10 Best Festivals in Japan in October 2022

Nagasaki kunchi festival Events
Masoud Akbari, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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Stefanie Akkerman moved from the Netherlands to Japan in 2013 with her Japanese husband and son. She jumped into the niche of Dutch tour guiding in Tokyo and Kamakura in 2015 and occasionally writes articles about all the great sights and activities Japan has to offer. She loves (Japanese) food, and to work that all off she goes diving, snorkeling, cycling, or hiking.

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When the hottest days are behind us and the fall season brings along pleasant weather, this is a good time to travel to Japan. And while traditional Japanese festivals – or matsuri – are often held during summer, many of these vibrant events take place later in the year as well. In fact, some of the most interesting festivals are held in October throughout the country. Here’s a list of Japan’s 10 best festivals in October 2022!

1. Takayama Festival (Gifu Prefecture)

Takayama matsuri
The spectacular Takayama Festival takes place twice a year

In Takayama of Gifu prefecture, two major festivals are held each year, one in spring and one in autumn. The Takayama Festival held in October revolves around the Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine, and throughout the day and evening, beautiful floats are paraded through the streets in the northern part of this charming town. The evening festivities are considered the highlight by most visitors with the large floats beautifully lit up. If you happen to be in Takayama outside the festival period you still have a chance to see the floats on display in the Yatai Kaikan Museum.

When: October 9 – 10

Admission: free

How to get there: About 15-minute walk from Takayama Station

2. Matsue Suitoro Festival (Shimane Prefecture)

Matsue Suitoro Matsuri
Matsue’s annual lantern festival creates a nostalgic and romantic atmosphere

Meaning ‘Water Lantern Festival’, the Matsue Suitoro Festival is a bit different from usual matsuri as the waterways in the canal-rich castle town of Matsue are beautifully lit up during October evenings on weekends and national holidays. Creating a stunningly romantic atmosphere in Shiomi Nawate Street, designated as one of the 100 most beautiful streets in Japan, the festival draws people from all over the region to admire the scenery. You can also take an idyllic cruise along the canals and make your own lantern on the grounds of Matsue Castle.

When: September 23 – October 16(weekends and national holidays only)

Admission: free

How to get there: About 25 minute walk from Matsue Station

3. Asama Onsen Taimatsu Festival (Nagano Prefecture)

Taimatsu Matsuri
People smear their faces with soot and ashes at the festival’s big bonfire

One of the most popular yearly events in the castle town of Matsumoto is the Asama Onsen Taimatsu Festival where people walk down the streets while reciting mantras. The most spectacular part of this lively festival occurs after dark when bales of hay are set on fire and rolled through the streets, culminating with a big bonfire. This also explains the name of the festival as ‘taimatsu’ means ‘large burning torch’. More than 100 bales of hay are burned during this event, and people smear the soot and ashes on their own and each other’s faces. With this fiery ritual, the people of Asama Onsen pray for peace and an abundant rice harvest.

When: October 8

Admission: free

How to get there: About 30 minutes’ bus ride from Matsumoto Station to Yokote Bus Station

4. Kurama Fire Festival (Kyoto Prefecture)

Big stationary torch
The many torches help guide a local god to his new home

Deep in the forests of northern Kyoto, not far from Kibune, the normally dark night lights up with the bonfires of the energetic Kurama Fire Festival. Held to welcome the spirit of a god called Yuki Myojin – who settled in Kurama more than 1000 years ago – to his new home, big bonfires light the way to the shrine, and villagers carry big and small torches up a steep path. The festival culminates with a mikoshi (portable shrine) parade.

When: October 22 (6pm-11pm, we recommend you arrive early)

Admission: free

How to get there: About a 3 minute walk from Kurama Station on the Eizan Kurama Railway

5. Tamagawa Fireworks Festival (Tokyo Prefecture)

Tamagawa Fireworks
The Tamagawa Fireworks Festival is by many regarded as Tokyo’s best fireworks display

One of the largest firework festivals in Tokyo, the Tamagawa Fireworks Festival is a pyrotechnical spectacle. Taking place in one of Tokyo’s most family-friendly neighborhoods, this festival is very popular, and arriving early to secure a good spot is paramount for the best viewing experience. Make it a fun day out with tasty festival foods and bring a comfortable mat to sit on!

