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Hachioji Ichou Festival 2020: A Safe and Fun Outdoor Activity for Autumn in Tokyo

Date: 11.10.2020

Despite the unusual year that 2020 has been for humanity, Mother Nature carries on with her enticing seasonal changes. With the time of year for colorful foliage fast approaching, Japan will soon be painted in hues of red, orange, and yellow from the mountains to the cities. One of the best places to see this display is in Hachioji, Tokyo, where the annual Hachioji Ichou Festival is held.

 

What is Ginkgo?

The ginkgo tree’s distinctive fan-shaped leaves.

Ichou or Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) in English is a species of tree native to China. It is said that this tree was introduced to Japan nearly one thousand years ago. Nowadays, ginkgo trees are found throughout Japan, often lining the streets of cities and town, and are known as a symbol of autumn in this nation. The name is said to be derived from the Japanese word gin kyo (silver apricot). The tree has historically been a source of herbal medicine and food, with its edible nuts (ginnan) commonly served in izakaya during the autumn season.

While often found at Shinto shrines where it is regarded as a sacred tree in which local spirits dwell (shinboku), the ginkgo tree is also the official metropolitan tree of Tokyo. In fact, the symbol of the Tokyo Metropolis is the fan-shaped ginkgo leaf in vivid green styled to resemble the letter “T” for Tokyo.

 

The Hachioji Walking Route Lined with Ginkgo Trees

Photo courtesy of the Hachioji Ichou Festival committee.

An astonishing 770 ginkgo trees line four kilometers of the Koshu Highway, making it a lovely route for walking. While the ginkgo trees are magnificent year-round, in autumn they are particularly so.

The Koshu Highway in early October when the trees are still bright green.

The route runs from the Oiwake area to Takao Station. The best starting point for the walk is Nishi-Hachioji Station. Following the route at a leisurely stroll toward the famous Mt. Takao (Takaosan), you can reach your destination in a couple of hours.

Takao tanmen noodles at the halfway point on the route.

Be sure to come hungry, because there are well-known local establishments all along the route—including lots of noodle shops, such as the Hakata-ramen joint that has been open for over fifty years, a Takao-style tanmen (spicy ramen) shop, and a soba shop, just to name a few.

Stray from the main road and you will find yourself among temples and shrines that you can wander in and out of while enjoying the autumn breeze, which adds to the atmosphere of this area. While Hachioji is part of modern Tokyo, you feel like you are stepping back in time when you go there.

 

Hachioji Ichou Festival—Say YES! Next Step Together!

 

Photo courtesy of the Hachioji Ichou Festival committee.

The Hachioji Ichou Festival 2020 will be the forty-first and will run from November 1 to 30, albeit with reduced activities. Called Hachioji Ichou Matsuri in Japanese, this annual tradition began in 1979 to celebrate people coming together. Residents new and longtime, visitors from near and far, and people young and old all gather and interact while delighting in nature and discovering the culture of Hachioji.

Photo courtesy of the Hachioji Ichou Festival committee.

In the first year of the festival, 1979, 165 thousand visitors and participants gathered. In recent years, that number has increased to 500 thousand. Although parades, performances, and festival stands are canceled for the 2020 festival, visitors can still come and enjoy this beautiful spot while participating in a stamp rally and taking quizzes on their smartphones. It is also a great opportunity to support local businesses that line the streets.

 

Safety during the Pandemic

 

Photo courtesy of the Hachioji Ichou Festival committee.

To protect visitors and locals from the coronavirus, all festival events and gatherings have been canceled this year. However, visitors can still walk at their own pace under the golden ginkgo trees and join festival-related activities right on their smartphones through the stamp rally smartphone website.

While festivals are operating differently during the pandemic, Mother Nature’s offerings only feel sweeter because of it, as we are reminded that her perennial beauty surrounds us and never fades. Enjoy a solo walk, a social-distanced hangout, or some time with close loved ones at the Hachioji Ichou Festival.

 

Plan your visit:

https://www.ichou-festa.org/

 

This article was written by Nina Cataldo.

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