Eight Japanese Autumn Festivals Including Fights, Dances and the Unusual

Autumn festivals are held to express appreciation for the harvest as well as wish for a good crop in the coming year. The various unique autumn festivals across Japan offer many delights different from summer festivals.

As the hot summer comes to an end and the typhoon season has passed, the autumn season arrives with great weather and comfortable temperatures. In this season of harvest, numerous autumn festivals are held across Japan to show appreciation and wish for next year's bountiful crop. Whether you want to see or actually take part, here are eight diverse autumn festivals all loaded with surprises and fun experiences for everyone.

From heated to elegant, showing appreciation toward the gods comes in various forms. Whether you are visiting a festival that interests you or happening upon a festival by chance, they will bring special thrills that can only be found right there in the moment. Autumn is also the season when the best foods are in the market, so be sure to sample the region's seasonal delicacies. With all five senses, enjoy your travels and the various wonderful festivals around Japan.

©Sanuki Shishimai Hozonkai

Shishimai Oukoku Sanuki Lion Dance

While Kagawa is the smallest prefecture in Japan in terms of area, it is the capital of the shishimai lion dance, with approximately 800 groups in existence. Shishimai Oukoku Sanuki is one of the largest shishimai events in the country, bringing together around 60 shishimai groups from across the prefecture. Shishi is a sacred, mythical creature resembling a lion.The shishimai is a traditional celebratory dance using a wooden shishi head that is performed in many Asian countries. Every group has a unique shishi with different colors, shapes and yutan (the fabric used for the shishi's body). The shishimai of Kagawa are known for their passionate dancing and exotic gong beats. On the day of the festival, visitors become immersed in the powerful music and performances of various shishimai groups from morning to evening. Exhibits of shishimai tools and workshops to create shishimai heads are held as well, making this a perfect festival for the whole family.

Details

Name Shishimai Oukoku Sanuki Lion Dance
Web Sites (In Japanese) https://www.facebook.com/shishimaioukoku/
Location of the Event Takamatsu Central Park in Takamatsu-shi, Kagawa
Access Approximately 35 minutes by limousine bus from Takamatsu Airport (From Haneda Airport to Takamatsu Airport: 1 hour 15 minutes)
Inquiries TEL: 080-3928-4401 (Sanuki Shishimai Preservation Association)
Period of the Event Beginning of November every year
Multi-lingual staff at the venue English Yes, Chinese Yes
Flyers in multiple languages English Yes, Chinese Yes
System for accepting inquiries for festival English No, Chinese No

©Satsumasendai City

Sendai Otsunahiki Great Tug-of-War

In Japan, even tug-of-war becomes a festival! The Sendai Otsunahiki Great Tug-of-War is a festival of strength using a giant 365-meter, seven-ton rope. Its history dates back to around 1600, when the contest was said to have been held to raise the soldiers' spirits. The great tug-of-war festival begins in the morning when 1,500 locals gather to weave together 330 ropes, working half the day to create one massive rope. The completed giant rope is pulled by 3,000 shirtless men in a heated battle that includes ramming and blocking. Amazingly, tourists can also participate in this extreme tug-of-war. Even if you don't want to take part in the actual game, you can participate in the rope making and enjoy socializing with the locals. The rope is cut in half at the end of the festival, and if you take home a piece of the rope, it is said to grant you health with no illnesses for the next year. This is a great festival for combat sport fans!

Tug-of-War Festival Participation and Tour (Voyagin)

Details

Name Sendai Otsunahiki Great Tug-of-War
Web Sites (In Japanese) https://sendai-ootsuna.jimdo.com/
Location of the Event Mukoda Main Street in Satsumasendai-shi, Kagoshima
Access Approximately 1 hour 20 minutes' bus ride from Kagoshima Airport (From Haneda Airport to Kagoshima Airport: 1 hour 50 minutes)
Inquiries TEL: 0996-21-1851 (Sendai Otsunahiki Preservation Association)
Period of the Event September 22 (Held same day every year)
Multi-lingual staff at the venue English No, Chinese No
Flyers in multiple languages English No, Chinese No
System for accepting inquiries for festival English No, Chinese No

Niihama Taiko Festival

One of the top three festivals in the Shikoku region, the Niihama Taiko Festival is a grand and bold festival performed by men, which originated over 1,000 years ago. In celebration of the harvest, 54 giant floats called Taikodai (taiko drum stand) parade throughout the town. Each Taikodai weighs around three tons, stands 5.5 meters tall and is accompanied by a band of 150 men. While the floats started out small, rivalry among participating towns quickly escalated their growth and made the festival a competition of pride. The highlight of the festival is the Kakikurabe. During this segment of the festival multiple Taikodai floats gather in one place, there the volunteers who carry the floats, known as Kakifu, remove the tires and hoist up the float before proceeding with the parade. As several floats come together and beat their drums, the Kakifu men raise their floats high and compete against each other as the crowd cheers. Aditionally, at the Taikodai Museum located in front of Niihama Station, visitors can observe the actual Taikodai and festival costumes up close. The impressive Taikodai floats and the passion of the men are sure to amaze you.

