October means autumn, and in Japan, that means stunning fall festivals.

You could visit a ginormous tug-of-war, a secret mud festival, or get in the Halloween spirit. Wherever you are this month, be sure to check out all the top events near you.

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

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Kansai events

Here is the line-up of October events in Kyoto, Osaka, Hyōgo, Mie, and the surrounding areas.

Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Japan

Make your way through a terrifying horror maze, fight with monsters in Biohazard™: The Extreme +, fend off hordes of zombies — now, with added projection mapping — and steel yourself for even more blood-curdling attractions as part of the special Halloween Horror Night line-up. Due to the immense popularity of this event, it’s recommended that you get your park tickets in advance.

Osaka Kitchenware Street Festival

Osaka is nicknamed Japan’s Kitchen, and this festival is a celebration of all things food! The street is known for cooking utensils and you can pick up the very best Japanese knives and plastic foods (yes, you read that right).

The makers can give you tips on caring for your new wares, the food stalls will be selling delicious treats, and there will even be a giant taiyaki (fish-shaped dessert), worthy of the Guinness Book of Records, to try.

Kyoto Intercollegiate Festa

Designed to help students bond with the community, this event has a huge procession with 1,000 dancers, a mikoshi parade, marching bands, performances from acoustic bands, and a group dance competition too.

There will also be a fashion show, food stalls, and plenty of activities for children. Since the students make up 10% of the city’s population, they put on a great show!

Saiin Kasuga Shrine Festival

A large fall festival held in the heart of Kyoto, this event has grand mikoshi parades through local streets, with live music and dancing. There will be horseback parades, lanterns, food stalls, and plenty more to enjoy.

Otsu Hikiyama Festival

This is one of the area’s three biggest festivals and features a parade of elaborate mikoshi (portable shrines). It has over 400 years of history, with unusual tanuki masks, music, and chanting — as well as 13 floats — one from each area.

The night before the parade is filled with music and dance to prepare for the following day, so stay for both if you can.

Osaka Mecha Happy Festival

Created in 2000 to bring smiles to the faces of everyone lucky enough to be in Osaka at the time, this festival has dance performances with 2,800 participants in teams competing to be overall winners. It takes place in multiple locations and the final round is an amazing sight.

Nada no Kenka Festival

A fighting festival held at Matsubara Hachiman Shrine, the Nada no Kenka sees groups of locals carrying large portable shrines from seven different districts on the first day. On the following day, three teams of younger men carry three giant mikoshi and jostle them around the shrine from several points throughout the day.

Goryo Jinja Autumn Festival

Here you can explore the shrine grounds when lit by decorative lanterns. There will be traditional entertainment including music and performances, as well as food stalls to keep your hunger at bay.

The first day is the Shogun celebration and the second is the Chende celebration. You can even add your own lantern to the shrine grounds!

Kurama no Hi Matsuri

This festival is held in a small residential area, with a community procession of burning torches to commemorate the day in 970 when the Yuki Myojin shrine was moved from central Kyoto to Kurama. The festival starts in the evening when big kagaribi bonfires are lit along the village streets.

Jidai Matsuri

The biggest historical parade in Kyoto, the Jidai Matsuri translates to the “Festival of the Ages” and commemorates the founding of Kyoto as the Imperial Capital in 794.

There will be over 2,000 people forming a procession — all dressed in costumes and departing from the Imperial Palace up to Heian Jingu Shrine. One of the highlights is the presence of geisha dressed in the incredibly elegant junhitoe kimono.

Kōbe Port Fireworks Festival

In 2023, there will be a small-scale fireworks event with a 10-minute fireworks show every day for five consecutive days. Meriken Park is the main free spot for viewing the fireworks, but expect crowds. The fireworks are launched from barges located between Kobe Harborland and Port Island.

Kanto events

These are events just outside of Tokyo, including Tochigi, Ibaraki, and the surrounding areas.

Shuki Taisai Grand Autumn Festival

The Shuki Taisai Festival is a samurai-themed festival near Toshogu Shrine and has a parade of over 1,000 men in era-appropriate dress. They will be taking on the roles of foot soldiers, cavalry, and archers as they march in a faux funeral procession for the mighty Ieyasu Tokogawa. Tokogawa was the first Tokugawa Shogun, to whom the Toshogu Shrine is dedicated.

Hokkaido events

Lake Akan Marimo Festival

While not an ancient tradition, the Marimo Festival has been held on Lake Akan since 1950. It was created to protect the local marimo, round algae balls, from further pollution and is conducted by significant members of the Ainu community.

Hiroshima events

These are events in Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, and the surrounding areas.

Onomichi Lantern Festival

Onomichi Lantern Festival is a bright and beautiful local festival where you can enjoy decorative lanterns that are rather contemporary — compared to those seen at most festivals. The town is World Heritage listed and is located on the Seto Inland Sea, also made famous by the Ozu film Tokyo Story.

Chūbu events

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

Karuizawa Momiji Festival

Get your kōyō (fall leaves) groove on with six weeks of awesome autumnal foliage and a shedload of great local deals in Karuizawa, Nagano.

Kanazawa Marathon

Even if you’re not running, marathon day is a great time to visit Kanazawa — you can cheer on the runners and see the city at its busy best. There will be 12,000 participants starting from Hirosaki Street and plenty of costumes to see.

Takayama Autumn Festival

One of the most beautiful and elegant festivals in Japan, this is the counterpart to the spring festival and comes complete with stalls, food, music, and parades. The large wheeled floats have marionette performances during the parades, which take place both in the afternoon and evening.

Shingen-kō Festival and Samurai Parade

Named after one of Japan’s most famous historical figures, spend the day at the Shingen-kō Festival and Samurai Parade. According to the organizers, this is the largest samurai parade in the world!

M Festival 2023

Over the two days at M Festival, you’ll discover heart-pounding live performances and experiences. There isn’t just one genre to groove to — get ready for reggae, rock, ska, electronic beats, and everything in between.

Along with the fantastic sets and DJs, the festival invites you to explore its natural surroundings, from small babbling creeks to imposing wild mountains.

Kyūshū & Okinawa events

Paantu Festival

A bizarre and somewhat creepy festival in Okinawa, the Paantu Festival is centered around mud. Villagers dress up as paantu — supernatural beings with long faces — using foliage and masks. They then parade through the town covering everything possible with mud, from cars to children — all to exorcise evil spirits.

Dates have been kept quiet following incidents in which tourists who didn’t appreciate the mud-slinging attacked the villagers in retaliation, so finding the dates will take some serious sleuthing.

Nagasaki Kunchi Festival

A huge celebration of the city’s multi-cultural history, this is the must-see event of the year. It dates back nearly 400 years and involves dance troupes from all 59 neighborhoods and five or six dashimono (performance) groups, along with floats and all the usual festival stalls.

Great Tug-of-War

For displays of brute strength, this is the festival to see. The event attracts thousands of participants and even more spectators. The challenge entered the Guinness Book of World Records in 1997 for being the largest event of its kind in the world, with each side using up to 15,000 participants. The rope is 200 meters long and weighs 40 metric tons, so all those people are needed!

Miyazaki Jingu Festival

Held at a major shrine with over 140 years of history, this festival features a procession of the gods on both days. Many participants will be on horseback and all will be in traditional clothing. On the second day, you can enjoy entertainment around the Jinmu-sama Square.

While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change.

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