Now the warmth gives way to cold day by day, and with every rain the chill descends. Shimotsuki is the “month of frost”. As it proceeds the mountains take on an increasingly redder hue until they look afire. The sight of the sacred temples against the fiery mountains at the height of the tourist season has come to be the classic scenic view of Kyoto. At this point the complexion of the celebrations is 180 degrees different from that of the spring.
Later in November the approach of winter feels more acute. Farm families and food makers begin activities associated with the season and the long time indoors, like pickling and brewing sake.
The national harvest ceremony, Niiname-sai, involves the emperor (who himself was traditionally regarded as a divinity). He presents rice, sake, and other harvest treasures as offerings to the deities, then ritually partakes of these things, all as an expression of thanksgiving. Across Kyoto, at different locations, people participate in the Hitaki ritual fire ceremony, wherein new crop rice stalks are given up as a burnt offering before each of the city’s many shrines. Gratitude is the theme, and hope is raised for the household and the health of its members, for happiness to come, and for good fortune to rain down on the world.