October is known as Kannazuki in Japan. There are various theories as to the origin of the name, but the most popular is that it means "month of the gods (Kami in Japanese)", in other words, the month to worship the gods. During this month when rice and other crops are harvested, autumn festivals are held all over the country to express gratitude for a bountiful harvest and fruitfulness.
In Japan, October is a perfect time to go out and enjoy the cool and refreshing autumn air. This article introduces some of the traditional events and customs of October.
"Kamiari Festival" at Izumo Taisha Shrine, where 8 million deities gather
According to a popular belief from the Middle Ages onward, in October, the gods of all Japan gather in the country of Izumo (present-day Shimane Prefecture).
The Izumo Taisha Shrine in Izumo City is the place where the eight million gods gather once a year. "Okuninushi no Okami", enshrined at Izumo Taisha, is renowned as the god of marriage. Not only he brings blessings to men and women, but also to all good relationships that surround people. Many worshippers visit the shrine throughout the year to pray for good luck and matchmaking.
From October 10 to 17 of the lunar calendar, Izumo Taisha Shrine holds the Kamimukae-shinji and Kamiari Festival to welcome the gods who have come all the way to Izumo from faraway places. During the seven days of the Kamiari Festival, the gods hold Kamubakari, a meeting to connect people with happiness.
The "Kannamesai Festival" at Ise Jingu Shrine to thank for a bountiful harvest
Ise Jingu Shrine, located in Ise City, Mie Prefecture, is known as the most important shrine in Japan and has been revered as a special shrine since ancient times. The shrine has a history of about 2,000 years, and in the Edo period (1603-1867), "Okage-mairi", a group visit to Ise Jingu Shrine from all over Japan, became very popular. Even today, many people still visit the shrine.
Among the 1,500 annual rituals held at Ise Jingu, the most important is the "Kannamesai Festival" held in October each year. This is an event to offer the new rice harvested that year to Amaterasu Omikami, the main deity of Japan, to thank her for a bountiful harvest.
At the Kannamesai Festival, the new rice is served to the Emperor together with the deity. In the past, it was forbidden to eat new rice until this day. This story shows how important rice is to the Japanese as an agricultural people.
October Charming Seasonal Tradition
Autumn Leaf Hunting
For the Japanese people, autumn leaf hunting is one of the most popular autumnal recreational activities. Despite the general meaning of hunting, autumn leaf hunting refers to going into the fields and mountains to enjoy viewing the beautifully colored deciduous leaves. It is said that the word hunting was first used by aristocrats in the Heian period (794-1185) to admire the autumn colors. There are many autumn foliage viewing spots throughout Japan and the beauty of the trees turning red and yellow is exceptional.
Japan has had the custom of "tsukimi" or moon-watching for long time. The most famous moon viewing is the Fifteenth Night in August of the lunar calendar (the middle to late September of the present calendar). After about a month on the Thirteenth Night, we can see another beautiful moon which is not completely full. It can be said that the Japanese have a unique spirit of appreciating the beauty of imperfect things such as the imperfectly round moon.
Many fruits are in season in October. Among them, the most delicious fruits are grapes, pears, chestnuts, and persimmons. Japanese fruits are highly regarded around the world, and fruit picking in Japan is becoming popular among foreign visitors to Japan. Fruit picking is a leisure activity in which visitors go to farms to pick fruits with their own hands and eat them on the spot or take them home as souvenirs. Visitors can experience the joy of harvesting and eating at the same time.
Stories related to the four seasons
- January, A Harmonious Family Moment
- February, Demons Out! Fortune In!
- March, Hina Festival for Girls
- April, Cherry blossoms in full bloom
- May, Carp streamers swimming in the sky
- June, Rain falls when plum fruits are ripening
- July, Lovers Meeting across the Milky way on Tanabata
- August, Obon to welcome ancestors back home
- September, Can you see the moon rabbit?
- October, When 8 million deities gather at Izumo Taisha
- November, Shichi-Go-San Festival to celebrate kids' growth
- December, Japanese way of spending Christmas