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Top 10 Spots To See Japanese Leaves in Fall
Autumn is fast approaching and is one of the best seasons in Japan for sightseeing. Along with the cooler temperatures and crisp weather, the season also beings along with it a favorite Japanese pastime called momijigari or koyo – both terms describing the viewing of autumn leaves in Japan
Beginning in mid-September each year, Japan enjoys a very long season of autumn colors. This provides many viewing opportunities for city dwellers and nature buffs alike. The “koyo front” slowly moves southwards from the northern island of Hokkaido until it reaches the lower elevations of central and southern Japan towards the end of November. Some trees around Tokyo and Kyoto remain colorful into early December.
While there is no shortage of wonderful viewing spots to visit and explore, we have listed 10 of our favorite picks to get you started. For more information on the best times for viewing click here
Jozankei Onsen, Hokkaido
This easily accessible onsen town is located only one hour outside of Sapporo. Here you can enjoy various activities amid the autumn leaves, such as canoeing and horseback riding. Take a ride on the Kouyou Kappa Bus, a tour that offers a 60-minute scenic ride of the best spots to take in the fall foliage. This tour also includes a stop at the exhibition room of the Ainu Culture Promotion Center.
If you take the rope-way, you can also look down on the autumn leaves from the top of the mountain. There are many activities to pique your interest. Once finished, don’t miss out on the opportunity to soak your fatigue away in this onsen town before heading home.
Daisetsuzan National Park, Hokkaido
Daisetsuzan in Hokkaido is one of Japan’s most beautiful national parks and has some of the most stunning autumn foliage. While not as accessible as Jozankei Onsen, the area is stunning in autumn with large swathes of the mountains covered in autumn hues.
If you want to avoid the crowds, this park is a good option. The park is home to volcanoes, lakes, mountain, and hot springs.
While you’re there don’t forget to visit the hot spring resort Asahidake Onsen, which sits at the foot of Hokkaido’s highest mountain, Mount Asahidake.
Lake Kawaguchi, Yamanashi
Lake Kawaguchi is one of the five lakes that lie at the foot of Mount Fuji: (Lake Kawaguchi, Lake Yamanaka, Lake Motosu, Lake Shōji, and Lake Saiko). Lake Kawaguchi is a popular spot and is most well-known for its beautiful fall colors.
There are two well-known spots for autumn leaves around Lake Kawaguchiko. One is the “Momiji Corridor” where the Fujikawaguchiko Autumn Leaves Festival is held every year. The other is “Momiji Tunnel”, a stretch of road which offers beautiful views of Mt.Fuji, the lake and autumn leaves.
In addition, there is the Fuji Kawaguchiko Autumn Leaves Festival which usually runs throughout the month of November. Many stalls selling local food and crafts are set up along the northern shore of Lake Kawaguchi, and the maple trees in the area are lit up at night.
Mount Takao, Tokyo
Mount Takao is a 50 minute train ride from Shinjuku station, and is a popular destination for weekend hikes. In autumn, this mountain with a temple at the top comes alive with vibrant colors and beautiful autumn scenery.
This nature spot offers six routes of varying difficulties leading up the mountain, making it a great option for hikers of all abilities.
It is also home to the Mount Takao Autumn Leaves Festival which normally runs from early to late November. Events include live taiko drumming shoes, food stalls and yosakoi dancing. It does tend to get crowded on weekends and holidays so be sure to plan so you can avoid the crush.
Rikugien Garden, Tokyo
Located in Tokyo, Rikugien is a beautiful Japanese landscape garden. This popular destination is ideal for city dwellers who wish to enjoy the autumn colors. The picturesque garden includes s a network of paths which wind though gardens, trees and open lawns, leading to several teahouses that are open to the public.
The garden is lit up in late November, making the maples seem like luminous fires in the night. The views are particularly beautiful around the stream that runs by the Tsutsuji no Chaya teahouse, around the Togetsukyo Bride and from the Fujishirotoge viewpoint.
Kurobe Gorge, Toyama
Known for its old-fashioned railway, the Kurobe Gorge is another beautiful place to see koyo in Japan. The best time of the year to view the autumnal leaves at the Kurobe Gorge is in mid-October to mid-November. For the best viewing experience, take the Kurobe Gorge Railway from Unazuki Onsen all the way to Keyakidaira.
The 80 minute train journey carries sightseers across stunning bridges and offers magnificent views of the gorge. At Keyakidaira Station you can enjoy foot baths as well experience Hitokui Iwa, (“people eating rock”). This path along the far side of the Okukane Bridge cuts into the steep cliff making it look like a huge stone mouth is swallowing up the trail.
Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture
Nikko, home of the well-known Toshogu “Three Wise Monkeys” Shrine, is also a popular destination for koyo. From October to late-November, Nikko’s autumn leaves draw countless tourists. The autumn colors usually arrive first in the high elevations of Okunikko around early October; reach Lake Chuzenji in mid-October and the Irohazaka Winding Road in late October before descending to the town of Nikko in early November.
With convenient access from Tobu Asakusa station in Tokyo, Nikko is also an attractive day alternative for those in Tokyo seeking a quick escape.
Notable points of interest are Ryuzu Waterfall and Irohazaka Winding Road, which connects the town of Nikko with Okinikko. If you don’t have a car, head to Nikko’s town center to check out the Shoyoen Garden area. This garden is one of the few colorful spots situated in the town center.
Tofukuji Temple, Kyoto
Kyoto is one of the most visited destinations in Japan for autumn leaves. Tofukuji Temple is one of the more popular spots where you can enjoy the breathtaking kaleidoscope of colors.
The most popular view is of the Tsutenkyo Bridge, which spans a valley of lush maple trees. The view from the bridge is equally spectacular. The 100 meter long, covered walkway becomes crowded when the colors reach their peak in mid to late November. So be sure to plan your visit to avoid the crowds.
Located in the western outskirts of Kyoto, Arashiyama is a popular destination. This is particularly true during the cherry blossom and autumn leaves seasons.
The forested mountains in the background and the trees on the grounds of Arashiyama’s temples usually turn colors in the second half of November. Tenryuji, Jojakkoji, Nisonin and Gioji are some of the best temples for autumn colors. You can also enjoy a picturesque ride on the Sagano Scenic Train.
The Togetsukyo Bridge is Arashiyama’s well known, central landmark. Many small shops, restaurants and other attractions can be found nearby. These include Tenryuji Temple, Arashiyama’s famous bamboo groves, and pleasure boats that are available for rent on the river.
The island of Miyajima in Hiroshima is known for its autumn colors and momiji manjū (bean-jam buns shaped like maple leaves). Mount Misen, whose base is home to a World Heritage site, boasts many sightseeing spots. These include a striking observation deck and the temple Misen Hondō.
Located at the base of Mount Misen is the scenic Momijidani Park which extends along the Momijidani River. The view of the trees with momiji bashi (bridge) in the background makes for a postcard-worthy scene.