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october festival

The October Festival in Japan: Five Best Events!

Thuy Fang

Thuy Fang

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A woman playing the flute at the Jidai Matsuri, an October festival in Japan.

During an October festival in Japan, people come together to enjoy the beauty of autumn and celebrate Japan’s rich traditions. It’s a lively event where you can see art and performances, learn about Japanese heritage, and experience unique cultural activities. Let’s explore interesting facts about six prominent Japanese festivals in October together.

Seki Cutlery Festival (Second weekend of October)

Seki is a charming city in Gifu Prefecture with a rich history spanning over 700 years in the art of blade crafting. It’s been renowned as the land of Japanese knife and sword-making since the 13th century. One of the vibrant celebrations of Seki’s legacy is undoubtedly the Seki Cutlery Festival.

A blacksmith forging a sword at the Seki Cutlery Festival.
Seki is home to some of the best cutlery in Japan. Image via Visit Gifu

During the festival, the quiet streets of Seki transform into a bustling marketplace. Over 50 vendors offer a diversity of high-quality blade items at discounted prices. Here, you’ll quickly find helpful tools like kitchen knives, pocket knives, and scissors. 

There are also exciting katana (Japanese traditional swords) forging performances that make you feel both the elegance and strength of the sword skills. It’ll leave you amazed and wanting to learn more about the fascinating world of blades. Besides, you’ll also have a chance to admire a large display of magnificent and valuable katana swords.

Nihonmatsu Lantern Festival (First Saturday, Sunday, and Monday of October)

The Nihonmatsu Lantern Festival is a dazzling event that illuminates many streets of Nihonmatsu City, Fukushima. More specifically, this festival began more than 370 years ago when the ruler of Nihonmatsu Castle organized it to unite the community through religion and loyalty.  This October festival is one of Japan’s top three lantern festivals. Each year, it draws the attention of visitors from every part of Japan and many foreign countries to witness its brilliance. 

A bunch of lanterns at the Nihonmatsu Lantern Festival, an October festival.
This festival features over 3000 lanterns. Image via Todo Sobre Japan

The most exciting part of the festival is when seven stunning floats move in a fascinating parade. Beautiful decorations adorn each float, representing distinct areas of the city. Covered in many glowing lanterns, these floats create a magical scene as they travel through the streets. Not to mention, they have a live taiko drum troupe and the audience’s cheers to make the parade even livelier!

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Takayama Autumn Matsuri (October 9th and October 10th)

The Takayama Autumn Matsuri occurs at the Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine (Takayama, Gifu Prefecture). This is a spectacular event that attracts thousands of visitors. It’s also one of the most beautiful festivals in the Tokai region. Generally, it’s a way to give thanks for the harvest in the fall season and kick off the preparations for winter. 

A porcelain doll on display at the Takayama Autumn festival, an October festival.
These floats are truly unique! Image via Shutterstock

The highlight of Takayama Matsuri is the parade of eleven handcrafted floats through the town. These floats also feature vibrant decorations and puppet toppers that perform traditional dances, delighting everyone in the audience. As night falls, the city comes alive with the warm glow of 100 lantern-covered floats, crafting an extraordinary scene.

Kanuma Buttsuke Autumn Festival (The weekend before the second Monday of October)

Kanuma Buttsuke Autumn Festival occurs in Kanuma City of Tochigi Prefecture every year. The festival holds UNESCO heritage recognition. It’s also a National Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property. 

A scene at Kanuma Buttsuke Autumn Festival.
This event features yatai, which are hand-carved wooden floats. Image via Visit Tochigi

This autumn celebration has been a cherished tradition for over 400 years, originating from a gesture of gratitude to the gods for bringing rain after a prolonged drought. Today, the festival serves as a reminder of the past’s challenges and the hope for similar blessings.

Moreover, the most thrilling factor of the festival is buttsuke. It’s a lively performance where these joyful floats compete musically to generate an enthusiastic atmosphere filled with traditional tunes and beats. Furthermore, there are around 20 sophisticated crafted wooden floats, or yatai.

Jidai Matsuri (October 22nd)

Jidai Matsuri, or the “Festival of Ages,” is a celebration where you can see what Japan looks like in the past. Starting in 1895, this October festival is like a parade that showcases over 2000 people dressed in traditional clothing from various Japanese eras. Usually, the parade starts at the Kyoto Imperial Palace, goes through the city, and ends at the Heian Jingu Shrine.

A bunch female dancers in blue kimono at the Jidai Matsuri.
This event features historical costumes from across Japanese history. Image via Shutterstock

However, it’s not just about clothes–the music and symbols used in the parade also come from different historical periods. As a result, many people feel like they are listening to the tunes from ancient times. The parade lasts for around two hours. It’s good enough to give us an excellent look at different times in Japan’s history and the important people who influenced the country over hundreds of years.

Bizen Pottery Festival (Third weekend of October)

Bizen Pottery Festival is held annually in Bizen City, renowned for its Bizenyaki pottery. More specifically, this festival helps the locals celebrate their pottery heritage and the rich history of Bizen City. During this event, more than 400,000 exquisite pottery pieces are available for sale at exceptionally discounted prices, making it a pottery lovers’ paradise.

A bunch of Bizen pottery on display.
This is some of the best pottery in Japan! Image via Shutterstock

Street parades, live stage performances, and local dancing also enhance the energetic festival atmosphere here. All of them create a delightful experience for everyone. Moreover, attendees can indulge in festive food stalls and even try their hand at pottery-making. 

All in all, October festivals in Japan offer a perfect blend of tradition and cheer, attracting people from everywhere. Whether it’s the timeless craftsmanship of blade crafting, the bright lantern displays, or the stunning floats, there’s always something to enchant everyone. Have you ever attended an October festival in Japan? Kindly share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!

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