Details

Name Niihama Taiko Festival
Web Sites (In Japanese) https://www.city.niihama.lg.jp/soshiki/unyu/taikomatsuri.html
Location of the Event Downtown area of Niihama-shi, Ehime
Access Approximately 1 hour 30 minutes from Matsuyama Airport taking the limousine bus and JR Yosan Line (From Haneda Airport to Matsuyama Airport: 1 hour 30 minutes)
Inquiries TEL: 0897-65-1261 (Niihama City)
Period of the Event October 16 to 18 (Held on the same days every year)
Multi-lingual staff at the venue English Yes, Chinese Yes
Flyers in multiple languages English Yes, Chinese Yes
System for accepting inquiries for festival English No, Chinese No

Owara Kaze no Bon Festival

The “Owara Kaze no Bon” Festival is an event with a 400-year history in which performers wordlessly dance along to the sentimental melody of the folksong "Ecchu Owarabushi." Thousands of paper lanterns line the streets of Ecchu Yatsuo, a slopy town with a nostalgic atmosphere, as men and women in matching yukata robes elegantly dance through the town to the music of shamisen and kokyu, both traditional Japanese string instruments. The festival's highlight is the procession through town at night, as women demonstrate their sensually elegant dance and men perform gallantly along to the sorrowful tune of kokyu. The dreamlike scenery and atmosphere is something that can only be experienced here. Tourists can also take dance lessons and even participate in the circle dance on the spot.

Details

Name Owara Kaze no Bon Festival
Web Sites (In Japanese) https://www.yatsuo.net/kazenobon/
Location of the Event Yatsuo area, Toyama-shi, Toyama
Access Approximately 1 hour from Toyama Airport taking a bus and JR Takayama Main Line (From Haneda Airport to Toyama Airport: 1 hour)
Inquiries TEL: 076-454-5138 (Ecchu Yatsuo Tourism Association)
Period of the Event September 1 to 3 (Held on the same days every year)
Multi-lingual staff at the venue English No, Chinese No
Flyers in multiple languages English No, Chinese No
System for accepting inquiries for festival English No, Chinese No

©Miyakojima City Board of Education

Paantu Punaha

Throughout the world, there are many festivals where participants throw various types of goop at each other in the spirit of fun such as the colorful Holi and La Tomatina. In Japan, one such festival is the Paantu Punaha, part of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage "Raiho-shin, ritual visits of deities in masks and costumes" listing. In the festival, the mud-covered deity Paantu goes around the village smearing people with mud to ward off evil spirits. The ritual originated from a legend over a century ago of a young man who found a mask wrapped in leaves on the beach. He wore the mask and covered his body in mud taken from a sacred well, and became a god. The all-black Paantu wearing a fearful mask, wrapping his body in vines and reeking of mud gives quite an impact. As the people try to run away, three Paantu chase them around and mercilessly smear them with mud. Children cry and scream with fear, causing much chaos. Tourists are of course not exempt, so brace yourself! Do keep in mind that this is a sacred ritual, and explore this rare culture of Miyakojima.

Details

Name Paantu Punaha
Web Sites https://miyakojimabunkazai.jp/en/
Location of the Event Taira-shimajiri area, Miyakojima, Miyakojima-shi, Okinawa
Access Approximately 30 minutes' drive by rental car from Miyako Airport (From Haneda Airport to Miyako Airport: 3 hours)
Inquiries TEL: 0980-72-3751 (Miyakojima City Ward)
Period of the Event Around October every year
Multi-lingual staff at the venue English No, Chinese No
Flyers in multiple languages English No, Chinese No
System for accepting inquiries for festival English No, Chinese No

