This one’s for you, frugal flyers! September is a low travel period for Japan, so get ready to save on airline tickets and get great deals on hotel rates. Not only is domestic travel low during this month, but some international travelers shy away from this time of year due to the climate. As the season transitions from late summer to early fall, the temperature can fluctuate depending on when and where you go. Some parts of Japan also tend to get a lot of rain during this time, and there is a potential for typhoons. Despite the weather, September offers plenty of opportunities you can’t miss!
Here, are suggestions for some of the best things to do in September during your visit to Japan.
Japan’s autumn leaves are almost as iconic as the cherry blossoms. People from all over scurry to the countryside to see the mountains, rivers, parks, and famous historical structures surrounded by fall foliage. Historical documents record Japanese people enjoying kōyō (autumn leaves) as far back as the 8th century. Autumn leaves can begin to appear in late September in the northern reaches of Hokkaido.
The Sounkyo Gorge has an abundance of waterfalls along its sheer cliffs, but two in this region stand out. The Ginga no Taki (Milky Way Waterfall) gracefully trickles along the rock face, while its neighboring Ryusei no Taki (Shooting Star Waterfall) thunders down the cliff. In autumn, the hundreds of trees surrounding the falls explode in a gold so bright they seem to shimmer under the sunlight.
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Sumo didn’t always look like it does now. For example, sumo wrestlers were quite lean until relatively recently. Because sumo doesn’t have divisions in weight classes, getting as big as possible to overpower your opponent became a rather modern trend. The present form of this traditional sport developed during the Edo period as a means to please Shinto deities. Wrestlers wear traditional loincloths during matches, and they keep their hair in a top-knot—even outside of the ring. The rules are simple: do your best to knock down or push your opponent out-of-bounds.
Sumo tournaments only happen six times a year: January, May, and September in Tokyo, March in Osaka, July in Nagoya, and November in Fukuoka. There aren’t any official tournaments outside of these times and places, however, it’s possible to watch wrestlers practicing in their home gyms if your trip doesn’t match up with this schedule.
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If you love video games, especially Japanese ones, you can’t miss the annual Tokyo Game Show in Chiba Prefecture. Despite its name, however, Tokyo Game Show isn’t a TV program where you can win prizes. It’s one of the largest video game convention and expo shows in Asia! The event mainly focuses on showcasing Japanese games, but some international video game developers, producers, voice actors, and others in the industry attend to speak on panels and promote new releases.
Most events are in Japanese, but with the influx of international guests, the number of English facilities and panels rises every year. Tokyo Game Show runs for four days, but the first two aren’t open to the public. It takes around 45 minutes to reach the nearest station, Kaihim Makuhari, from Tokyo. From the station, it only takes about ten minutes to reach the Makuhari Messe event hall on foot.
In Japan, fruit isn’t just a food—it’s opulence in a box. If you go to a grocery store, you might be surprised at how seemingly overpriced fruit is. You may even run into so-called “luxury” fruit selling for upwards of 10,000 JPY (about US $100.00)! Despite the prices, Japanese people love fruit and often eat it as a dessert.
Head to a farm or greenhouse for the most immersive way to enjoy fruit in Japan. You can pick seasonal fruit all year round, and September means grapes! All four major islands produce grapes, so you can experience this no matter where you stay! Most farms and greenhouses follow the same system—you pay a flat fee to pick and eat as many fresh grapes as you like within about an hour. Japanese fruit farmers cultivate their crops with great care, and each grape is bound to be sweeter than the last! One difference to look out for: the skin of Japanese seeded-grapes are rather thick and sour, so most Japanese people don’t bother eating them. Instead, they suck the insides out of the small dimple where the stem used to be!
The unassuming little town of Kishiwada in Osaka Prefecture holds one of the most exciting—and hair-raising—festivals in Japan. People of all ages gather along the streets to support their neighborhoods in the Danjiri (wooden float) race! Teams pull the 4-ton danjiri through the streets at top speeds while navigating hairpin turns. The most honored position belongs to the carpenters who ride on top of the ornate floats. They perform traditional fan dances and nimbly jump from one side to the other to shift the weight of the float when rounding corners.
At night, things calm down and the attention shifts to the neighborhood children. Some children help their parents slowly pull the danjiri through the streets, and others sit on the floats while playing music. Kishiwada makes for a convenient day trip if you’re in the Kansai region. The dates for the Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri change every year, but the festival generally takes place at the end of September and again in mid-October.
Whether you prefer to spend Japan’s late summer and early autumn season out in the countryside or taking in the sights of the city, Japan has something for everyone! If you plan to continue your vacation itinerary from September to October….