10 Best Festivals in Japan in September 2023

aizu festival Events
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Miho Shimizu is a Japanese freelance writer settled in Shizuoka with her husband and two rabbits. Fascinated with traveling at the age of 18, she has spent most of her long holidays exploring incredible spots around Japan. She also loves to listen to music, draw, and read novels over a cup of green tea.

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At the end of summer and beginning of autumn, the entirety of Japan comes to life with a great number of exciting festivals. September marks the start of autumn, as the temperature slowly starts to cool down, and people can enjoy being outdoors without sweating profusely. September is also a month where you can partake in some of Japan’s best festivals that draw endless visitors from around the world every year. Each festival is different when it comes to the kinds of events, offerings and unforgettable cultural experiences. Let’s have a look at 10 of the best festivals in Japan in September 2023!                     

1. Danjiri Festival (Osaka)

danjiri festival osaka
Kounosu, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you are planning on visiting Osaka this September, it can be a lot of fun joining one of Osaka’s most famous festivals, the Danjiri Festival. Danjiri refers to the traditional giant floats which have been used in festivals around the Kansai region. This festival dates back over 300 years to the Edo Period, and the annual celebration attracts more than 400,000 people every year. The wooden structure of the Danjiri floats are made of Japanese cypress, and are engraved with elaborate carvings done by professional artisans. If you look closely, you will realize that each carving represents famous scenes or figures from Japanese mythology as well as sacred creatures like dragons. During the festival, Danjiri floats are pulled by men in a parade through the narrow streets across the city. They always keep up their fast pace pulling the floats even when turning the sharp corners, which occasionally results in unexpected accidents, but at the same time is extremely exciting to watch! 

Festival Dates 2023: September 16th (Saturday) – 17th (Sunday) 

How to get there: From JR Osaka Station, it is about a 45-minute train ride to Kishiwada Station

2. Niigata Soh-Odori (Niigata)

Niigata Soh-Odori is Niigata’s biggest dance festival which had its 20th anniversary in 2021. Every year in mid-September, about 200 groups with a total of 13,000 dancers attend the festival and entertain visitors with impressive dance performances. For the last three years, the festival was held on a reduced scale due to the spread of Covid-19. However in 2022, they officially announced that the festival will return to normal and take place for three days from September 17th to 19th both online and on site. One of the distinct features of the festival is the variation of music and dance chosen by each group, ranging from traditional folk dances to more modern dances. The basic concept of the festival is “Regardless of the type of dance performed, everyone is welcome as long as they truly love dance and share the passion with others at the festival”!    

Festival Dates 2023: September 16th (Saturday) – 18th (Monday) 

How to get there: About a 10-minute walk from JR Niigata Station

3. Sapporo Autumn Fest (Hokkaido)

Sapporo is the prefectural capital of Hokkaido, and it is probably best known for the famous Sapporo Snow Festival. If you want to try Hokkaido’s local delicacies and refreshing drinks, there is no better place to visit than the Sapporo Autumn Festival! The festival originated in 2008, and is held at Odori Park, the same venue as the Sapporo Snow Festival. What you will find here is a large variety of tasty local foods and beverages from the Hokkaido area. There are 8 areas within the venue, and each of them features different types of local specialties and drinks, ranging from the freshest seafood, to delicious ramen and wine. It is a perfect place to enjoy the unforgettable tastes of Hokkaido in the pleasant autumn weather!      

Festival Dates 2023: September 8th (Friday) – September 30th (Saturday) 

How to get there: About a 5-minute walk from Odori Station, Sapporo Municipal Subway

4. Kaze no Bon (Toyama)

Kaze no Bon is a traditional dance festival which takes place on the first three days of every September in Toyama city, Toyama prefecture. With a long history of over 300 years, this annual event originally started in order to appease the god of wind, who would otherwise cause damage to the crops, as well as in hope of a good harvest for the year. In a quaint town full of traditional Japanese houses, local dancers gracefully dance through the narrow stone-paved streets, and draw around 200,000 visitors every year. Their synchronized dance performances are accompanied by Toyama’s traditional folk songs played with Japanese musical instruments such as Shamisen (三味線), Kokyu (胡弓) and Taiko drums. 

Festival Dates 2023: September 1st (Friday) – 3rd (Sunday) 

How to get there: From JR Toyama Station, it is about a 30-minute train ride to Etchu-Yatsuo Station 

5. Aizu Festival (Fukushima)

Amcaja, (CC BY-SA 3.0), via Wikimedia Commons

Aizu Festival is Aizu city’s biggest festival which is annually held for three days in late September in Fukushima prefecture. On the first day, the festival starts off with an iconic procession of local children marching through the city holding lanterns. At night on the first and second day, the main street of the city turns into a venue for a traditional bon dance event called “Aizu Bandai-san Odori”. The highlight of the festival comes on the final day, which is an impressive Samurai parade that includes exciting dance performances and sword fight demonstrations by participants dressed in traditional Samurai attire! 

