A festive end to the summer
When do you know autumn has really arrived? For some, fall is signalled by the official end to the swimming season; for others, it’s an increase in appetite with the cooling weather. Yet others reach for a romance paperback as the days shorten, but in Kumamoto, autumn is signalled by the distant sound of a trumpet and brightening of the streets. Suddenly, it’s festival time at Fujisaki Hachiman Shrine. The 5-day Autumn Festival, held from September 11 to 15, is a platform on which numerous traditional and other events unfold. The action reaches a crescendo with the Zuihyo Parade on the 15th, which departs from the shrine’s main precinct at 6:00am and returns at dusk, offering visitors two chances to take in the color and noise. Dressed in short happi kimonos, participants walk alongside elaborately decorated horses, blasting on trumpets, pounding on taiko drums and generally whooping it up with shouts of “dokai, dokai!”. Over 60 groups of local business people and community leaders make up the parade, while thousands of spectators make for a hubbub that resounds throughout the city. Kumamoto is a delight in autumn. Golden-leafed gingko trees seem to light up every park, especially the sprawling grounds of Kumamoto Castle, and the autumn foliage adds vibrancy to the normally mono-hued green vistas of Suizenji Gardens. Even the city’s old-fashioned tea shops and funky fashion stores are more fun to visit in autumn, with the city’s notoriously hemmed-in summer heat finally gone. Before heading back to the big smoke, make sure to sample Kumamoto’s garlicky, thick ramen ﾐ very different from Hakata ramen. Regular bus and train services to the city make it an ideal day-trip, and it’s compact enough to navigate on foot once you’re there, so head on down to Kumamoto soon!