November happens to take place during the second-most beautiful season in Japan. When maple trees’ leaves become red and those of ginkgo trees turn yellow, it is a symbol of a vibrant fall. Japanese people, who love contemplating these koyo, pay attention to the weather forecasts to plan visits during the best moments of this season.
In November, the number of foreign visitors, notably those from western countries, is decreasing. As winter is drawing near and without school break, November is not appealing for vacation. Yet the attendance at touristic sites remains high because people know that it is an excellent period to enjoy Japan’s diverse landscapes. It is a time for the locals to take a break.
Weekends happen to be quite busy in thermal mountain resorts, in parks and temples renowned for their fall colors. Kyoto City is a popular place, and its accommodations quickly fill, and its main attractions soon become overcrowded. During the second part of November, we recommend planning visits between Mondays and Fridays rather than the weekend.
Climate and weather
November is a pleasant month regarding humidity: the country’s atmosphere goes from rainy to dry. There is a high sunshine rate, and there are many sunny days. However, average temperatures range lower, from 10 to 17°C (50 to 62.6°F). Mornings and evenings quickly become chilly, going below 10°C. Kansai cities, such as Osaka and Hiroshima, enjoy a higher temperature, just like Kyushu in the South. Tokyo, on the other hand, is colder. In the mountains, winter brings snow as early as the end of the month.
National public holidays
Two public holidays are not worked in November:
- November 3 -- 文化の日 Bunka no hi, Culture Day
- November 23 -- 勤労感謝の日 Kinro Kansha no hi, Labor Thanksgiving Day
Top things to do
A cheerful and light ambiance encourages multiple street events and goes well with beautiful fall spots. The crowd grows as night falls, especially when the weekend arrives. During the weekdays, tourists enjoy the company of retired Japanese people who know all the good spots of the season.
It is also the season of chrysanthemum flowers, and there are multiple exhibitions of them along parks, temples and shrines.
While the day is sunny, colder evenings allow you to plan cozy, indoor activities.
You will find below some activities to plan in November:
|Date||What to do||Where||Related|
|November 1 to 10||Attend a geiko and maiko show during Gion Odori in Gion Kaikan||Kyoto||Tradition|
|November 2 to 3||Admire musical and artistic shows of more than 20 000 people parading in downtown streets during the Ohara fall festival||Kagoshima||Event|
|November 2 to 4||Discover Karatsu Kunchi matsuri and its famous hikiyama floats with its surprising forms of fish, samurai helmets, lions, dragons, etc.||Karatsu (Saga)||Event|
|November 3||Attend the Daimyo Gyoretsu costume parade starting at 10am in Soun-ji temple at Hakone-Yumoto||Hakone||Event|
|November 8||Participate in the Ohitaki fire festival in the Fushimi Inari shrine, which is dedicated to a prosperous harvest, at 1pm||Kyoto||Event|
|2 to 3 days in November||Celebrate the day of the Rooster (once every 12 days in November) in Tokyo’s nearby temples and shrines, and enjoy a festive evening going with the crowd to get lucky rakes, or kumade||Tokyo||Tradition|
|November 12 to 26||Buy tickets for the last competition of the year of the sumo championships in Fukuoka Kokusai Center||Fukuoka||Tradition|
|From mid-November||Wander in Showa Memorial Park under the yellow leaves of the ginkgo trees||Tachikawa (Tokyo)||Visit|
|From mid-November||Admire the red leaves of the maple trees in parks, gardens and mountains, during the day or with nightly illuminations||Honshu (Kanto and South), Shikoku, Kyushu||Visit|
|Week-end near November 15||Go meet little girls dressed in kimonos like their mothers during Shichi-go-san, the day of 3-year old, 5-year-old and 7-year old children in shrines in Japan (including Meiji-jingu in Tokyo)||Everywhere in Japan||Event|
|All month long||Attend a traditional show of Kaomise Kabuki at Kabuzika theater by booking online in advance||Tokyo||Event|
|All month long||Taste Japanese pastries like wagashi, shaped in maple leaf||Everywhere in Japan||Food|
|All month long||Go to the annual exhibition of chrysanthemums, the symbol of the Japanese imperial family, in Hibiya park||Tokyo||Event|
Travel packing tips
The contemplation of red leaves is a rather static visit, so we advise you to bring enough layers of clothes and coats to enjoy your trip as much as possible without being cold. Women can also plan to bring winter urban clothing with warm tights and dresses. Classic leather boots are a smart compromise for cold and humid days. We recommend packing scarves, gloves, winter hats and sunglasses if you plan to hike in mountains. A comfortable outfit will allow you to fully enjoy the outstanding contrast between the blue sky and the vibrant colors of the trees. Hydrating skin products will be necessary for those with sensitive skin.
For photo and video equipment, amateurs should plan to bring enough memory cards and a tripod to shoot pictures of the momiji during night illuminations. Note however that most temples forbid tripod use when crowded.