Though many people travel from far and wide to come to Japan in the spring to see beautiful cherry blossoms, autumn in Japan can be just as beautiful, if not more. Flowers are nice to look at, to be sure, but gazing at leaves that have turned from green to red, yellow, and orange is just as mesmerizing and amazing to do. The weather in Japan is also cooler come Autumn, which means less sweating and more enjoying the sights.
Along with being a source of beautiful inspiration for artists in Japan and around the world, the changing colors of the leaves also present a unique opportunity and challenge for red leaf hunting, or Momigari. Tourists and Japanese citizens alike can enjoy the activity of hunting for the reddest, most shapely, or most interesting leaves in any given area with beautiful fall foliage. You can even enjoy specialty sweets shaped like leaves and a cup of authentic Japanese tea while you hunt.
Autumn in Japan – Foliage Forecast
Here are the dates for the starting of the foliage and the best viewing time for each big city in Japan:
- Dates for Tokyo – From Late November; Best Viewing Time: Early December.
- Dates for Hakone – From Mid October; Best Viewing Time: Early November.
- Dates for Kamakura – From Late November; Best Viewing Time: Early December.
- Dates for Kawaguchiko – From Early November; Best Viewing Time: Late November.
- Dates for Nikko – From Early October; Best Viewing Time: Mid October.
- Dates for Sapporo – From Early October; Best Viewing Time: Mid October.
- Dates for Nagoya – From Mid November; Best Viewing Time: Early December.
- Dates for Kanazawa – From Early November; Best Viewing Time: Mid November.
- Dates for Wakayama – From Late October Best Viewing Time: Mid November.
- Dates for Osaka–Kyoto–Nara – From Early November; Best Viewing Time: Late November.
- Dates for Hiroshima – From Late October; Best Viewing Time: Early November.
- Dates for Fukuoka – From Early November; Best Viewing Time: Late November.
- Dates for Kagoshima – From Late October; Best Viewing Time: Mid November.
- Dates for Naha – From Mid October; Best Viewing Time: Early November.
Now that you’ve got all the important dates, let’s take a closer look at the many different sites at each city that you can go to see these gorgeous leaves.
Autumn in Japan – Best spots in Tokyo
This gorgeous garden is filled to the brim with trees and gardening styles from around the world. Due to the fact that there are so many varieties of trees and arrangements, it’s easy to walk around and sample various different trees as their leaves change color, giving a unique experience that changes every day. The three main sections of the park are the Japanese landscape garden, English landscape garden, and French garden. The best spots to view the spectacular red autumn leaves are in the Japanese Garden and below the French Garden to the right of the Sendagaya Gate entrance.
Access: Accessible from JR Shinjuku Station (10 minute walk), Shinjuku Gyoenmae Station (5 minute walk), or JR Sendagaya Station (5 minute walk).
Located right next to the famous Meiji Shrine, Yoyogi Park offers amazing views of Japanese autumn leaves. As one of Tokyo’s biggest parks located in the city, there’s plenty of space for all to enjoy the sights and wonder of autumn’s beauty. With six different types of trees planted around the park, visitors can enjoy a variety of colors and sizes of leaves.
Access: Accessable from JR Yamanote Line (5 minute walk).
If you want to get out of the main cityscape that Tokyo normally offers and have a better appreciation for the natural areas of Japan, head over to Mount Takao. This scenic area has loads of trails that lead through the beautiful autumn foliage towards the top of the mountain. If you’re not a hiker, or just want to reach the top faster, you can utilize a railcar and view the trees from above. After reaching the top, you’ll be able to enjoy a breathtaking view of the massive amounts of red, gold, and orange trees surrounding the mountain. Here’s a valuable tip: if you want to avoid the crowds, head on over during the week.
Address: Mount Takao, Takaomachi, Hachiojo, Tokyo 193-0844
Access: Accessible from Takaosanguchi Station (at the base of the mountain).
