When the hot days of summer end, the cool autumn sets in. In Japan, autumn is best known as the season for excursions. It is the time of year that is packed with events and festivals for showing gratitude for abundant harvests. This article covers some of the most popular fall festivals and events in Tokyo.
- 1. Asakusa Tori no Ichi
- 2. Hanazono Shrine Tori no Ichi
- 3. Meiji Jingu Shrine Aki no Taisai
- 4. Nezu Shrine Annual Grand Festival (Nezu Gongen Festival)
- 5. Konnoh Hachimangu Annual Grand Festival
- 6. Ohmiya-Hachiman Matsuri (Autumn Grand Festival)
- 7. Shinagawa Shukuba Festival
- 8. Nihombashi Ebisuko Bettara Ichi
- 9. Eiga no Machi Chofu "Aki" Hanabi
- 10. Kappabashi Dougu Matsuri
1. Asakusa Tori no Ichi
Tori no Ichi is a festival for praying for better fortune and success in business that is held at Ohtori Shrine and Chokokuji Temple, which stand side by side. Started by the sound of the Ichiban Daiko (drum that is beaten to signal the beginning of an event) at 12:00 am, this festival is held for 24 hours, attracting throngs of people who are looking to buy engi-kumade (good luck rakes), which are decorated with gold and silver jewels to invite good luck. The event peaks at night when the lanterns are lit and the engi-kumade shine in the dark. There are more than 500 stalls lined up at the event, with visitors exceeding 800,000 people each year. If you want to experience the event when there are not a lot of people, then it is best to come in the morning.
Schedule in 2018: November 1st, 13th, and 25th
2. Hanazono Shrine Tori no Ichi
The Tori no Ichi festival at Hanazono Shrine in Shinjuku is of the same scale as the one held in Asakusa. During this festival, more than 1,000 lanterns illuminate the shrine precincts, and the place is abuzz with the high-spirited calls of vendors selling kumade for success in business. The show booth of Hanazono Shrine is a definite must-see. It is always bursting with guests who are hoping to watch performances that can only be seen at that shrine. Prepare yourself, as the performances may be bizarre! The eve of the festival takes place from the evening on the day prior to the actual festival, and goes on until around 2:00 am. This festival is visited by 600,000 people each year.
Schedule in 2018: November 1st, 13th, and 25th
3. Meiji Jingu Shrine Aki no Taisai
Aki no Taisai (Grand Autumn Festival) is a festival celebrating the birth of Emperor Meiji. It is considered as the most important of all events and rituals at Meiji Jingu Shrine. During this festival, you will get the unique opportunity to witness traditional Japanese performing arts, such as Noh (a form of classical Japanese musical drama), Kyogen (a form of traditional Japanese comic theater), and Bugaku (court dance and music). Don’t miss out on the intensity of the yabusame (archery on horseback) event that is held on November 3rd. The crowd goes wild when a target is perfectly shot! As the shrine is near multiple stations on the JR line and subway line, it is extremely easy to visit the festival. Visit it and see what it’s like for yourself!
Schedule in 2018: November 1st to 3rd
4. Nezu Shrine Annual Grand Festival (Nezu Gongen Festival)
The annual festival at Nezu Shrine has been held for more than 300 years now at this historic shrine that was built 1,900 years ago. During the event, the shrine grounds are lined with a lot of stalls, and visitors get to witness a traditional performance called “Kagura San-no-mai”, as well as a dance performed by local women named “Kagura Urayasu-no-mai”. A must-see here is the Shinkosai (event to celebrate the transfer of a deity to another location), featuring a long procession of massive mikoshi (decorated portable shrines carrying the deity), that is held once every four years. The procession of mikoshi through the streets is a sight to behold.
