Nihonmatsu Lantern festival
October 4-6 Nihonmatsu Jinja, Nihonmatsu, Fukushima The annual grand festival of Nihonmatsu Jinja is the location of one of Japan's three great lantern festivals. 7 large floats bedecked with hundreds of paper lanterns parade through the town to the strains of festival music.
Sawara festival October 8-10 Sawara, Chiba Huge 4m dolls representing figures from Japan's historical past are paraded through the city. There is also a similar summer festival held July 16-18.
Arimatsu festival Early October Arimatsu, Aichi A procession of heavy floats are pulled through the streets by happi-clad men accompanied by traditional music in Arimatsu, an eastern suburb of Nagoya known for its traditional shibori (tie-dye) crafts.
Warai Festival 8 October Niu-Jinja Shrine, Wakayama Various traditional dances and a bizarre laughing "warai" festival as the participants laugh in time to the jangle of small bells and commands from a leader. Access: JR Wasa Station
Nagasaki Kunchi 7-9 October Suwa-Jinja Shrine, Nagasaki-shi, Nagasaki
Lively festival with a cosmopolitan atmosphere reflecting Nagasaki's history of international contact. Features parades of colourful floats and unique dances, all with a strong Chinese influence from Suwa Shrine in Nagasaki. Regularly attracts over 350,000 visitors.
Dai Ginza Matsuri October 10-17 Ginza, Tokyo
Held every since 1968, the 100-year anniversary of the Meiji Restoration. Parades, bazaars and bands fill the streets of Ginza in Tokyo with colour and music but the main attraction has to be the bargain sales held by the major name stores in the district.
Ana-hachimangu Yabusame October 10 Ana-hachimangu Shrine, Tokyo
Demonstrations of yabusame, the ancient Japanese art of horseback archery. 2-3 blocks from Waseda Station on the Tozai Line in Tokyo.
Naha Festival October 10 Naha, Okinawa Prefecture
Many events and folk entertainments to enjoy but the centrepiece is the tug-of-war involving a rope, 1.5m in diameter, and weighing no less than 27 tons. Hundreds of competitors and many thousands of spectators attend this lively matsuri in Naha, Okinawa.
Participant and spectator at the Arimatsu Festival in Aichi Prefecture
Nagoya Festival is the city's biggest festival with a number of processions through downtown Nagoya
Midosuji Parade October 13 Central Osaka
Held on Midosuji Avenue in Osaka annually since 1983, this parade has the most varied selection of entertainments out of all Japanese parade festivals. Features music, dance, costumes and tradition not just from Japan but from all over the world.
Nada Fighting Festival 14-15 October Himeji-shi, Hyogo
It is said that the rough and tumble of fighting festivals pleases the gods - and the rougher the better. Mikoshi battles and hand-to-hand scrapping for all to enjoy in Himeji. Young men in loin cloths carrying portable shrines battle to reach the bell in the courtyard of Matsubara Shrine. The first man to ring the bell is blessed with good fortune by the shrine priests. The Himeji Kenka Matsuri is one of Kansai's most colorful festivals.
Access: Sanyo Dentetsu train to Shirahama-no-miya Station.
Doburoku Festival October 14-19 Shirakawago, Gifu Prefecture
Harvest festival in Shirakawa-go where visitors to the shrines in the area are treated to the local doboroku, a milky-white and slightly sweet home-brewed sake.
Nagoya Festival Mid-October Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture
Nagoya's biggest festival takes place over two days in various parts of the city including daily large parades of giant floats with period costume and accompanying kagura music down Otsu dori celebrating Japan's three great medieval strongmen: Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu. Other events include: exhibitions of medieval warfare yabusame (horseback archery) in Atsuta jingu and mock fighting with pikes in Angel Square just south of Nagoya TV Tower. More contemporary-focused events include marching bands, open-car and flower parades and children's activities. Nagoya Festival
Sennin Musha Gyoretsu 16-17 October Nikko, Tochigi Sennin Musha Gyoretsu (lit. procession of a thousand warriors) a reenactment in period costume of the 1617 procession accompanying the remains of Tokugawa Ieyasu to Nikko.
Niihama Drum Festival 16-18 October Niihama, Ehime Decorated portable stages carrying drumming teams are carried by hundreds of other men in this huge taiko drumming competition. 30 teams of 150 compete every year.
Shimabara Hot-Springs Matsuri Mid-October Shimabara, Nagasaki Prefecture
Two event-filled days honoring the health-giving hot-springs of Shimabara City. Festivities include a beauty pageant, a folk-singing contest, parades and torch-lit Noh performances in Shimabara Castle grounds.
Doburoku Festival October 17-18 Shiharige Jinja Shrine, Ota, Oita Prefecture Festival of sake-drinking at one of the few shrines in Japan allowed to serve home brewed sake to worshippers. Plenty of unrefined, milky-white sake to go round.
Read more about the Shirahige Tahara Doburoku Matsuri
Kenkun Shrine, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture
Warlord Oda Nobunaga is enshrined in Kenkun Shrine and every year on October 19, the day Oda first entered Kyoto in 1568, participants in period dress re-enact his march into the city.
October 19 Koyama, Kagoshima Prefecture Yabusame (horse-back archery) festival performed by young boys. There is a procession of men in samurai costume and dressed as dragons, followed by the archery contest with elaborately dressed and made up young boys. Read more about the Koyama yabusame festival
Kawagoe Matsuri Third weekend in October Kawagoe-shi, Saitama
Recreates the splendour of the Edo period. Magnificent floats and mikoshi parade around the old town area of Kawagoe outside Tokyo before taking part in the hikkawase ceremony in which they are forcefully crashed in to each other. The hon-matsuri (full festival) takes place once every two years.
Jidai Matsuri 22 October Heian Jingu Shrine, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto
One of the most spectacular parades to be found at any of Japan's autumn festivals. Consists of over 1,700 marchers representing figures from Japanese history in a five-hour long parade. The procession starts from the Imperial Palace (Gosho) in Kyoto at noon and heads west along Marutachi dori, then south on Karasuma to Oike dori, then through Gion and Sanjo dori culminating at Heian Shrine.
Matsue Do-Gyoretsu 3rd Sunday in October Matsue, Shimane Prefecture A drumming festival in which 30 neighbourhood teams compete to outplay each other on huge taiko drums mounted on floats.
Hi Matsuri (Fire Festival) 22 October Kurama, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto One of the most "unique" of Japan's autumn festivals. The festival is held in the mountain village of Kurama, north of the city. Participants carry torches and light bonfires throughout the night. Later revelers carry a mikoshi (portable shrine) from Yuki Shrine in Kurama.
Ton-Ten-Ton Festival 22-24 October Imari-shi, Saga Prefecture Pounding drums and real danger characterise this major fighting festival. Teams of bearers ram their mikoshi into each other at top speed and battle until one is forced to the ground. Climaxes with a pair of mikoshi racing to cross the river.
Ueno Tenjin Matsuri 23-25 October Sugawara Jinja Shrine, Ueno-shi, Mie Festival featuring a unique parade of mikoshi (floats) and dancers led by 100 people dressed as oni (demons) and wearing comical masks.
Edo Tenka Matsuri Festival Late October Hibiya Park, Tokyo Originally held under the official approval of the Tokugawa Shogunate (1603-1667), the Edo Tenka Matsuri was re-established in 2003 to mark the 400th anniversary of the beginning of the shogunate. Nine mikoshi and 12 floats accompany a large happi-clad procession from Hibiya Park to the Imperial Palace.
DISCLAIMER Festivals may be cancelled or postponed without much warning. Check with your local tourist office for confirmation.