You may call it “autumn,” “fall,” or “aki,” but one thing’s for sure: the seasons are changing in Okinawa. Sweltering summer days give way to milder temperatures, perfect for ushering in several holidays and festivals in October and November. While some of the festivities are celebrated throughout Japan, some are unique to Okinawa, so check them out while you have the chance!
We’ve rounded up the best festivals and celebrations on Okinawa through October and November, plus when and where they take place, so you can mark your calendars and cross it off your “Okinawa bucket list.”
Sports Day – When: October 10 Where: Throughout Japan
Originally, Health and Sports Day commemorated the opening of the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. Today, it exists to promote health and active lifestyles. The biggest celebration in Okinawa happens on Naha’s Kokusai Street, where a three-day festival starts the weekend before Sports Day, with parades and other must-see events.
Tug-Of-War – When: October 9 Where: 58 at Kumoji in Naha
Naha’s tug-of-war event isn’t the only one in Okinawa, but it’s the biggest, holding the record for largest in the world. The battle between East and West sides has been passed down from the Ryukyu Kingdom; today, people come from all over the world to participate. Be sure to bring some gloves to avoid rope burn, and a knife or scissors to cut of a piece of the 40-metric-ton rope for a momento.
Okinawa Soba Day – When: October 17 Where: A Restaurant Near You!
On October 17, 1978, the government of Japan recognized Okinawa soba as soba, though distinct from the darker buckwheat noodles and broth of mainland’s. Okinawa’s version features wheat noodles, broth flvored with seaweed and pork, typically topped with fih cake, pickled ginger, pork belly, and scallions. If you haven’t already, slurp up a bowl at one of the 2,000+ restaurants in Okinawa that serve the famous soup.
Shuri Castle Festivals – When: October 28 – October 30 Where: Shuri Castle Park & Kokusai Street
Fall is a great time to catch one of several unique cultural events celebrating Okinawa’s cultural history of the Ryukyu Kingdom, organized by Shuri Castle Park. A vassal ceremony, reenacting the arrival and welcoming of the Chinese emperor, takes place October 31. The following day, feast your eyes on a colorful procession on Kokusai Street of the emperor, Ryukyu king, queen, and court. That same weekend, Shuri Castle Park opens up at night, gorgeously lit with lanterns.
7-5-3 (Shichi-Go-San) – When: November 15 Where: throughout Japan
Seven-fie-three is a rite of passage for children of Japan, to celebrate growth and wish for long life. It honors girls aged seven and three and boys aged three and fie (odd numbers are lucky). The children are dressed up in formal kimono and taken to shrines to be blessed. For some girls, this is the fist time their hair is worn in a bun, and pictures are often taken. Keep an eye out this day; you may spot some adorably dressed children walking around.