October is quickly becoming one of the most popular months to visit Japan thanks to its temperate weather, outdoor activities, festivals and, of course, Halloween.
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If you dream of seeing the Japanese countryside in all its glory then October might be the month for you. As autumn begins, temperatures grow cooler than the summer months, but it still remains pleasantly warm. It’s one of those amazing ‘just right’ Goldilocks months when you have the best of both worlds because it’s not too hot and not too cold. For this reason, October is becoming an increasingly popular time to visit Japan, especially if you love the great outdoors. It’s also packed with festivals, food, and a certain celebration called Halloween that you might have heard of. Halloween is getting bigger every year in Japan thanks in part to the nation’s love of cosplay and colourful events, and it can be a particularly fun time to visit. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for something more sedate, October is also a great time to enjoy the best of Japan’s art and culture. As you can tell, October has lots to offer, so grab your JR Pass and let’s get started.
Reasons to visit Japan in October
For those worried about the heat and humidity in the summer months or the ice and snow in the winter, October in Japan represents a perfect happy medium between the two. This is one of the main reasons why it has become such a great month to visit. The pleasant weather also lends itself to outdoor activities, from walking, hiking, and climbing, to visiting national parks, cycling and more. Outdoor enthusiasts will be spoilt for choice. Autumn foliage viewing is also a hugely popular attraction during October as it rivals Japan’s famous Cherry Blossom Season for beauty, but so far remains less busy with tourists, so it’s become something of a hidden gem. There are also harvest festivals, autumn moon viewing, traditional matsuri, and fireworks to enjoy. As if that wasn’t enough, October also sees many of the country's leading art galleries and museums launching their new exhibitions, so there’s plenty to do indoors too. And last but not least, Halloween! As we mentioned above, Halloween gets bigger in Japan every year and it makes for a very memorable and fun visit.
Top Ten Things To Do in Japan in October
There’s a lot to see and do across the whole of Japan in the month of October. The good news is that with a Japan Rail Pass, it’s possible to get around the whole country using Japan’s domestic rail network without breaking the bank. This means the chance to do everything on our list during your visit! We’ve put together a top ten list of recommendations and there really is something for everyone, from outdoor enthusiasts to art and culture lovers and Halloween cosplayers.
1.) Walking and Hiking Trails
Thanks to the good weather, October is a great month if you love walking and hiking. It’s also an amazing way to see and experience the beautiful country of Japan up close and personal. Japan’s picturesque and rugged landscape of islands, mountains, forests, beaches, and waterfalls, is spectacular and diverse. This means a huge range of treks to suit every kind of walker. One of the great things about Japan is that you don’t necessarily have to be in the middle of nowhere to find excellent hiking trails either. Even with a day trip from major cities like Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, you can enjoy some terrific hikes and take a break from the urban jungles. Mount Takao, which is within reach of Tokyo, is an ideal hiking destination in October and is also a popular autumn foliage viewing spot. More on this pastime below. With multiple trails to choose from, you can spend as much or as little time as you like hiking at Mount Takao. Paths like the Omotesando Trail and the Biwa Waterfall Trail are either paved or well maintained, and are perfect for a gentle stroll. Then there are the tougher ones that take you right up the mountain to the observation deck at the summit. Of course, if you do want to head off the beaten path to more remote locations, Japan has plenty to offer too and October is the perfect month to do it. Other walking and hiking trails include the famous Nakasendo Trail, the historic Futabanosato Trail through Hiroshima, and hiking through the atmospheric rural towns of Kibune and Kurama in the northern mountains of Kyoto. For general hiking and walking tips for Japan read our Quick Guide to Hiking.
2.) Harvest Festivals
Traditional Japanese matsuri take place throughout the year and October is no exception. October’s festivals tend to focus on the harvest and moon. One of the biggest festivals in October is the Takayama Matsuri in Takayama City, Gifu Prefecture. Held twice a year in April and October, the Takayama festival takes place at Hachiman Shrine and sees beautiful lanterns and floats parade through the night. Other October festivals include the Matsue Suitoro in Honshu, the Asama Onsen Taimatsu matsuri, and the Kurama-no-hi matsuri in the mountains near Kyoto, which as we mentioned above is also a great place for October hiking.
Does Japan celebrate Halloween? The answer is yes! Although a relatively new celebration in Japan, Halloween has grown in popularity year on year since it was formally introduced, and it is now bigger than ever. In 1997, Tokyo Disneyland introduced Halloween to Japan, and became increasingly popular every year until it became an annual event. In 2002, Universal Studios Japan joined the festivities. The two major theme parks were instrumental in bringing Halloween to Japan. Though the concept is the same, there are some differences between the Japanese and American versions. First, the Japanese don’t focus on trick-or-treating like Americans do. This is because of the difference in culture — Japan frowns upon anything that would bother other people. Instead, Halloween is a time for adults to dress up and party - unsurprising considering the country’s love of cosplay. Japan now sees huge Halloween parties across the country. The biggest include the Shibuya Scramble Halloween Street Party, Ikebukuro Halloween Cosplay Fest, the Hello Halloween Pumpkin Parade in Omotesando, and of course the Halloween festivals at Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios. Read our guide to Halloween in Japan for more or our guides to Tokyo Disney Resort for an overview of everything the theme park has to offer.
