This year, the Autumnal Equinox is celebrated on the 22nd September. The national holiday occurs every September, celebrating the end of summer and the imminent arrival of colder, more autumnal weather to come. Known as Shubun-no-hi in Japan, the national holiday marks the day when the sun crosses the equator from the Northern into the Southern hemisphere, welcoming the autumn season.
The national holiday is also significant within Japanese culture as the Japanese use the Autumnal Equinox to pay their respects to deceased loved ones. Many families visit graves and hold family gatherings to remember and relive memories in honour of the people they have lost. Local temples and shrines also hold festivals and events during the Autumnal Equinox to celebrate the deceased, giving Japanese people the opportunity to visit, pray and burn incense for their ancestors.
Japanese culture places a huge importance in the changing of seasons, much more so than Western cultures. With the Autumnal Equinox just around the corner, we explore some of the reasons autumn in Japan is so great and why it’s the perfect time to visit.
1) Autumn leaves. Similar to the colour and vibrancy of cherry blossom season during spring, the autumn in Japan is renowned for its colourful foliage. Exploring the autumnal landscapes has been a popular activity in Japan which dates back for hundreds of years and even today draws in crowds of locals, tourists and travellers.
The most popular cities are Tokyo and Kyoto with towns such as Nikko also particularly famous for their leaves. The colours of the autumn season is truly a sight to behold and can be seen in gardens, temples and streets all over Japan. A particular memorable experience lies within the Meiji Jingu Gaien and the iconic ‘Avenue of the Gingko Trees’ which is lined with colourful and serene hues of orange red and yellow.
2) Perfect weather to explore. Spending a summer in Japan can be exhausting, with daily temperatures often reaching and exceeding 30 degrees, it’s definitely not for the faint-hearted. However, the cooler temperatures which come with the autumnal season means exploring Japan couldn’t be easier. A comfortable average in daily temperatures means you can travel the streets on foot and browse the shops for the perfect souvenir.
3) Moonlight viewing. Moon Viewing Day or Otsukimi occurs on the 15th September and celebrates the traditional custom which occurs every year in the Japanese calendar. A poignant practice adopted by Japanese people, vases are filled with pampas grass and autumnal herbs alongside food offerings at windows and viewpoints around the home to view the moon in all its glory and honour its appearance. The tradition dates back to the Heian era, and is now so popular today that the Japanese often celebrate for several evenings after the appearance of the full moon during the eighth lunisolar month.
4) Autumn festivals. Japan is famous for festivals throughout the year, however autumn is a great season to see some of Japan’s most famous festivals. The Jidai Matsuri (Festival of the Ages) which occurs annually in October is renowned as one of the three great festivals. Enjoyed by people of all ages, the festival celebrates the culture and history of Japan with a colourful street parade to re-enact important events and junctures throughout Japanese history. There are also a number of Oktoberfest-style beer festivals, adopting elements of the famous German festival, this cultural blend is definitely not one to miss.
5) Save on your trip. Although prices can differ from airline to airline, in general flight prices are usually cheaper during autumn time. The coldest months of January to March still occupy the cheapest flights and hotel prices however they are still considerably cheaper than the extremely busy cherry blossom season of spring into summer. As well as prices being much lower, attractions and tourist hotspots are generally less busy so you can explore in your own time and save whilst you do it.
However you plan to spend an autumn in Japan, there is a number of picturesque autumnal landscapes to witness, festivals to attend and celebrations to get involved in. Our blog keeps you updated with the latest festival updates, information about Japanese customs and tips and advice about all things Japanese! Contact us for any additional help or advice and browse our website for some Japanese essentials to take with you.