Schedule in 2018: September 15th and 16th
*2018 is a Shinkosai year
5. Konnoh Hachimangu Annual Grand Festival
Held annually for hundreds of years, Konno Hachimangu Annual Grand Festival is the biggest traditional event in Aoyama and Shibuya. During the event, rows of stalls fill the grounds of the shrine and traditional festivities are held. On top of that, 14 mikoshi go around Shibuya and Aoyama and then converge in front of Shibuya 109. The main highlight of the event is the mikoshi “rengo togyo” (joint parade), where all the portable shrines are hoisted at the same time. If you apply in advance, you can even carry a mikoshi, regardless of your nationality or locality. They will even lend you a hanten (a short coat that is traditionally worn in festivals). Why not give it a try?
Schedule in 2018: September 15th and 16th
6. Ohmiya-Hachiman Matsuri (Autumn Grand Festival)
This grand autumn festival takes place at the historic Ohmiya-Hachimangu Shrine, which is more than 950 years old and is said to be the “navel of Tokyo” for being located virtually at the center of Tokyo. During the festival, the usually quiet shrine approach is packed with plenty of stalls and guests are treated to various events, such as sacred rituals with bows, Kagura Urayasu-no-mai performances, and folk dances done by local preschoolers. The festival hits its climax when 10 portable shrines gather in front of the shaden (main building of a shrine) and enter the shrine one after another on September 16th, starting from 6:00 pm. It is best to visit this shrine from Nishi-eifuku Station of the Keio Inokashira Line that passes through Omotesando.
Schedule in 2018: September 14th to 17th
7. Shinagawa Shukuba Festival
The Shinagawa Shukuba Festival was first held about 30 years ago in a bid to pass on the traditions and culture of Shinagawa-juku, which was the first of the 53 post stations (rest areas and inns) of the Tokaido highway that connected Nihombashi with Kyoto during the Edo period (1603 – 1868). During the festival, the approximately 2km road that has retained its Edo vibe becomes the venue to a parade of people dressed in outfits reminiscent of the Edo era, as well as to the oiran dochu (when high-ranking courtesans parade the streets). Live Japanese drum and wind instrument performances by local students also take place there. You’ll find many other attractions at the event, including booths and stores selling products from all over Japan.
Schedule in 2018: September 29th and 30th
8. Nihombashi Ebisuko Bettara Ichi
Nihombashi Ebisuko Bettara Ichi is a festival that has been held in the surroundings of Takarada Ebisu Shrine in Nihombashi since the Edo period (1603 - 1868). During this festival, the streets are filled with more than 500 stalls, such as booths selling bettara-zuke (a dish of white radish that has been pickled in koji (malt) and sugar). There are also shops where you can buy hake (whisk) and brushes for traditional arts, Edo kiriko glassware (specific type of glassware that has patterns etched into the glass), and wagashi (Japanese paper). This festival is held every October 19th and 20th, but the energy level gets really high on the 19th with the appearance of the mikoshi.
9. Eiga no Machi Chofu "Aki" Hanabi
“Aki” Hanabi is a major fireworks festival held in Chofu City, which is called the “Hollywood of the East” as it is home to a long list of companies that are affiliated with movies and videos. The fireworks show is not just simply about launching beautiful fireworks into the sky. Instead, it is a realistic show created by putting together “fireworks” and “movie music” that leaves viewers stunned. There are areas where you can watch for free, as well as spots that are allocated for paying guests. If you want to leisurely enjoy the show, then you should reserve a seat in the paid area in advance.
Schedule in 2018: October 27th (cancelled in the event of stormy weather)
10. Kappabashi Dougu Matsuri
This event takes place at the wholesale district of Kappabashi Dougu Street, which is a shopping street frequented by culinary professionals in search of everything from knives and pots, up to tableware, chairs and tables for restaurants, kitchen equipment, and food samples. At this festival, you can purchase tools used by professionals, convenient goods, and branded tableware at deeply discounted prices, as well as enjoy the food from stalls inside Kinryu Park. People who love hosting home parties, cooking, or making sweets should definitely check out this festival. You just might find unbelievable bargains!
Schedule in 2018: October 2nd to 8th
Did you discover a festival that you want to check out? Try to see and take part in these festivals, as they're a great way to more deeply enjoy Japan!
*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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