When: Canceled 2022

Admission: free

How to get there: About 3 minutes’ walk from Futakotamagawa Station on the Denentoshi Line

6. Otsu Festival (Shiga Prefecture)

Festival float
Floats are paraded through the streets on the festival’s second day

This 2-day festival has a history of more than 400 years and takes place in Otsu where you can admire 13 large lantern floats featuring creative mechanical puppets on the festival’s first day. On the second day, the floats are paraded around town accompanied by music and dance. There are many food stalls scattered around the festival area and this vibrant matsuri is one of Shiga Prefecture’s biggest events.

When: October 2, 8, and 9

Admission: free

How to get there: About 10 minutes walk from Otsu Station

7. Nagasaki Kunchi Festival (Nagasaki Prefecture)

Nagasaki Kunchi Festival
The Nagasaki Kunchi Festival celebrates the city’s multicultural history

Boasting a lively carnivalesque atmosphere, the Nagasaki Kunchi Festival in Nagasaki prefecture has been celebrating the city’s multicultural history for more than 400 years. There are energetic dances, floats featuring dragons and lions, and Dutch and Chinese ships symbolizing the trade with foreign countries during the Edo period when only people from the Netherlands and China were allowed to trade with Japan. The festival’s focal points are Suwa Shrine, the Otabijo Stage, Yasaka Shrine, and the Kokaidomae Plaza. Be prepared for large crowds as nearly all residents of Nagasaki plus many visitors from other regions flock to this festival every year to join in on the fun.

When: October 7-9 

Admission: free

How to get there: About 5 minutes’ walk from Nagasaki Station

8. Shinminato Hikiyama Festival (Toyama Prefecture)

Float with lanterns
Lantern-lit festival floats are pulled through the streets of Izumi City at night

In Izumi City, Toyama Prefecture, the Shinminato Hikiyama Festival is one of Hosotsu Hachimangu Shrine’s autumn festivals. 13 impressive floats are decorated with flowers during the day and adorned with lanterns at night, and the sight of them being pulled through the town is both gorgeous and spectacular. Although it’s unknown when the first Shinminato Hikiyama Festival was held, the largest floats were created in 1650. The breathtaking sight of the 13 floats being paraded down narrow streets and around sharp corners accompanied by the distinctive call “Iyasama, Iyasama!” is one of the highlights of the festivals.

When: October 1

Admission: free

How to get there: About 3 minutes’ walk from Nishi-Shinminato Station on the Manyosen Shinminatoko Line

9. Nihonmatsu Lantern Festival (Fukushima Prefecture)

Red paper lanterns
Red paper lanterns hang from tall festival floats at one of Fukushima’s most stunning matsuri

One of the top 3 lantern festivals in Japan, the Nihonmatsu Lantern Festival is a sight to behold. First held more than 370 years ago, the festival was created by the lord ruling over the area at the time who wanted to forge a bond with and between the locals through religion by throwing a Shinto festival that everyone could attend. With a feverish passion, 7 tall festival floats lit up with dozens of candles inside red lanterns are carried through the streets of Nihonmatsu, Fukushima Prefecture. The teams of carriers, steerers, and musicians work together to safely run the floats through the streets while enthusiastic onlookers cheer with them. It’s easy to get carried away with them in the contagiously fun atmosphere!

When: October 1-3

Admission: free

How to get there: About 2 minutes’ walk from Nihonmatsu Station

10. Kanuma Autumn Festival (Tochigi Prefecture) *Canceled 2022

Kanuma festival float
Kanuma’s elaborate festival floats are decorated by local artisans

Only 90 minutes north of Tokyo, in Tochigi Prefecture, the town of Kanuma erupts in a cheerful festival mood for one weekend every October. Originally held to thank the gods for bringing rain after a long period of drought, the locals have kept this festival tradition going for more than 400 years. 27 stunning floats carved and maintained by local artisans are paraded through town and turned into stages for the festival’s musicians. When two stages meet during the parade, the bands will start a musical play-off, bringing much delight to the spectators.

When: Canceled 2022

Admission: free

How to get there: About 10 minutes walk from Shin-Kanuma Station on the Tobu-Nikko Railway

October is one of the best times to visit Japan, not only because you can see exciting traditional festivals like the ones listed above, but also because the weather is often quite pleasant and you can still enjoy watersports at many beachside destinations. There are so many fun and interesting things to see and do in Japan, making it hard to choose when you are planning your trip! One activity that will always make a great addition to your itinerary, is a private tour with a local guide.

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