Festival Dates 2023: September 22nd (Friday) – 24th (Sunday) 

How to get there: From JR Aizu Wakamatsu Station, it is about a 20-minute bus ride to Tsuruga Castle

6. Senami Taisai Festival (Niigata)

Senamianijya, (CC BY-SA 4.0), via Wikimedia Commons

The Senami Taisai Festival is held in a town called Murakami in Niigata prefecture every year celebrating Senami Shrine. It is said that this festival dates back at least a few hundred years. In this fisherman town, in the morning of the first day of the festival, the spirit of Senami Shrine is transferred to a portable shrine and the procession through the streets begins. Many floats and stalls parade through the town late into the evening along with lively festival music and dancing by the local people in the area. This festival is very symbolic for the fishermans town and gives the locals a chance to show their passion and spirit for the area.

Festival Dates 2023: September 3rd (Sunday) – 4th (Monday) 

How to get there: About a 20 minute walk from Murakami station

7. Kakunodate Festival (Akita)

Soica2001, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Held in a small town called Kakunodate in Akita prefecture, this festival has a history dating back hundreds of years. The festival is known to be a call for prosperity, good harvest, and health and has changed very little over the years. It was even added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2016. Over the period of three days, large decorated wooden carts that display samurai and kabuki dolls are arranged around a ‘mokko’, a symbolic mountain made of black cotton and are paraded through the town. The streets are very narrow, meaning only one cart can pass through the streets at a time, so if two carts meet on the same street they have to quarrel to decide who gets to pass(photo above)! It is a fun festival where dancers dress up in kimono, musicians play various different instruments, and they all perform for the gods. 

Festival Dates 2023: September 7th (Thursday) – 9th (Saturday)

How to get there: Very short walk from JR Kakunodate station

8. Akasaka Hikawa Shrine Festival (Tokyo)

In mid-September, loads of people flock to Akasaka Hikawa Shrine in Tokyo to join the annual festival which dates back to as early as the Edo Period. This historical festival lasts for three straight days, and there are a wide range of experiences and events you can partake in. The big highlight of the festival is a procession of gorgeous Dashi floats and portable shrines that parade through Tokyo’s busy streets. The biggest floats are roughly 8 meters tall, on top of which sit symbolic Japanese dolls. Typical festival food and drinks are also sold at stalls. Joining the festival will make you completely forget that you are in the midst of the biggest city in the world!   

Festival Dates 2023: Mid-September
*We will update the dates for 2023 when it’s officially announced

How to get there: About an 8-minute walk from Akasaka Station, Tokyo

9. Koriyama Autumn Festival (Fukushima)

Koriyama Autumn Festival annually takes place in Koriyama city in Fukushima prefecture, which is easily accessible from Tokyo if you take the Shinkansen. Asaka Kunitsuko Shrine hosts the festival which originally started during the early Meiji Period over 150 years ago. Since then, this festival has been held by locals every year to show their gratitude to their ancestors and pray for a big and abundant harvest for the year. On the second day of the festival, about 20 dashi floats are carried around JR Koriyama Station by neighbors and local children alike. The music played in the background is Ohayashi (お囃子), which is traditional Japanese music that you often hear at Shinto shrine festivals. The most exciting part of the festival comes on the third and final day, when a spectacular portable shrine parade takes over the main street of the city for the grand finale!         

Festival Dates 2023: Usually late September
*We will update the dates for 2023 when it’s officially announced

How to get there: From JR Koriyama Station, it is about a 8-minute walk to Asaka Kunitsuko Shrine

10. Shinagawa Shukuba Matsuri (Tokyo)

During the Edo period, the Shinagawa area in Tokyo flourished as the very first Shukuba (post town) of the Tokaido Road, which connected Tokyo to Kyoto. The Shinagawa Shukuba Matsuri originally started in 1990 with the aim of fostering the further development of the area through preserving and passing down the tradition and cultural assets of Shinagawa to future generations. Seiseki Park is the main venue of the festival where visitors can enjoy a variety of live music and dance performances. The peak of the festival for most people is the stunning parade of Oiran courtesans which is typically held in the evening of the first day. Many people also join the procession of volunteers who are gorgeously dressed in Edo-period attire and march through the street. This year, the festival will only be held for one day on a limited scale, but is definitely still worth checking out.     

Festival Dates 2023: September 17th (Sunday) 

How to get there: From Kita-shinagawa Station, Keikyu Main Line, it is about a 10-minute walk to Seiseki Park (the main venue of the festival)

Since the breakout of Covid-19, Japan’s local communities have been through some tough times. Although we still do need to do our best in taking precautions to help prevent the spread of the virus, this year is somewhat of a turning point for various communities throughout Japan as many festivals are back in full swing. We hope you learned a thing or two and have a chance to to join a festival in September this year!     

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