Whether you’re team #autumn or team #fall, this season is the perfect mix of pleasant weather, bold color, vibrant entertainment, and delicious foods. Here’s 10 reasons why autumn is the best time to experience Japan.
Autumn brings an amazing assortment of fruits, veggies and fish to the dinner table. Some fruits make their way into snacks, confectionery, and even beverages! Once temperatures drop, the following items slowly make their way to supermarket shelves – and dinner tables.
Pacific saury (秋刀魚 | sanma); Saury is an extremely versatile fish that is excellent grilled.
Grapes (葡萄 | budou) – especially the sweet, thick skinned gentle giants known as (巨峰 | kyohou).
Mushrooms (キノコ | kinoko) – the selection of mushrooms available in the Japanese supermarket is staggering: nameko, hiratake, maitake, matsutake is staggering… the list goes on!
Persimmons (柿 | kaki) – Whether you like the flesh firm or squishy or even dried, they are an excellent autumn treat.
Sweet potatoes ( 薩摩芋 | satsuma imo) – a lightly sweetened version of a yam, these taste so damn good grilled. Also try daigaku imo, thickly cut then fried satsuma imo coated with honey and topped with black sesame seeds. Yum!
Chestnuts (栗 | kuri) – you are bound to come across their sweeter incarnations mont blac and marron glacé.
Autumn is the perfect break from the heat and humidity of summer. Look up at the sky as you make your rounds about town, and you will feel very #blessed.
Akibare (秋晴れ), gorgeous, cloud-free sunny skies make their grand entrance in October and often come with a refreshingly cool breeze.
3. Less Crowds
Traveling families have returned to their hometowns and kids are back in school, thanks to the start of the new school term. This means that popular attractions such as museums, aquariums, parks, shopping malls, and outlets are significantly less crowded on weekdays.
Paired with the amazing autumn weather and clear skies, autumn is the perfect to time do some sightseeing around Japan.
While Tokyo doesn’t get the deep reds that you’d expect in Kyoto, you can visit one of the many Japanese gardens in the city to experience your own mini-Kyoto.
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Of course, if it’s the deep reds your after, why not start with Hokkaido or Akita Prefecture in October, Nikko, Karuizawa, or Kanazawa in early November then make your way to Kyoto and Nara, then Hiroshima in late November?
When Japanese students go back to school on the first day of the fall semester, they wear their autumn uniform. Other professions where employees wear uniforms also make the switch in September.
Similarly, when the calendar rolls around to September, it seems like everyone in this fashion conscious city is suddenly dressed for the season.
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You can see a beautiful assortment of burgundy mustard, and navy hues, and out come berets and shawls and ankle boots. The only problem with this is that September 1 is just as hot as August 31!
Temperatures don’t drop significantly until the last week or so of September, so if you’re visiting Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, or Hiroshima before then, you’re still safe in your shorts and tank tops. Pack light and pick up basics at GU or Uniqlo if you feel out of place.
6. Hot Drinks
In some countries, there seems to be a signature hot drink that complements colder weather. Back in the US, it’s arguably Pumpkin Spice Latte or apple cider.
When it comes to Japan you’ll have a wide variety of hot drinks to enjoy. From vending machines, to convenience stores to restaurants and cafes, there’s no shortage of options.
Tea is a huge part of Japanese culture and coffee shops, both chain and independent, are holding on strong, so it would be hard to choose one signature seasonal flavor.
If you’re going for the Instagram aesthetic, you can’t go wrong with a green hued matcha drink against a backdrop of fallen leaves.Or, if you want something savory, opt for hojicha (roasted green tea).
Onsen (温泉),Japanese hot springs, are fun all year round. But it’s when the temperatures drop that a soak feels super relaxing.
If getting naked with strangers is not your thing, try going to a ryokan (旅館, a Japanese inn) or an onsen with a kashikiri buro (貸切風呂), a private bath. If you have tattoos you might be aware of Japan’s attitudes towards body artwork, so opting for a private bath may save you the headache and stares.
8. Kotatsu, Hot Carpets, and Heated Flooring
Kotatsu are low tables covered with a blanket and they have a small heater underneath.
You sit with your legs outstretched under the table, sip on green tea, and much on mikan (みかん, mandarin oranges)…. until the end of winter!
