Perhaps the largest moon festival event in western Japan, the Himeji Castle Sannomaru Square Moon Viewing Festival draws thousands of spectators –for good reason. The Himeji Moon Festival is located near Himeji Castle, a registered UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the most beautiful castles in Japan. While Himeji Castle itself is covered by a temporary outer structure because of restoration lasting until 2015, the area surrounding the castle is still incredibly beautiful.
The festival lasts from 6pm to 9pm, featuring traditional koto, sword dance and taiko drum as well as Western classical violin and jazz performances. Alongside the performances, there are booths selling oden (Japanese stew), dango (sweet circular rice cakes on a stick) and more. Himeji oden in particular is a local favorite for its unique additional ingredients of ginger, soy sauce and sometimes spring onions. Another area lets people try out a traditional Japanese tea ceremony.
Moon festivals are celebrated throughout East Asia, in countries such as Vietnam, China, Korea and Taiwan. Most moon festivals fall on the full moon during the autumnal equinox: the time when the moon appears largest in northern hemispheric countries like those in East Asia. In Japan, the Moon Festival (お月見, otsukimi) dates back to at least the Heian Period (794 – around 1192), when nobility would celebrate by riding boats and watching the reflection of the moon in the water and their cups of saké. Nowadays, Japanese celebrate by drinking saké, looking at the moon and eating foods in the shape of the full moon like dango or the boiled eggs found in oden.
Himeji Moon Festival is one of the most popular moon festivals around, and one of the best places to experience a Japanese Moon Viewing Festival. I suggest bringing some friends and your own food and saké to avoid the long lines, and having a nice dinner picnic while listening to the tones of classical violin, jazz, koto and taiko drums under the silver moonlight.
How to Get There:
From Sannomiya: Take the JR Himeji Line, get off at Himeji Station, walk through the Honmachi District to the castle park (49 Minutes; 950 yen)