Now that all the typhoons and sports festivals are finished, it’s time to take the time to enjoy the lovely autumn season in Japan. Autumn is my favourite season, both in my home country of Australia and here in Japan. But in Japan, it goes beyond cooler mornings and changing leaves. After the heat of a long Japanese summer, autumn comes as a relief, one KA mother aptly describes the crisp cool air like a blanket that wraps it’s arms around you. The autumn sky, both the sunsets and the clear, blue skies sometimes filled with clouds distracts me as I walk home.
Of course, the autumn foliage is a big feature in Japan, the glorious colours are almost as famous as the cherry blossoms of spring. But what makes the fall special is the length of time we have to enjoy the leaves. Cherry blossom viewing is so short, it’s a frenzy to fit your hanami party in (and never mind the pressure of bento making!); autumn’s splendour lasts for at least a month. Enjoying the foliage can be as simple as seeing the mountains around you change colour as we move from October to November, or with dedicated trips out. We always try to do a day trip somewhere to see the leaves – a couple of years ago, we went up Mount Rokko near Kobe on the cable car, last year we went to a nearby temple and this year we are planning to visit Arashiyama in Kyoto. Of course everyone has their favourite places, KA blog team member Corin declares Akita in the north of Japan as the best place for autumn foliage and by the looks of her pics, I agree.
Autumn is also a great time to get your kids out in nature, long walks, spent searching for donguri (acorns) and of course jumping, in giant leaf piles. I’m sure it’s the only time of year kids will actually want to do work outside because the result means FUN!
Culturally and traditionally, autumn is also an important time in Japan to celebrate the abundance of the harvest. And what delights this harvest brings! The food at this time of year is amazing! The Japanese term for it is Shokuyaku no aki, roughly translated as autumn food. After the trials of cooking and the lack of fresh ingredients through a hot summer, the abundance of fruits and vegetables at this time of year makes you want to eat. Two classic autumn dishes are kurigohan (chestnut rice) and oden. More excitingly, well for me anyway, it means that nabemono (Japanese hot pot) is on it’s way!
Other foods that belong in the shokuyaku no aki category are kaki (persimmon), yakimo (sweet potato), mikan (similar to mandarins but much nicer!) matsutake mushrooms, nashi (pears), and the fish sanma, or in English mackerel pike. According to surveys, over 65% of Japanese people associate sanma with the fall. For many the sound of autumn is the yakimo cart, broadcasting it’s wares across the neighbourhood. Check it out below:
And finally, the other big fall attraction is the themed lattes and drinks at Starbucks. Some people are fans of a pumpkin spiced latte, I on the other hand, are in the group of people who feel like the excellent comedian John Oliver does, that anything pumpkin-flavored is just gross! See the link here to his awesome pumpkin rant.
So, get out there, see some leaves, eat your fill of mikan and kaki, stop off for some oden at the convenience store and enjoy this amazing time of year in Japan,
Mum to three very loud boys and wife to a patient Japanese man, I'm Australian and moved to the Kansai area in 2012. Aside from navigating all the craziness of being a mum in another country, I work semi-full time and try to keep my sanity! Of course I clean but I don't cook!