The chilly air of November means it is the ideal time for kōyō (the viewing of autumn leaves), and as Japan shifts from green to red, many festivals celebrate the change.

We have compiled a list of events all over Japan, so no matter where you are during your trip, you’ll have plenty to do.

For events in Tokyo and the surrounding areas, see our listings on Tokyo Cheapo.

Suggested Activity
Brunch at Nishiki Market in Kyoto
Start your day the right way -- with a delicious brunch in "Kyoto's kitchen", also known as Nishiki Market. The market has a long history, going back more than 400 years. ...

Kansai events

These are events in Kyoto, Osaka, Hyōgo, Mie, and the surrounding areas.

Kiyomizu-dera Autumn Illuminations

kyoto autumn illuminations at Kiyomizudera
Photo by iStock.com/SeanPavonePhoto

To celebrate the changing of seasons, Kiyomizu-dera Temple opens up in the evening three times a year (autumn, spring, and summer) and holds an illumination event to brighten up the foliage. Just pay the regular ¥400 to get in and see the illuminated pagoda, temple, and Jojuin Garden after dark.

Gion Odori

This is the only Kyoto geisha performance that takes place in autumn rather than spring, so if you missed the earlier performances, you’re in luck. There are 10 days to see geisha at the Gion Kaikan near Yasaka Shrine, with two performances each day.

Arashiyama Momiji Festival

Celebrate autumn while you explore one of the most famous bamboo forests in Japan. During the festival period, boats parade along the river with costumed performers elaborately dressed as members of the Heian period. They will perform Noh theater and play musical instruments to entertain the crowds.

Kyoto Candlelight Concert: Best of Joe Hisaishi (Studio Ghibli)

A string quartet will take you on a journey through Studio Ghibli hits such as Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away, My Neighbour Totoro, and Princess Mononoke. Take in the dreamy performances while being surrounded by candles. Tickets start at ¥3,900.

Minō Momiji Festival

Get the most out of Osaka in autumn by visiting the Minō area in November and seeing the red and yellow leaves lit up. Minō Falls and Katsuoji Temple are illuminated in the early evening on weekends and holidays.

Nigohachi Festival

This small festival is an autumnal celebration in Higashiomi, Shiga Prefecture. The road will be closed from the Higashiomi city office so that a large market can take over the street. There will be games and activities and plenty for families to do, as well as food and drinks too.

Shitennoji Wasso Festival

Enjoy a parade of over 1,000 traditionally costumed people as they chant “wasso” and march through the streets. Meaning “I came” in Korean, the chant is used to remember all those who have come to Japan from across Asia. The outfits are accurate reconstructions and the event is held at Naniwa no Miya, as this is where people would have landed when they arrived, back in the day.

Kanto events

These are events outside of Tokyo, such as in Tochigi and Gunma. Events in Chiba, Kanagawa, and Ibaraki can be found on Tokyo Cheapo.

Utsunomiya Gyoza Festival

Held in a city renowned for its gyoza (dumplings), there’s no better festival if you’re a lover of the delicious delights often found as extras to your steaming bowl of ramen. With one plate costing only ¥200, you can afford to indulge!

Chūbu events

These are events in Nagano, Aichi, Fukui, Shizuoka, Yamanashi, and surrounding areas.

Mt. Fuji Marathon

The Mount Fuji (Mt. Fuji) Marathon is a great opportunity to see one of the most famous mountains in the world, framed by the beauty of a Japanese autumn.

Events in Hiroshima and beyond

These are events in Hiroshima, Okayama, Tottori, Yamaguchi, and surrounding areas.

Ube Festival

Held on the shores of the Seto Inland Sea since 1933, this local festival features a parade, two stages, and a gourmet zone. The main day is on Sunday, with a pre-festival taking place the evening before.

Hiwatari Fire-Walking Festival

Held on the Island of Miyajima at Itsukushima Shrine, this is a chance to see an age-old tradition in one of the most famous places in Japan. You’re welcome to take part — but don’t be surprised if you walk away singed!

Fire-Walking Ceremony at Daishōin Temple

It seems Miyajima is known for having hot feet, as this takes place only 10 days after the Fire-Walking Ceremony at Daiganji Temple.

Shikoku events

These are events in Kōchi, Tokushima, and the surrounding areas.

Tokushima Yokai Festival

A unique event taking place at an elementary school in Miyoshi. This festival has local delicacies, as well as a marching band made up of yokai (supernatural monsters). The town is famed for the supernatural monsters from Japanese folklore, and this unusual event is too good to miss if you’re in the area.

Kyushu and Okinawa events

These are events in Fukuoka, Kagoshima, Kumamoto, Miyazaki, Nagasaki, Okinawa, and the surrounding islands and areas.

Karatsu Kunchi Festival

This is Karatsu Shrine’s main festival, as well as being one of the most popular in the prefecture. Be sure to catch the Hikiyama floats, which can reach up to 7 meters in height and weigh between 2 and 4 tons. The best part is on the second day, when the floats are carried across the beach, often getting stuck in the sand.

November Grand Sumo Tournament

sumo
Photo by Alex Ziminski

A great opportunity to see the last major sumo tournament of the year, this 15-day competition ends with an eventual champion. It’s busiest on the first days, the middle weekend, and the last few days — otherwise it should be quite easy to get unreserved tickets. You can also book a ticket package that includes a guide, for in-depth insights into the world of sumo.

Kagoshima Ohara Festival

A humungous parade featuring more than 20,000 dancers will take place in downtown Kagoshima (Southern Kyūshū). Beautiful costumes, drum performances, and an illuminated flower tram are some of the highlights. Everyone is encouraged to get moving, including onlookers.

Ishigaki Island Festival

This local festival takes place in Ishigaki City and combines a wide range of performances and attractions, including live music, a bench-press challenge, and stage performances, with a fireworks display at 9 p.m. to close the celebrations.

Okinawa International Carnival

With over 30 different nationalities at home in Okinawa, this festival is a varied and impressive display of them all. Expect samba dancing, live music, karate, and tug-of-war, as well as food stalls from all over the world.

While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. Post first published in November 2017. Last updated in October 2023.

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