4.) Autumn Leaves
If strolling through a Japanese garden surrounded by leaves of burnished gold, red and yellow sounds like your idea of heaven, then October might be the month for you. October is one of the best months to experience Japan’s beautiful autumn foliage. Like the cherry blossom season, autumn leaf viewing has become so popular that it has special phrases associated with it, such as ‘koyo’ which means ‘red leaves’, and Momiji-gari, which is ‘red leaf hunting’. Highly recommended autumn foliage viewing locations include Kamikochi in the northern Japanese alps, which is famous for its beautiful koyo, Kawaguchiko in the Fuji Five Lakes area, Nikko, Nara, and Arashiyama in Kyoto. Hokkaido also ranks high on the list as autumn tends to come early on Japan’s northernmost island. If you want to find out more about flower viewing in October read our guide to our Top Five Autumn Foliage Viewing Spots.
5.) Food Festivals
October sees Japan embrace autumn and winter seasonal foods designed to warm you up as the weather gets a little cooler. October is also a key month for food festivals such as the Tokyo Ramen Show and the Hokkaido Food Festival. There’s so much great food it has led to the phrase ‘autumn’s appetite’. It’s no surprise when you consider this is the season which brings dishes and flavours such as hearty and warming Ramen, persimmons (Kaki), pine mushroom broth, pumpkin soup, chestnuts, Kyoho grapes, sweet potato, comforting Pacific mackerel and Sanma fish, and many others, to the forefront of menus. There is even such a thing as ‘Maple Tempura’, which sees fresh leaves salted or sugared and then fried in tempura batter as a snack. For more on Japan’s love of food read our Beginners Guide to Japanese Food and Regional Dishes.
6.) Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden open-air performances
October sees the annual Mori no Takigi Noh performance in Shinjuku Gyoen park in Tokyo. These unmissable open-air shows feature traditional Japanese Noh drama and kyogen comedy in a beautiful park setting. Highly recommended in Tokyo in October.
7.) Cycle the Shimanami Kaido
Japan has some of the world’s best cycle routes and October is a great time to head out on two wheels thanks to the mild weather. Of all Japan’s brilliant cycle routes, the Shimanami Kaido is arguably the biggest and the best. The Shimanami Kaido is a 70km stretch of expressway which joins the country’s main island of Honshu with the island of Shikoku. While cycling this breath-taking route, you’ll travel over six bridges, cross the Seto Inland Sea, and pass across six smaller islands. You’ll also enjoy views of Seto Inland Sea National Park and the Tatara Bridge – one of the longest of its kind in the world – as you journey from Hiroshima Prefecture to Ehime Prefecture. You can also do the journey in reverse by traversing the Hiroshima side of the Shimanami Kaido and exploring Fukuyama and Onomichi. The latter is also home to the Onomichi U2 – a dedicated complex for cyclists with a connected hotel. Shimanami Kaido truly is a spectacular and beautiful route and is frequently ranked as one of the best cycle journeys in the world by dedicated followers of the sport. This spectacular route is also hugely practical for cyclists with 14 cycle docking stations to rent or return bikes. It is unique for having dedicated sections for bikes and pedestrians. It’s no wonder Shimanami Kaido is known as a ‘cyclist’s paradise’. To get to Shimanami Kaido from Osaka or Hiroshima, take the Sanyo Shinkansen to Fukuyama station. Once there, transfer to a JR train bound for Onomichi. You can read more about why Japan is such a great place for cyclists in I Want To Read My Bicycle: Japan’s Best Cycle Routes.
8.) Tamagawa Fireworks Festival
October also sees autumn fireworks. While fireworks are more associated with summer in Japan, there are several festivals in autumn including October;s Tamagawa Fireworks Festival in Tokyo. Read our guide to Hanabi: Japanese Fireworks to find out more.
9.) National Parks
As we mentioned above, October is a great time to experience the landscape of Japan and there are few better ways to do this than by visiting one or more of the country’s incredible National Parks (there are more than 30!). Japan’s national parks are said to be unique in the way they combine public, private and state-owned land. More importantly there are experiences to see, sights to behold and wonders to discover in the country’s national parks that are entirely unique to Japan. From volcanoes, forests, marshes, beaches, coastlines, underwater marine habitats, onsen (hot springs) and snowy mountains, Japan’s national parks are among the most spectacular in the world. For more, read our guide to Visiting Japan’s National Parks.
10.) October Art and Culture
October is not just about the great outdoors, but the inspiring indoors too! Many of Japan’s leading art galleries and museums launch their new exhibition season in October, making it an especially popular time for culture lovers. Recommendations include the Tokyo National Museum (as well as the national museums in Kyoto, Nara, and Kyushu), Sapporo Art Park, Hokkaido, Hakone Open Air Museum, Kanagawa, Mori Art Museum, Sumida Hokusai Museum Tokyo, and Kofukuji National Treasure Museum in Nara.
- If you’re planning an October visit to Japan and it’s your first time in the country, why not make life easier by using our Meet & Greet service on arrival? It’s like having an expert on Japan as your personal assistant. We’ll take care of you from the moment you arrive.
- If you’re still unsure whether October is the best time to visit, read our month by month description of Japan’s weather and seasons, When Is The Best Time To Visit Japan?
- Meanwhile, if you love the autumn months and would like to know more about Japan at this time of year read our dedicated guide to Japan in Autumn.
- Whenever you choose to visit, it’s super useful to stay connected to the internet and not just to upload selfies to social media. Whether you need language tips or directions, investing in a PocketWifi device for constant internet access and high speed unlimited data is highly recommended.