further enjoy your trip in Japan!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.