After the hot, hot summer comes the mild and pleasant autumn. As the hot and humid weather has calmed down, we can now feel the cool breezes. The days are warm and the nights can feel a little chilly. Beautiful autumn foliage can be seen all over Japan, making it the perfect time for sightseeing and outdoor activities. In this article, I will introduce some of the highlights of autumn in Japan that are perfect for sightseeing.
- Characteristics of Autumn in Japan
In Japan, the period from September to November is generally known as autumn. Autumn in Japan is characterized by a nice coolness with the heat easing off. The daytime temperatures are pleasant and the nights can be a bit chilly. Also, daylight hours gradually become shorter, and in November, it becomes darker after 5 p.m., which is also the season when the moon is at its most beautiful.
Autumn foliage is a must in Japan. In autumn, the Japanese landscape is vividly tinted with the changing colors of the leaves. Mountains, parks, and gardens turn red and yellow, creating a fantastic scene.
Visitors can also enjoy the flavors of autumn. It is also called "食欲の秋 (autumn of appetite)" because of the abundance of saury, mushrooms, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and other delicacies.
- Autumn foliage
It is said that "Japan's autumn foliage is the most beautiful in the world". While yellow is the main color of autumn leaves in Europe and the United States, Japan has a wide variety of trees that turn red or yellow, so you can enjoy the vivid colors and contrasts of deep green and brown as well as red and yellow. Another attraction of the autumn foliage in Japan is that you can see an entire mountain covered with autumn leaves, or you can enjoy the autumn foliage in various scenes, such as in harmony with Japanese-style architecture, temples, shrines, and old houses, or on the streets amid modern architecture.
- How to enjoy autumn foliage in Japan
Autumn foliage in Japan can be seen from late October to November in mountainous areas and from November to early December on the plains. Here are some ways to enjoy the autumn foliage in Japan.
*Strolling and Photography: Taking a walk while viewing beautiful autumn foliage is a joyful experience. Even in urban areas such as Tokyo, there are many places to see the autumn foliage. Parks, gardens, and boulevards with beautiful autumn foliage are all great places to grab your camera and take some great pictures!
Touring autumn foliage Spots: There are many famous autumn foliage spots in Japan's ancient capitals such as Kamakura, Nikko, Kyoto and Nara. The contrast between historical buildings, shrines, and temples and the autumn colors are breathtaking. However, it is best to visit on weekdays, as the places famous for their autumn foliage are very crowded on weekends and holidays.
Onsen and autumn foliage: Autumn foliage at onsen (hot spring) resorts is another unique way to enjoy the autumn colors in Japan. Many onsen resorts are located in mountainous areas, so you can enjoy the beautiful autumn foliage from the open-air baths and other unique features of onsen hotels.
Activities: If you want to enjoy the autumn foliage in its most authentic setting, mountain climbing and hiking are recommended! You can see spectacular scenery where the entire mountain is covered with autumn leaves. The view from the top of the mountain and activities in nature are outstanding.
Local Events: During the autumn foliage season, each region will also host a variety of events, large and small. I recommend you participate in these events to learn about local culture and customs while having fun.
- Moon viewing ("Otsukimi")
Since ancient times, Japanese people have enjoyed the changing of the seasons with various events. Autumn is also the season of "Otsukimi". Otsukimi is a traditional event to appreciate the beautiful moon, which is held on August 15th of the lunar calendar, which falls on September 28th in 2023. The moon on this day is called "Mid-Autumn Moon" or "Jugoya". On Otsukimi Day, dango (dumplings), rice cakes (mooncakes in China), silver grass, and taros are prepared as offerings to the moon, and the custom is to enjoy the moon while viewing it.
Otsukimi is an opportunity to spend a pleasant time with family and friends while enjoying the beautiful moon in the autumn night sky. If you visit Japan during this season, please be sure to view the moon in the night sky.
- Autumn flavors
*SaurySaury is one of the most popular autumn delicacies. When saury appears in supermarkets, you know that autumn has arrived. The best way to eat saury is to grill it with salt. Served with grated daikon radish and white rice, saury becomes a special treat. There are also various saury festival that take place during this season.
*Mushrooms (shimeji, maitake, nameko, enoki, hiratake, etc.)Japan is home to a wide variety of mushrooms that are safe to eat, and many are harvested, especially during fall. Mushrooms are popular as a healthy food with high nutritional value, and can be enjoyed as buttered mushrooms, mushroom rice, or with pasta.
- Matsutake mushroom is the king of mushrooms. Although they are rare and expensive, so you might not get the chance to eat them too often, they are highly aromatic and very popular. It can be enjoyed grilled, steamed in an earthenware teapot, or served as matsutake gohan (rice cooked with matsutake mushrooms).
*Autumn FruitsYou can enjoy a wide variety of fruits during autumn, when harvest is in full swing.
Pears, apples, and grapes are typical Japanese fruits, which are well-shaped and very sweet and juicy. During this season, you can also go fruit picking in the production areas. Fruit picking allows you to eat freshly picked fruit on the spot. The time is limited, so if you have a chance, please give it a try!
*Sweet PotatoSweet potatoes are a famous autumn delicacy. In towns, you may see traditional yaki-imo (baked sweet potato) shops selling stone-baked sweet potatoes with a tractor. Japanese sweet potatoes are so sweet that you can enjoy them as a fine sweet treat just by baking them as they are.
- Sweet Potato DiggingIt has long been a tradition for Japanese kindergartens and nursery schools to take class trips to dig up sweet potatoes during this season. The experience of digging sweet potatoes out of the ground and eating the sweet potatoes they dug up themselves is one of the most memorable experiences for Japanese children.
- Autumn Events in Japan
Many events are held during the fall season, as outdoor activities are more accessible during this season. There are a variety of events and festivals taking place in various locations, so don't forget to participate!
*Autumn FestivalLocal temples and shrines hold "autumn festivals" in autumn to thank the gods for the harvest of crops. The festivals vary in scale from small local shrine festivals to large festivals that attract people from all over the country, but you can experience Japanese culture as local people dressed in happi coats carry portable shrines and pull floats through the town, there are stalls at fairs, and matsuri-bayashi (festival music) echoes through the town.
*Sports eventsAutumn is also known as "Autumn of Sports" because the weather is conducive to outdoor activities and sporting events are popular. Elementary schools, junior high schools, and high schools also hold "sports day". The first Saturday in October (October 9th in 2023) is the national holiday "Sports Day," and sport events are held in various locations at the time.
*HalloweenOctober 31st is Halloween. It is originally an American event, but in Japan adults also dress up in costumes, party, and have a lot of fun at night in the downtown area. Especially in Shibuya, Tokyo, there are typically many young people dressed up in costumes on Halloween night, and it is very lively every year. Come join us and enjoy the excitement of Halloween, which is unique to Japan!
Autumn in Japan is the season of cooler weather and beautiful autumn foliage adorning mountains and gardens, and from September to November, visitors can enjoy a wide variety of activities such as touring famous autumn foliage spots, viewing autumn foliage in hot spring resorts, mountain climbing, and moon viewing, along with autumnal delicacies. There are also many autumn festivals, sport events, Halloween, and other events in various regions. We hope you will enjoy autumn in Japan to the fullest through the beautiful scenery, seasonal delicacies, and fun events!