Karatsu Kunchi Festival

One of the "Yama, Hoko, Yatai, float festivals in Japan" included in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list, the Karatsu Kunchi Festival is a gallant parade of 14 lavish hikiyama floats through the ancient castle town, pulled by hikiko performers chanting "enya, enya" to the hayashi music of flutes, bells and taiko drums. Kunchi is a collective name for autumn festivals in the northern Kyushu area to express appreciation for the harvest. The Karatsu Kunchi Festival started around 200 years ago when a hikiyama float shaped like the head of a lion was offered to Karatsu Shrine. Since then, the unique decorations of these hikiyama have made them into giant works of art, created in various shapes such as a lion, warrior helmet, tortoise and sea bream and beautifully finished with washi, lacquer and gold foil. The highlight of the festival is the Hikikomi at the beach, when floats weighing over two tons are dragged through the sand by the brave hikite. Shout "enya! enya!" together with the crowd and cheer them on.

Explore Festival Town Karatsu in Guided Walking Tour (Voyagin)

Details

Name Karatsu Kunchi Festival
Web Sites https://www.karatsu-kankou.jp/en/feature/karatsukunchi/
Location of the Event Center of Karatsu-shi, Saga
Access Approximately 1 hour 30 minutes' bus ride from Fukuoka Airport (From Haneda Airport to Fukuoka Airport: 1 hour 30 minutes)
Inquiries TEL: 0955-74-3355 (Karatsu Tourism Association)
Period of the Event November 2 to 4 (Held on the same days every year)
Multi-lingual staff at the venue English Yes, Chinese No
Flyers in multiple languages English Yes, Chinese Yes
System for accepting inquiries for festival English No, Chinese No

Nada Fighting Festival

The Nada Fighting Festival, an autumn festival of Matsubara Hachiman Shrine in the city of Himeji, is famous for the violent clashes of portable shrines. Celebrated every October, the festival consists of a divine ritual of clashing three portable shrines together and jostling among seven elaborate yatai floats. The biggest event is on the second day, as three portable shrines are held up high and banged against one another, with the potential to shatter in the clash.. Then, the three portable shrines and seven floats appear at the main event venue of Otabiyama, and as three to four floats ram against each other at a time, the crowd becomes wild with excitement. The aggressive performances are almost like a combat sport, making this one of the most rousing festivals in Japan.

Details

Name Nada Fighting Festival
Web Sites (In Japanese) https://www.nadamatsuri.jp/
Location of the Event Matsubara Hachiman Shrine in Himeji-shi, Hyogo
Access Approximately 1 hour 30 minutes from Kobe Airport taking the Kobe New Transit Port Island Line and Sanyo Electric Railway Main Line (From Haneda Airport to Kobe Airport: 1 hour 15 minutes)
Inquiries TEL: 079-222-2285 (Himeji Tourism Convention Bureau)
Period of the Event October 14 to 15 (Held on the same days every year)
Multi-lingual staff at the venue English No, Chinese No
Flyers in multiple languages English No, Chinese No
System for accepting inquiries for festival English No, Chinese No

©Okage Yokocho

Shinon Kansha Japanese Drum Festival

With a rich history of 2,000 years, Ise Shrine is a very special place for Japanese people that has attracted worshippers from all over the country. The Shinon Kansha Japanese Drum Festival brings together taiko drummers from across the country to Ise Shrine, where they will offer their thanks to the gods through the beating of the drums. From ancient times, Japanese people have used the sound of drums to offer prayers to the gods such as wishing for a good harvest. For skilled drummers around Japan, playing for this festival is a great honor, and they gather at Ise with an immense sense of pride and joy. Their spirited performances also attract taiko fans from all over the world. One of the highlights of the festival is seeing all 16 famous taiko groups from across Japan all in one sitting. In addition, be sure to attend the special offering performance at Ise Shrine's Sanshuden hall in the Naiku inner shrine. This festival provides a wonderful opportunity to experience traditional Japanese taiko drums up close.

Details

Name Shinon Kansha Japanese Drum Festival
Web Sites (In Japanese) https://www.kankomie.or.jp/event/detail_10151.html
Location of the Event Okage Yokocho area in Ise-shi, Mie
Access Approximately 2 hours from Chubu Centrair International Airport taking the Meitetsu Airport Line and Kintetsu Nagoya Line (From Haneda Airport to Chubu Centrair International Airport: 1 hour)
Inquiries TEL: 0596-23-8838 (Okage Yokocho General Information)
Period of the Event November every year
Multi-lingual staff at the venue English No, Chinese No
Flyers in multiple languages English No, Chinese No
System for accepting inquiries for festival English No, Chinese No

空席照会・予約