As fall inches nearer, cherry blossoms illumine Japan with notes of red. To signal the coming season, the country is planning several festivals. Here are a few things to do when traveling to the Land of the Rising Sun this fall.
Miyagi: Night Walks Along the Lake & Hot Air Balloons
In the northeast Miyagi Prefecture, tourists can enjoy night walks through illuminated foliage and take part in a festival dedicated to hot air balloons. From October 27 to November 25, the Entsuin Temple is a show of the changing season, a popular place to see the leaves transform. At night, the gardens are illuminated.
From November 23 to 25, thirty hot air balloons take to the skies at the Osaki Balloon Festival in northeastern Miyagi. The first 200 attendees will receive a ticket to ride in one of the them. Other attractions include a paragliding tournament, demonstrations for small-scale planes, and a hot air balloon-themed craft corner.
Nikko: Waterfalls, Foliage and Samurai Parade
Nikko’s fall season lasts longer than most other regions in Japan due to the wide range of elevation in the mountains of the Okunikko region, making it an ideal place to see autumnal scenery.
Waterfalls are integral parts of the region’s must-see list. Kegon Waterfall, the most famous one, stands more than 300 feet tall and is encompassed by foliage-bearing trees. It can be viewed from its base.
The Irohazaka Winding Road is another attraction. Foliage can be seen at the intersection between Nikko and the Okunikko Mountains. Fall colors accentuate the top of the slope in mid-October and slowly creep down to the bottom by early November.
The Toshogu Shrine Autumn Grand Festival is a yearly event held in October to honor Tokugawa Ieyasu, a historical Japanese statesman. One-thousand fully armored samurai march the streets in memoriam of the escort of Tokugawa Ieyasu's remains to the Toshogu Shrine.
Takayama Autumn Festival
The Takayama Autumn Festival has been taking place for more than 300 years. It spans over two days at the beginning of October (this year on October 9 and 10) and takes in thousands of visitors.
Held in Takayama's old town, the festival features a parade of eleven ornately decorated floats, called "yatai," that are often topped with marionettes performing traditional dances. Traditional music sets the mood as food stands dish out Japanese festival staples like fried noodles, octopus dumplings, skewered steak kebabs, as well as beer. The floats are also displayed at the Takayama Matsuri Yatai Kaikan—an exhibition hall that feature floats from previous years on display.
Tooyooka City: Leaf-peeping from a 650-year-old Temple
A town away from Kyoto, Tooyooka is known for its 650-year-old Ankokuji Temple, a Zen Buddhist place of worship that was reconstructed after a fire in 1717. Hundreds of Dodan-Tsutsuji trees on a hill behind the temple turn red in the fall and are illuminated at night during the peak of their color in mid-November.
Tohoku: Hiking and Hot Springs
Japan’s northern Tohoku region is known for its hiking trails and hot springs due to its varied terrain.
The Towada-Hachimantai National Park extends across three prefectures and passes through Lake Towada. In addition to hiking, there are sightseeing boats and observation decks that offer close-up views of the hard-to-reach peninsulas.
The Nyuto Onsen is a popular hot springs destination and a fall hotspot. Guests can hike or bike through the Hachimantai region of the national park and stay at one of the eight ryokans in the Nyuto Onsen.
“Day of the Bird” Festival: November 8 and November 20.
Japan’s Tori no Ichi festival, meaning “Day of the Bird,” takes place across 30 locations across the country. This year, attendees can experience the festivities on two dates: November 8 and November 20.
The festival was first put-on for Edo-era farmers who would celebrate the autumn harvest by offering chickens. In the modern era, the fair has become a signal that the new year is soon to come, and that it should be embraced. Festival visitors can sample street food and attend special performances depending on the location.