From the moment you witness the autumn foliage season in Japan you will see why it is an absolute must-see! The gorgeous autumn colours that decorate the entire country promise to not only shock but completely delight all visitors.
When you experience the picturesque autumn leaves in Japan you will first see the beautiful scenery, turned white under a blanket of snow in winter, then the wreathed in pink cherry blossoms in spring, followed by the bright green and lush in summer, and finally the striking reds and oranges in autumn.
One obviously cannot overlook the plethora of decadent seasonal foods, colourful festivals, interactive events and customary traditions, all of which prove that Japan is a traveller’s paradise!
Whilst spring has always been the most popular time for travellers to Japan, autumn offers many attractions too. The autumn leaves are arguably as beautiful as the cherry blossom season, and the weather is similarly balmy and pleasant.
Need some proof? We’ve got you!
When to see autumn leaves in Japan
Autumn in Japan is from September to mid November. However, the best time to see the Autumn foliage in Japan is between late November and the beginning of December. In Tokyo, this is the peak season to see the city painted in gold and crimson foliage.
Check out our video exploring Yokohama, Hakone and Kamakura:
Where to see the autumn leaves in Japan
To help you explore Japan and all of its delights efficiently, we have jotted down our top five favorite spots for enjoying “koyo” (or “leaf-peeping”, as it is also locally known).
1. Kyoto’s temples
Kyoto, which served as the capital of Japan for over a millennium, should be at the top of anyone’s Autumn leaf-peeping list. It’s not for nothing that Kyoto is known as the “City of Ten Thousand Temples”, and many of its ancient temples and shrines make for a stunning setting for all travellers.
One of our favourite spots is Kiyomizu-dera Temple. This historic wonder and world heritage site’s name translates to “Pure Water Temple”. This name is derived from the pristine and gorgeous waters of the Otowa Waterfall, on which site the temple was built.
We also recommend visiting in the evening to see the Autumn leaves lit up with lanterns!
2. Daisetsuzan National Park
Hokkaido is Japan’s second largest and least-visited island, and it’s nothing like the Japan you’ve seen in guidebooks and magazines. With rolling fields, steaming volcanoes, craggy mountains and thick forests, it’s one of the best places to appreciate nature in all its wildness and glory – especially in autumn.
We recommend Daisetsuzan National Park, which is one of the first places to see autumn leaves in Japan every year (from mid-September until late October). Should you be able to visit around this time of the year you will be able to witness the serene landscapes of Mount Tomuraushi, Tokachi and Ishikari Mountain ranges. These gorgeous views (that offer panoramic views of Japan’s autumn leaves) have earned themselves the nicknames “the roof of Hokkaido” and “the playground of the gods”.
3. Lake Towada
In the rugged northern region of Japan’s main island lies Lake Towada, the largest caldera lake in Japan. The lake is stunning at any time of year, but from late October until early November its banks are covered in reds, golds and oranges – best viewed from the waters on a sightseeing cruise.
This tourist attraction is the perfect day trip as it is also easily accessible from the local rail pass. You can simply hop onto a shuttle bus and explore the incredible plains on offer.
4. Kenrokuen Garden
Widely acknowledged to be one of the finest gardens in Japan, if not the finest of them all – Kenrokuen is a lovely place to appreciate autumn colors in Japan. Located in the city of Kanazawa, which is renowned for its preserved historical buildings and rich culture, this is a fantastic addition to any Japan itinerary.
It is also an ideal spot to witness all of autumn leaves in Japan. Its grounds used to be the outer garden of Kanazawa Castle. In fact, it was even constructed by the ruling Maeda family over a period of nearly two centuries.
Easily reached on a day trip from Tokyo, Nikko is a destination packed with history and atmosphere. The area is famous as the final resting place of Japan’s greatest shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, and his mausoleum is one of the most elaborate examples of Japanese architecture in existence. The tomb and temple complex are surrounded by deep forest and national park, making this a fabulous place for koyo.
Be sure to extend your visit to include beautiful Lake Chuzenji and the Kegon Waterfall!
Again, we cannot stress enough how Autumn is undoubtedly one of Japan’s most aesthetically pleasing seasons! Its breath-taking vistas of vibrant red, orange, and yellow leaves and gentle warmth make it an absolute crowd-please and a definite top contender for the number one spot on your travellers list!
Visiting in Spring? Read more about the Spring Blossoms in Japan.