Every country has its own quirks regarding the seasons, and Japan is no exception. Here are some Japanese autumn activities that almost every Japanese person loves to do when the leaves turn color.

Japanese Autumn Activity 1: Tsukimi (moon viewing)

Dating back to the Heian era (794 – 1185), the concept of moon-viewing has evolved with time and adapted to modern customs. Instead of lavish banquets, people love to gaze at the moon with a small snack for Tsukimi in Japan. Officially Tsukimi is somewhere around mid-September, but you can celebrate the full moon on your own anytime you like. Read our article about how to celebrate Tsukimi for more information.

Tsukimi in Japan
Tsukimi, moon viewing in Autumn

Japanese Autumn Activity 2: Gathering Chestnuts

Go wherever the chestnuts may fall and, if allowed, bring a portable barbeque. The smell of roasted chestnuts on an open fire immediately means autumn. Invite some friends for a chestnut hunt and share the delicious harvest. Semboku city in Akita prefecture has the largest breed of chestnuts in all of Japan. One of its annual champion chestnuts weighed an impressive 66gr!

Japanese Chestnut Gathering

Japanese Autumn Activity 3: Harvest Rice

The Japanese autumn has farmers busy harvesting rice fields. Whether it’s done manually or by machine, rice harvesting is hard labor requiring lots of man-hours. If you live in the countryside and see someone with a rice field, just ask if you can help them. They will be very grateful and you can get one step closer to understanding Japanese rice culture. Read more about traditional rice harvesting in our article here.

Traditional Japanese Rice Harvest
Traditional Japanese Rice Harvest

Japanese Autumn Activity 4: Grill Some Sanma

Sanma or “Pacific Saury” is a typical autumn fish. In early autumn this fish is at its most delicious and is often grilled until crisp on a small fire. At one point this fish smelled so good that it caught the emperor’s attention. After a day of fun Japanese autumn activities, be sure to recharge with this seasonal Japanese dish.

Japanese Sanma Autumn Fish
Japanese Sanma Autumn Fish

Japanese Autumn Activity 5: Maple Leaf Hunting

Nothing beats admiring the falling leaves. And certainly, it’s best to appreciate Japan’s fall colors up close! Japanese people are very active and love taking walks in parks or the countryside. Instead of a regular walk, why not go maple leaf hunting for a Japanese autumn activity? Also, creative Japanese people love crafts and will gather the most beautiful fallen leaves to press and conserve. You can try this craft for yourself to memorialize your travel in Japan in autumn. If you need inspiration, here are Wattention’s top 3 leaf viewing spots in Japan.

Japanese Autumn Activity: Maple Hunting
Maple leaf

Japanese Autumn Activity 6: Try Satsuma Imo (roasted sweet potato)

It may sound like a simple Japanese treat, but roasted sweet potato can be a godsend on a cold day. You can find potato sellers with their carts near parks, outside the city, and even in your regular convenience store. Holding this steamy snack will warm up your hands and your body as you enjoy some other fun Japanese autumn activities.

Japanese Sweet Potato
Japanese Sweet Potato

Japanese Autumn Activity 7: Attend a School Sports Festival

Chances are you’re over the age to participate in one, but those still attending school have their annual sports festival this season. Many parents go see their children compete in various events and love to film it to preserve for future generations. For children, it is one of their favorite Japanese autumn activities.

Most festivals usually start around 8:30 am with a parade showing all the different participating teams divided by either neighborhood, class, geographical area, or school. It’s basically like a mini-Olympics.

School sports day
School sports day