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Festivals of Japan: Takayama Autumn Festival

The Takayama Autumn Festival is one of Japan’s biggest and most famous festivals attracting a large number of spectators every year

By 3 min read

The Takayama Autumn Festival is a beautiful and elegant festival held in the old town of Hida Takayama in the mountains of Gifu Prefecture in Central Japan. The festival is one of the three most beautiful festivals of Japan along with the Gion Matsuri in Kyoto and the Chichibu Yomatsuri in Saitama.

The festival has been celebrated for around 400 years now and is held twice a year in spring and autumn in the old town of Takayama. The Takayama Festival is believed to have started between the 16th and 17th Century with the Autumn Festival held annually on the 9th and 10th of October along with the Spring Festival which is held on the 14th and 15th of April.


The Autumn Festival is centered on Sakurayama Hachiman Shrine in the northern part of the old town, and is also referred to as the Hachiman Festival. It signifies the coming of autumn after the hot summer.

Festival Highlights

The Takayama Autumn Festival features festival floats, mikoshi procession and a stunning karakuri puppet performance. The highlight of the festival are the gorgeous ornate festival floats which are called yatai in Japanese. The beautiful floats date from the 17th Century and feature intricate carvings and elaborate decorations. On both festival days the floats are displayed in the streets of Takayama from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. The festival floats are truly spectacular with each float representing a specific district in Takayama.

The festival floats are topped with mechanical marionette puppets called karakuri ningyo, which many people regard as the true stars of the festival. The puppets breathtakingly perform for the crowd of onlookers and are operated by strings and push rods from within the floats. The sophisticated puppets along with the gorgeous festival floats represent the skilled craftsmanship of the Hida Takayama master craftsmen. Takayama has since ancient times been renowned for its highly skilled carpenters and craftsmen, whose expertise was used to build many of the famous temples in Kyoto and Nara.

There is an evening festival on the first day where the floats are lined up just before dusk and lit with traditional Japanese lanterns called chochin. The locals of Takayama dressed in traditional kimono or hakama then proudly escort the floats on a tour of the streets of the old town. Many people regard the evening festival (yomatsuri) as the highlight of the festival.

The Takayama Autumn Festival is one of Japan’s biggest and most famous festivals attracting a large number of spectators every year to see its magnificent floats.

Festival Information:

Location: Hida Takayama, Gifu Prefecture
When: October 9-10
Time: Festival Floats 9:00 am to 4:00 pm
Karakuri Doll Performance 12:00 pm to 3 pm (Oct 9) 11:00 am to 1:00 pm (Oct 10)
Evening Festival on October 9 from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Cost: FREE


From Nagoya take the Hida Wide View Limited Express from JR Nagoya Station to JR Takayama Station. The journey takes around 150 minutes. You can walk to the old part of town in around 15 minutes from JR Takayama Station.


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