Traveling to Japan from East Asia is generally a fairly straightforward option this time of year. It’s a great time to visit the popular island, and while international airfare can always be expensive, there are plenty of good options to keep in mind.
From Beijing, Asiana Airlines and Delta generally offer appealing tickets in the $300-$400 range, provided you look to schedule far enough in advance. From Singapore, things will typically be a little bit pricey, but Delta and China Eastern Airlines can get you some of the better fares. And from Hong Kong, China Eastern Airlines will sometimes have tickets you can buy for under $200, making it perhaps the best place from which to make the journey. As with flights anywhere the situation will vary, but often the best deals tend to come with early morning departures from mainland Asia.
The best way to secure a good, affordable flight is simply to keep an eye on fares as soon as you know you’re going to be heading to Japan. And in the meantime, it’s a good idea to research some of the activities you can enjoy once you’re there. A lot of the best sights and attractions in Japan are interesting 12 months a year. But I’m going to use this space to point to a few events that are specific to fall travel.
1. Takayama Autumn Festival
This is an annual festival that is said to have been held for 350 years, which makes it appealing right off the bat. You don’t find too many traditions like that around the world, and the rich history of Japan makes it all the more interesting. The festival consists of 11 tall floats that are paraded through the town of Takayama, standing tall over the streets and hung with lanterns. At the tops of the floats are mechanical dolls that essentially dance for the crowds during the floats’ progression. That’s about all for official festivities, but the crowds that attend bring plenty of energy. And during the day following the event, you can interact more closely with the famous mechanical dolls.
2. Japan Grand Prix
The Japan Grand Prix (or Japanese Grand Prix) takes place during the later portion of the Formula 1 racing calendar, and can be one of the most exciting races of the year. Taking place at the Suzuka Circuit in Suzuka City, it’s a particularly consequential event given that it has historically seen a lot of champions crowned. A Formula 1 season finds its champion simply when the standings leader puts his point total out of reach – and it tends to happen fairly frequently here. In fact, the event has hosted twelve world championship-deciding races.
3. Nagasaki Kunchi Festival
Undoubtedly one of the most famous autumn events on the Japanese calendar, the Nagasaki Kunchi Festival has actually existed since the mid-17th century! It’s a cleverly organized event designed to showcase the talents of the various neighborhoods of Nagasaki. A handful of those neighborhoods provide performers to do dances and entertain festival-goers each year, before taking several years off. This keps things fresh and interesting such that the entertainment and atmosphere changes with each new year.
4. Gion Odori
The geisha is perhaps one of the most intriguing figures in Japanese culture to much of the world. Geishas have been the subjects of books, major films, and video games, always depicted a little bit differently. But one of the games that employs them (in this case as background material for a digital slot machine) describes the geisha best as a traditional Japanese hostess trained in skills like dance, music, and poetry. There’s certainly an element of performance to the traditional geisha, and that’s what you’ll see at Gion Odori, an annual autumn dance in Kyoto. This is the city perhaps most famous for its geishas, and at this performance you can get an authentic feel for what they’re all about.
5. Sumo Kyushu Basho
Like the Japanese Grand Prix, this is more of a sporting event than a festival, but it’s still something that merits consideration. For those unfamiliar with the sport of Sumo, this is the sixth and final competition in a series of major events that take place each year. As such it’s a particularly exciting and important event, and perhaps the best opportunity to see authentic Sumo in Japan. The contest is held in the town of Fukuoka, where the locals tend to get pretty into the action.
Colin Campbell is an online editor, photographer, and blog contributor. Most of his work concerns the topics of travel, lifestyle, and entertainment.