Ikebukuro Autumn Festival, Tokyo: A Photo Essay

with 32 Comments

Before going to Japan, our friend +Lili Florea (aka Muza-Chan) recommended us to attend at least one matsuri. Given our fondness for festivals and all things traditional, we thought it would be an amazing idea, but at the same time we weren’t sure our traveling dates would coincide with any festival.

Well, they say there’s always a festival somewhere in Japan, and we actually ended up bumping into four – the Ikebukuro Autumn Festival, the Jidai Matsuri in Kyoto, a street festival in Nagoya and another festival in Arashiyama

First of all we got lucky by accidentally booking our hotel in Ikebukuro, one of the liveliest and most colorful areas of Tokyo. Second, we happened to be there at the beginning of October, right when the Ikebukuro Autumn Festival was held.

We were told this was one of the biggest autumn festivals in Japan, lasting the whole weekend, and involving parades and concerts next to Ikebukuro Station West Exit (the second-busiest railway station in the world, and therefore very much accessible with a JR Pass). Loud music washed the streets and people of all ages dressed in gorgeous costumes danced centuries old rhythms in spite of the light rain. The Japanese autumn festivals are traditionally held to give thanks to the gods for the rice harvest and pray for the well-being of the community. 

We were surprised however to see nobody was pushing to see the parade. Actually, there weren’t that many people gathered on the side road (by European festival standards, anyways) and from what we could tell, we were the only western faces around, which totally was a pity, because the festival was an eye candy. At the end of the day, after the crowds left, we were equally surprised to see the streets as clean as always. Japan runs this ‘take your garbage at home’ policy and in spite of the lack of garbage bins on the streets, nobody litters the public spaces. 

Our time in Japan was courtesy of Japan Rail Pass.

32 Responses

  1. Mimi
    | Reply

    So cool you guys got to see one of the biggest autumn festivals in Japan! Love Tokyo!

  2. Alison
    | Reply

    The Ikebukuro autumn festival is my favorite festival in Tokyo!

  3. Just left a message but I don't think it took.

    Gorgeous photos! I'm so envious that you got to experience one of Japan's festivals. I went recently, but not during festival time. I hope someday to see some of this.

    • Laura
      | Reply

      We were afraid we won't get to see any matsuri either, but I guess we were lucky in the end. Japan is a wonderful country to revisit, maybe next time you will stumble upon a festival just like we did πŸ˜‰

  4. Eurotrip Tips
    | Reply

    That's so cool! Looking forward to going to Japan and stumbling on an odd festival like this!

    • Laura
      | Reply

      The Japanese festivals are pretty different from the European ones. I'm sure you will have tons of fun attending one πŸ™‚

  5. Koren @ City Gal
    | Reply

    This looks so cool! I love all the bright colored kimonos!!

    • Laura
      | Reply

      They are awesome, right?

  6. Rajyalakshmi Vathyam
    | Reply

    Very beautiful photographs and loevly colorful constumes as well!

    • Laura
      | Reply

      Thank you, Raji. The dances they performed were very interesting too. Not what we expected, for sure!

  7. David @ Malaysia Asia
    | Reply

    Loving the colors in this post! Glad you caught this stunning festival, I would have loved to be there too.

    • Laura
      | Reply

      Well, the good news is that the autumn festival is held every year, so maybe you can go next year πŸ™‚

  8. Travel universally
    | Reply

    That's cool to know that Japan witnesses many festivals throughout the year! I think I need to make a space for Japan in my Travel plan!

    • Laura
      | Reply

      Japan is an amazing country, very much different from any other countries you might have experienced. I'm sure you would enjoy it very much.

  9. Bryan McHeyzer
    | Reply

    Hi Laura,
    Looks like lots of people have lots of fun:-)

    Pinned one of your pictures.
    Cheers
    Bryan

    • Laura
      | Reply

      Thanks Bryan! It's a joy filled festival and Ikebukuro was an even more fun place to be that weekend than usual πŸ™‚

  10. Daniel J. Jones
    | Reply

    Love the pictures, the colors, and the smiles. Great post:)

    • Laura
      | Reply

      Everybody was having contagious fun, from little kids to grannies and gramps πŸ™‚

  11. The Guy
    | Reply

    They are fabulous pictures. The festival seems to be full of vibrant colours.

    • Laura
      | Reply

      It's a wonderful festival, very much worth experiencing. And we had so much fun taking these pictures!

  12. Vera
    | Reply

    Very beautiful – I wish I could have been there… Looks like everybody is having a really good time! And how can you NOT look awesome in a Kimono! Wow.

    • Laura
      | Reply

      I know, right? Kimonos are always so elegant! I talked to a girl in kimono at Matsumoto Castle and she said they are very uncomfortable to wear. But I've heard they are even more difficult to put on!

  13. Jade - OurOyster.com
    | Reply

    Wow… the costumes are so beautiful!

    • Laura
      | Reply

      The costumes were so, so pretty, but you should have seen them dancing! What a show they put! Too bad we didn't take a video of the parade.

  14. Nguyen Hai
    | Reply

    Thanks you! Your information is very useful, I hope I get to experience one of these wonderful festivals someday.!

    • Laura
      | Reply

      I hope so too! πŸ™‚ The Japanese festivals are pretty unique.

  15. Cathy Sweeney
    | Reply

    I would definitely take Muza-chan's advice when visiting Japan. I hope I get to experience one of these wonderful festivals someday. Lucky you getting to four of them!

    • Laura
      | Reply

      I know, Cathy, Muza-Chan is the expert when it comes to Japan. Given our own experience, I don't think it will be that difficult to attend a festival when you'll be visiting Japan, especially if you visit in spring or autumn. The matsuris are very colorful and make for a great bucket list idea.

  16. Muza-chan
    | Reply

    I'm so glad you found the time to experience such a festival and that you enjoyed it. And you also took such great photos! Congratulations!

    • Laura
      | Reply

      Thank you, Muza-Chan! It was such an incredible experience! The Japanese festivals turned out to be pretty different from the European ones (not that I expected anything else)

  17. Lane
    | Reply

    Wow. Look at the color and clarity. Have to post this on my Google+ page for other photographers to discover. Kudos!

    • Laura
      | Reply

      Thanks a million, Lane, this is such a nice thing to do!

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