The chill 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 begin to celebrate the change.

We have compiled a great 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 area, please visit our listings on Tokyo Cheapo.

Kansai events

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

Kiyomizu-dera Autumn Illuminations in Kyoto

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

To celebrate the changing of seasons, Kiyomizu-dera 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.

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Gion Odori in Kyoto

gion odori november
Photo by Nullumayulife used under CC

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 in Kyoto

Wooden bridge in autumn near Kyoto's bamboo forest
Photo by iStock.com/Craig Ansibin

Celebrate autumn while you explore one of the most famous bamboo forests in Japan with this stunning fall festival. 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.

Nigohachi Festival in Shiga

maple leaves osaka
Photo by Tetsuji Sakakibara used under CC

This small festival is an autumnal celebration in Higashiomi. The road will be closed from the Higashiomi city office so that the 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 in Osaka

Shitennoji Wasso Festival
Photo by m-louis used under CC

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.

Ongoing events in Kansai

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 in Tochigi

gyoza dumplings
Photo by iStock/taa22

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!

Hiroshima and beyond events

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

Ube Festival in Yamaguchi

Ube Festival | Photo by Isado used under CC

Held on the shores on 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 in Hiroshima

Fire walking | Photo by Edomuranotokuzou used under CC

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!

Shikoku events

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

Ongoing events

naoshima pumpkin shikoku
Photo by Rachel Holdsworth

Kyushu and Okinawa events

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

Karatsu Kunchi Festival in Saga

festival in Japan
Photo by Saga Prefectural Tourism Federation

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 in Fukuoka

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.

Ishigaki Island Festival in Okinawa

Kabira Bay, Ishigaki, Okinawa
Kabira Bay, Ishigaki, Okinawa | Photo by Lily Crossley-Baxter

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 firework display at 9 p.m. to close the celebrations.

Okinawa International Carnival in Okinawa

Photo by Nguyen Hung Vu used under CC

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

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Filed under: Things to Do

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