Fall harvest festival in Takayama, Japan

Fall harvest festival in Takayama

Yatai detail with marionettes on top


Fall harvest festival in Takayama


The fall harvest festival in Takayama is worth putting into your travel bucket list when you visit Japan. This festival occurs twice yearly during the spring time and the fall for the harvest festival which I was lucky to visit.  Takayama is a small city that has retained its unique quality, traditions and craftsmanship in a timeframe of disappearing Japanese identity.

Due to the short seasons of spring and fall in the Gifu region (alpine country), Takayama holds two festivals annually to celebrate the spring and fall harvests.  Both festivals are very popular in Japan with elaborate celebrations, events and demonstrations including the colorful parades throughout the streets of Takayama. People from all over Japan and other countries come to celebrate and enjoy the parades and the two-day festivities. Fortunately, I was able to put this festival into my itinerary and book reservations ahead of time, since the hotels in the region are completely booked for the two-day festival. During the fall harvest which I attended, elaborate parades occur during the day and night along with daily cultural events, shows, food demonstrations and a large line-up of yatai (Japanese street food) filling up one enter side of sidewalk and riverfront area. (I’ll show you some highlights of the regional specialties in a future post)


Fall harvest festival in Takayama

An elaborately carved yatai float




Fall harvest festival in Takayama

Community members pull their yatai through the streets.


Colorful processions with beautiful floats or yatai and their community members attired in their best traditional wardrobes come out in mass to either pull the yatai or follow in the procession with drums, musical ensembles, choral singing groups or dancing like the flower girls below.


Fall harvest festival in Takayama

Elaborate robes for each community member






Fall harvest festival in Takayama

Young girls in traditional costume


You notice all the wonderful details to the yatai/floats with the gorgeous wood carvings, textiles, metal details and other superior craftsmanship the area is known for. The procession has very unique and cool features like this person carting a young tree to be planted, wood piper ensembles, elaborate dragon dances and children working the marionettes on top of each float to create a staged performance during the procession.


Intricate panel details to the yatai float

Intricate panel details to the yatai float






Wood carving panels on the yatai

Wood carving panels on the yatai






Children working the marionettes on top of the yatai

Children working the marionettes on top of the yatai





Celebrating the fall harvest

Celebrating the fall harvest by planting a tree




Dragon dance detail

Dragon dance detail



Line up of yatai floats for the fall harvest parade

Line up of yatai floats for the fall harvest parade





Fall harvest festival in Takayama

A short break after the afternoon parade

Famous Yatai of Takayama

The citizens of the city are proud to display their spectacular floats of elaborately carved yatai and intricate design of woodworking, metalwork, lacquering and painted applications. Started in the 17th century these ornate yatai are passed down from the various communities who orchestrate and are also beautifully costumed for the festive procession.  During the day time, the yatai are placed in the central route so you can visit and see all the detailed elements to each yatai and even strike up a conversation with any of the community volunteers within each yatai groupings. There is usually a daytime procession of the floats, but the most elaborate part takes place at night-time when the yatai are lit with hundreds of traditional lanterns adding to a magical illumination parade. Along with the floats are marionettes that are performed on top of the floats, traditional marching bands,  musical performances, dancers and even elaborate dancing dragons at various stages of the parade procession. It’s a very colorful performance and procession and taking pictures are a photographers dream at this festival.


Fall harvest festival in Takayama

The yatai’s are lit up with traditional lanterns





Fall harvest festival in Takayama

Waiting before the evening parade




Fall harvest festival in Takayama

A whole procession of wind instruments






Fall harvest festival in Takayama

A festive dragon dance


Later in the evening after the parade, the entire river front area is filled with colorful street food vendors loudly hawking their delicious bites and regional delicacies to a very hungry crowd. The area is busy and filled with visitors wanting to try many of the grilled, fried, baked or raw delicacies that make this festival an aromatic and culinary foodie delight. It’s easy to just follow your nose and eyes in trying something new or out of the ordinary here, and there is a lot of the unusual available to eat here! My upcoming post will cover more of the specialties at these festivals so stay tuned for my next installment.


Japanese street food or yatai

Strolling the yatai booths at night are very popular




Japanese street food or yatai

Specialty Onomiyaki dish



Celebrating the fall harvest and sharing the unique craftsmanship and artistry of the communities in Takayama makes this festival one of the most dazzling and colorful parades in Japan and is worth the effort to witness during the spring or fall festival.  It’s a wonderful thing to see a community take pride in their history, culture and artistry and craftsmanship to share their traditions with the rest of the country in its unique heritage. Takayama is a beautiful city that has retained many of its traditions, historic charms and artistic heritage, please take a look at my earlier post about this city here. I hope you enjoyed the fall harvest tour of Takayama and hopefully you can visit this someday.


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14 Responses to Fall harvest festival in Takayama, Japan

  1. Sand In My Suitcase December 11, 2013 at 10:09 am #

    This harvest festival in Japan looks really interesting! It must be quite something to see the processions and parades…

  2. Michele {Malaysian Meanders} December 1, 2013 at 9:00 pm #

    I have never heard of this festival. It looks so beautiful, and I am eagerly anticipating future posts about it. Those yatai look so solid that I initially thought it was a building until I scrolled down more. I am amazed that it’s pulled by people, not a truck. I really like that they get children involved, too, and that you can look at the yatai during the day at your leisure.

  3. Delia Laurent November 29, 2013 at 8:36 pm #

    Great pictures! I was there for the Spring festival though I haven’t published the pictures yet

  4. Christine November 29, 2013 at 12:30 pm #

    You take beautiful photos, Noel. Japan looks very colorful…Christine

  5. budget jan November 28, 2013 at 5:13 pm #

    I can see you are going to drive me into a frenzy of “I wanna visit Japan”. Lovely photos and some of costumes are amazing, espcially like the old man’s costume.

  6. Katie Featherstone November 28, 2013 at 11:10 am #

    Great photos. I love how you’ve captured the movement and colour in ‘A Festive Dragon Dance’ and some interesting portraits. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  7. Leigh November 28, 2013 at 3:09 am #

    I am in awe at how elaborate the floats and the costumes are. What a great way to draw a community together – and I love the fact it’s done twice a year. It looks like all ages are represented too.

  8. Carol aka Traveller November 27, 2013 at 10:36 pm #

    Fabulous photos. I was captivated by Japan when I went there some years ago. I would love to return some day as I only got a glimpse of what the country had to offer as we were based in Tokyo

  9. Johanna November 27, 2013 at 10:13 pm #

    Thanks for taking me to Takayama, Noel. It’s been a wonderful armchair expedition into a festival of intense colour.

  10. muzachan November 27, 2013 at 8:28 pm #

    Great photos, Noel 🙂

  11. A November 27, 2013 at 6:51 pm #

    The festivals there are always so incredible and so elaborate. I love the “festival food” as well. Thanks for sharing all these photos. I never made it to Takayama throughout all those travels to Japan. How long are you there for your trip?

  12. Marilyn Armstrong November 27, 2013 at 6:13 pm #

    Pictures so beautiful I really don’t have words to express how much I like them.

  13. travelnwrite November 27, 2013 at 4:46 pm #

    Wow! Simply stunning photos, Noel. The vividness of the colors is just a mental knockout! Most interesting.

  14. Nancie November 27, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

    Beautiful photos. Love the Japanese traditions. (Your FB like button is VERY large. I couldn’t get it closes; very distracting.)

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