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att. Culture - Calendar - Japan Now
att. Culture - Calendar - Japan Now
att.JAPAN Issue 24, September 2005

Calendar - Japan Now - September & October


Silver grasses The Japanese autumn starts in September as trees on the higher peaks begin to change color and seasonal foods such as Pacific saury, bonito, apples, pears, grapes, matsutake and other mushrooms, chestnuts, taro and sweet potatoes start to appear on supermarket shelves. Throughout the season harvest festivals are held the length and breadth of the country.

 Tsukimi
The mid-September full moon is called chushu no meigetsu in Japan and this is a time some people practice "tsukimi," -- an event whereby they gaze at and appreciate the chushu no meigetsu. During September the full moon is especially beautiful due to the clearer autumn air enabling many to sit and appreciate the moon while offering dango (dumplings) and domestic crops as well as a Japanese silver grass decoration.
A Full Moon Viewing Party (Kangetsu no Yube) is held at Daikakuji Temple in Kyoto on the evening of Sep. 28th with an altar set up on the bank of Osawa no Ike Pond. The event is to pray for a good harvest and the happiness of men. Spectators can appreciate the moon as they circle the pond on one of three boats.

 Autumn Festivals
Yabusame, or horseback archery, is a highlight of the annual Tsurugaoka Hachimangu (Kamakura City, Kanagawa Prefecture), festival of September 15th and 16th. Men wearing period warrior's clothing fire arrows at a wooden target erected in the shrine precincts as they gallop by on horseback.
Danjiri Festival The Hojoya Festival is held at Hakozakigu Shrine (Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture) from September 12th to 18th. A festival to release captured animals into the wild, it is based on the teachings of Buddhism which prohibits the killing of animals.
Kishiwada's Danjiri Festival is held annually in Kishiwada City (Osaka Prefecture) over the days of September 14th and 15th. A danjiri is a float made of plain keyaki (zelkova) wood and the highlight of the festival are the dynamic scenes of "Yarimawashi," the performance to make a danjiri turn at right angles.
The Okunchi Festival is held in Nagasaki City, Nagasaki Prefecture between October 7th and 9th and features dragon dancing in the Chinese-style, accompanied by the sounds of numerous firecrackers.
Okunchi Festival A grand procession of personages donning costumes used in the Heian and Meiji periods and the centuries in between, the Jidai Matsuri is held in Kyoto on October 22nd. In the evening of the same day, the Kurama no Himatsuri (Great Fire Festival) is scheduled for Kurama, also Kyoto City, and sees portable shrines carried out among the torch holding spectators one-by-one.
The Takayama Festival autumn festival is an annual event at Sakurayama Hachiman Shrine in Takayama City (Gifu Prefecture) between October 9th and 10th. The festival boasts a display of traditional crafts and skills on 11 gorgeous floats that date back to the Edo period. Particularly famous are the elaborate "karakuri" dolls seen on the floats -- a must-see if in the area.

 Autumn Leaves on High Mountains
As autumnal leaves turn red or yellow, mountains and valleys throughout Japan are ablaze with color. In contrast to the cherry blossoms of spring, autumn leaves change from the north and move southwards with some change appearing on the higher mountains first. The "show" can begin as early as September in some areas.
Mount Daisetsuzan in Hokkaido is said to be the place where leaves start to change color earlier than at any other place in the nation. The green leaves of the conifers, fallen brown leaves and the red and yellow broadleaf leaves fascinate visitors with their delicate range of tints at this time of year. The leaves on Mt. Kurodake start to change about a month later and the best time to see the full canopy of autumnal warmth is from mid to late September.
Hakkodasan is a famous group of volcanic mountains in Aomori Prefecture, northern Japan. Buna (beech) forests turn yellow each autumn as the moors coating the mountains change to gold. Visitors can ascend to an area near the summit of Mt. Tamoyachidake (1326m) and Kitahakkoda in the northern part of Hakkodasan by ropeway for a 360-degree view of the area. The best season to visit the area atop these peaks is from late September to early October. To visit the foot of the range, delaying until early to mid October is recommended.
Ascending Irohazaka, Lake Chuzenji, surrounded by the red and yellow leaves of thousands of maples, Japanese lacquer trees and buna gradually comes into view. The larch trees of Senjogahara and Odagahara located on the west of mount Nantaisan turn yellow at this time of year and the best season to visit to appreciate the leaves is from late September to mid-October.
Oze is the most beautiful of Japan's high altitude moors. Covered with the golden grasses of autumn from mid to late September, the moor is bordered by buna forests, themselves turning a brilliant yellow in early October and Ozenuma Pond offers a most picturesque setting. The autumn grass in and around Ozegahara is at its most beautiful between late September and early October while the trees in Ozegahara and around Ozenuma Pond are best appreciated between early September and mid-October.
Oirase As the bus ascends the slopes toward Kamikochi, breathtaking views pour in through the bus windows. At any time of year the beautiful Hotaka Mountain Range can be seen from the Kappabashi Bridge over the Azusagawa River but particularly so in autumn, the rowan and Japanese lacquer trees turn red and change the mountains into a blazing forest. The surface of Taishoike and Tashiroike ponds reflect these changes in tone and when snow coats the top of the mountains, visitors can enjoy the splendid contrast of white snow, and red and green leaves. The best season to make the trip is from early to mid-October.
The ridges of Mt. Tateyama are covered with autumn grasses in mid-September and as autumn progresses, the rowan trees around Murodo turn red as the grasses around Tengudaira turn a brilliant yellow. Visitors can walk around Midorigaike, Jigokudani and Raichozawa in 2 hours and the very best season to do so is from mid to late September.

 Autumn Living
It is still hot in Japan in early September, but temperatures cool come mid-month. Typhoons are known to hit the archipelago at this time of year and a hovering autumnal rain front can cause cold rainy days. The third Monday of September is Respect-for-the-Aged Day - a day to celebrate longevity. Such a celebration dates from the Nara period and while those in their 60s were considered "old" a decade ago, nowadays most 60-year-olds do not want to be treated as elderly in a society that boasts the longest lifespan in the world.
Around September 22nd comes Autumnal Equinox Day when the sun rises from due east and sets due west making the night and day of equal duration. This day also marks the "turning of the year." Special Buddhist services are held for the nation's ancestors' spirits at temples up and down Japan as people clean graves and offer prayers to the spirits. Flowers and incense sticks are popular offerings at graveyards across Japan.
The Japanese seasonal rainy season ends in October after which the weather is usually dry and fine, and infiltrated by refreshing winds. The sky is a clear blue with great visibility making autumn by far the best season for art, sports, reading books outdoors and various other activities. Fish, a staple of Japan, are an anticipated dish at this time as Pacific saury sold at fishmongers and supermarkets brings with it a true "taste of autumn."

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