One day there is stifling heat and oppressive conditions, when it’s almost too hot to be outside, and then within a couple of days it starts to feel mild in comparison and without the high humidity. Gone are the late afternoon thunderstorms so typical in summer, replaced by cooler days, blue skies and clearer nights.
Tsukimi (moon-viewing) is thus an autumn custom, held in mid September. In fact, there are several public holidays on offer in this ‘fall’ season. Respect for the Aged Day and Autumnal Equinox Day are two other holidays that occur in September. In October there is a day off for Health and Sports Day. November has Culture Day and Labor Thanksgiving Day. So this is another reason that people in Japan welcome autumn.
It’s also a busy season, beginning with the rice harvest – a major even in rural Japan. Even nature is busy, not only with the changing leaves, but there is a ‘change of guard’ among the insects as well. The hornets (yellow-jackets) have made their nests for winter, and are nowhere to be seen. Replacing them are squadrons of dragonflies – the blue and green variety initially, and then the red and brown variety as one heads into deep autumn.
One of the most colorful signs announcing that autumn has arrived are the abundance of Cosmos flowers, with petals that are bright yellow, pink and white. Another fall flower is the ‘higan-bana’ (equinox flower), also referred to as ‘aki-bana’ (red flower) due to its bright scarlet hue. The Cosmos and the equinox flowers provide spectacular scenery on our morning walks in autumn.
Japanese people love talking about food, and autumn brings much to the table so to speak. Seasonal foods include chestnuts, ‘kaki’ (persimmon), ‘nashi’ (Asian pears), sweet potatoes (or yams), and ‘edamame’ (fresh soy beans) – which are great slightly boiled, salted, and used as a snack with beer! Due to the cooler nights, ‘Nabe’ (hot pot) parties are also very popular at this time of the year, mostly utilizing meat and vegetables in a special seasonal broth.
Of course it wouldn’t be fall without the autumn leaves, and they do offer such a vivid display of color here in Japan. Autumn is an exceptionally beautiful season, and many Japanese people go driving and hiking at this time to see the dazzling show that nature puts on. The bright yellow, iridescent orange and blazing red leaves often make it appear as if the forests and hillsides are on fire. There are still many barbecues happening as people sit outside and observe the spectacle.
And it’s a great time for sightseeing too, as many of Japan’s tourist attractions, castles and temples are wonderfully enhanced by the surrounding autumn foliage. The weather is often clearer with less risk of rain and storms, although typhoon season falls in autumn. However, they are few and far between, and easily predicted days ahead, giving travelers time to change their itineraries. Even commuting is pleasurable in autumn – windows down and no need for the air conditioner.
Personally for me, autumn is a great season in which to diet and exercise. Following a summer of barbecues and beer, autumn is a time to eat healthily and to change from beer to red wine. The cooler temperatures during the day also make it much easier to do exercise outdoors. Mandy and I take long walks under autumn leaves, ride our mountain bikes and can do calisthenics without getting sunburned or ending up dripping in sweat. Autumn fits in nicely between summer and Christmas, when party season begins all over again. Spring and autumn are definitely my two favorite seasons of the year for getting fit and losing weight. And the autumn leaves are like the spring flowers – so colorful.
Take care and I wish you a wonderful autumn season.