Hot carpets are electric carpets with adjustable heat settings while recently constructed homes and condos tend to have heated flooring. These three are winter staples, but I have no shame in getting a head start when temperature start to drop!
As the weather gets cooler, the night sky, the stars, and the moon seem to shine much more beautifully. Given that there is a rich history of Japan’s love of nature, would you be surprised to know that there’s a special autumn evening tradition in Japan?
You may already know about o-hanami (お花見), the viewing of cherry blossoms (桜 | sakura ) in late March – early April. In summer, the night skies light up with flamboyant fireworks (花火 | hanabi).
Well, in fall, there’s otsukimi (お月見), or moon gazing. (And, for the record, in winter, you have mochi tsuki (餅つき) or making mochi).
Dumplings 🍡x full moon 🌕 _____________ October 4 was the Mid-Autumn Festival. It’s known as Chushu no meigetsu and jugoya in Japanese 🎑 It just happens to be followed up by a full moon (October 6) which is a traditional thing to celebrate in the fall. Traditionally you display decorations like pampas grass, dumplings, and seasonal fruits and vegetables. Lots of the dumplings have rabbits on them because there’s an old story about a rabbit who lives on the moon. During a full moon you can see the rabbit making mochi (rice cakes), hence the deep association with the moon and bunnies. And now Sailor Moon makes so much sense!
In the old Japanese calendar, the full moon occurs on the 15th day of the 8th month. In the current, o-tsuki-mi happens on the night of a full moon that occurs between September to October.
Traditionally, when a full moon occurs during this period, you have a kangetsu-kai (moon viewing party). Together with friends and family you eat special foods like tsukimi dango and seasonal veggies.
Fast food chains like McDonald’s serve a limited edition burger called Tsukimi Burger. These hamburgers usually have a fried egg added to represent a big, full moon.
— マクドナルド (@McDonaldsJapan) August 31, 2018
Halloween, of course, is not a Japanese tradition. Why travel all the way to Japan when I can celebrate (or ignore) it back home? You may wonder.
In the past 10 years, Halloween has evolved from a weird holiday that gaijin (外人 | foreigners) and students of international schools did, but now it seems like the whole country is catching on.
🎃 Happy Halloween 🎃 (we’re almost there! 👻) ______________ I simply love how Japan has come to embrace Halloween. In-store displays like this wouldn’t have existed years ago! Cosplay is such a big thing, I’m surprised it took Halloween so long to catch on here.
Halloween fever may be a result of Disney’s popularity in Japan. Previously, Tokyo Disney Resorts celebrated Halloween in the month leading up to October 31. But, in 2018, the lead-up to Halloween started in September, giving fans of the holiday 2 months to enjoy the festivities with Mickey, Minnie, and crew.
Adding to the Halloween frenzy is last year’s special announcement made by Oriental Land (the company that owns Tokyo Disney Resort) to celebrate the 20th year of Halloween.
For the first time during Disney Halloween, adults can come to Disneyland or Tokyo DisneySea dressed in costume (except Marvel characters) any day they want to!
This is a major breakthrough as in previous years, adults were limited to the week leading up to Halloween to dress up as an approved character. (By the way, children 11 years old and under are always free to come to the parks dressed as a Disney character.)
No doubt that in years to come, Halloween’s popularity in Japan will only continue to grow, leading to an increase of visitors to Tokyo Disney Resort. Try to visit now before Disney Land and Disney Sea become too crowded!
I had to update this post because I can’t believe I left this one off! My evening walk with little Kaiju and our dog was filled with the sweet intoxicating scent of these orange flowers, and it reminded me of why I love fall in Japan so much.
Osmanthus fragrans is the scientific name for kinmokusei (金木犀 | gold osmanthus) and ginmokusei (銀木犀 | silver osmanthus), the gold and white flowers that bloom on trees this time of the year. Just take a walk along any residential area or back street and you’ll surely encounter these fragrant trees.
If you’re wondering why the scent seems so familiar, it’s probably because it’s the standard toilet air freshener scent here in Japan. Still, when you smell kinmokusei in the air, you’ll know that autumn in Japan has truly begun!
What’s your favorite thing about autumn in Japan?
10 Reasons Why Autumn is the Best Time to Experience Japan