Every spring, the cherry blossom, or sakura season brings millions of extra visitors flocking to Japan in the hopes of seeing that elusive wave of pale pink that cascades over the country annually. While March and April will likely provide picture-perfect scenes, popular cherry blossom viewing spots become very crowded and accommodation prices go up in response to increased demand. Here we bring you five reasons why autumn is the perfect alternative time to visit Japan.
In the autumn months, there is a similar tradition to hanami (cherry blossom viewing) called momijigari (red leaves hunting). As the hot and humid Japanese summer makes way for milder temperatures in September, the leaves on the trees that cover the archipelago turn fiery shades of yellow, orange and red. This beautiful natural phenomenon brings increasing numbers of people out into parks and rural areas to have picnics or to go hiking. Densely forested areas such as Hakone, Mount Koya and Nikko look particularly spectacular. The turning of the leaves starts in the cooler northern regions of Japan and spreads further south as the months progress. Our trips focus mainly on the Kanto and Kansai regions, so if you’re planning to travel with us and want to catch the best of the momiji, then book onto one of our October or November departure dates.
Japan tends to experience hot summers and cold winters, meaning that the transitional seasons of spring and autumn are the most comfortable periods for sightseeing. The average temperature in Tokyo in October is 18ºC/64ºF and in November this goes down to 12ºC/54ºF.
Seasonal food and drink
As a non-theistic country with a native religion that revolves around the natural environment (Shintoism), Japan goes all out when it comes to celebrating the changing seasons. You’ll see special autumnally-themed food and drink items everywhere you go, from high-end restaurants to McDonalds. Foods which are particularly associated with autumn in Japan include chestnuts, persimmons, sweet potatoes and kabocha pumpkin. If you want to go a bit less classy, try a special Autumn Menu Frappucino at Starbucks. Last year’s choices included Grape and Tea Jelly and Almond Milk and Granola.
In recent years, Japan’s big cities have frankly, gone a bit mental for Halloween. On the night of the 31st October and the week or so leading up to it, Tokyo’s usually dignified atmosphere turns to full-on carnival. Think Batman and Robin careering through Shibuya in a fully kitted out Batmobile, all four Teletubbies doing the Macarena on a street corner in Shinjuku and a gang of sozzled Minions stumbling their way home at 8am. Pick up a cheap costume from chain store Don Quijote and head to Harajuku’s Kawaii Monster Café to experience the party in bonkers kawaii style.
There are a ton of matsuri (traditional festivals) that take place both locally and nationally throughout the year in Japan. Shuki Taisai in Nikko is the area’s biggest festival and falls in mid-October. An army of 1000 men dressed as samurai warriors parading through the streets and rituals in honour of the founding Tokugawa shogun Ieyasu are its main events. In Kyoto, the Jidai Matsuri takes place on 22nd October and features a procession of people dressed in traditional costumes from throughout Japanese history. The parade makes its way from the Imperial Palace to the Heian-jingu Shrine.