Autumn in Japan – Best spots in Kamakura
Along with the famous eleven-headed statue of the god of mercy, Kannon, Hasedera Temple also offers visitors with the sights of a garden complete with ponds, koi fish, and seasonal foliage. The grounds are truly a wondrous sight to behold, as a sea of red leaves will delight and entertain viewers of all ages. Even if you can’t make it to the temple during the daylight hours, there are special lights set up to create a special nighttime illumination experience.
Access: Accessible from Hase Station (5 minute walk).
It’d be impossible to not include the number one great Zen temple in all of Kamakura on our list. As it’s also the oldest temple, Kenchoji Temple is filled to the brim with historical walks and surrounding areas that have thrived, changed, and lasted for centuries. Said to be one of the first places for any tourist in the Kamakura area to visit, the temple is especially breathtaking in the autumn season when the trees are various shades of orange, gold, and red.
Access: Accessible from Jr Yokosuka Line by Kita-Kamakura Station (15 minute walk), or from Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine (15 minute walk).
Autumn in Japan – Best spots in Hakone
Hakone Museum of Art
Autumn in Japan is clearly visible on the grounds outside the Hakone Museum of Art. Stone paths lead you through the Sekirakuen Garden, which features a multitude of color-changing leaves that never fail to impress or delight visitors. If you’re looking for an experience that has you on the move, walking through the gardens of the Hakone Museum of Art might be the right spot to visit for you. Along with the vibrant colors of fall, you can also experience rich, Japanese art at the museum to cleanse your beauty palate.
Access: Accessible from Konkani Station (3 minute walk), Gora Station (10 minute walk), and Gora Park (located above).
Hakone Tozan Train
The only mobile ‘spot’ on this list goes to the Hakone Tozan Train, and for a very good reason. The train makes a full journey from the first station to the last in 40-minutes, but in that time passengers are given a rare opportunity to view the changing leaves of Japan on the go. The train zigzags up the mountain, moving slowing at important points of interest to give passengers a better chance to take in the surrounding foliage. For a unique experience of viewing autumn leaves in Japan from the comfort of a train, the Hakone Tozan Train is simply the best.
Access: The train departs from Hakone Yumoto station and ends at Gora station.
Autumn in Japan – Best spots in Kawaguchiko
Momiji Tunnel has its work cut out for it when competing with Momiji Corridor, but many prefer it due to the stunning views of the surrounding landscapes and the colorful leaves nearby. One of the biggest allures for most tourists is to see both Mt. Fuji and beautiful colorful leaves all in one fell swoop, the area is often busy and crowded during the autumn season. You can enjoy one of Japan’s most iconic landmarks while also immersing yourself in the natural beauty of autumn foliage. If you’re looking for a place to get that picture-perfect memory of your time spent in Kawaguchiko during autumn in Japan, then Momiji Tunnel just might be your answer.
Access: Accessible from Kawaguchiko Station (15 minute walk).
The Momiji Corridor is one of the most popular places for people to gather for the sake of viewing the changing leaves during autumn in Japan. In the Momiji Corridor, a large festival called Fujikawaguchiko is held every year, which many people rush in to attend. There’s festival food and stalls, and those who come to enjoy the festivities almost never leave disappointed. Like a few other spots on our list, the Momiji Corridor is illuminated after the sun goes down for an extra special experience.
Access: Accessible from Itchiku Kubota Art Museum Bus Stop (5 minute walk).
Autumn in Japan – Best spots in Nikko
The most famous waterfall in Nikko, this 100 meter wonder is also ranked as the third most beautiful fall in all of Japan. The area is always well known for being a great place to view the changing leaves of autumn, as the trees surrounding the fall only help to accent the natural beauty of the rushing waters. The area can be viewed from an observation platform for free that has a decent viewing radius, but can also be viewed from a paid observation platform located at the base of the falls. The views from the paid platform are said to be worth the cost, as viewers can see the Kegon Waterfall, Lake Chuzenji, and masses of red leaves all in one shot.
Address: Chugushi, Nikko, Tochigi 321-1661
Access: Accessible from Chuzenjiko Onsen bus terminal (5 minute walk), which is a 50 minute ride from the JR Nikko and Tobu Nikko Stations.
Rinnoji Temple’s Shoyoen Garden
The Rinnoji Temple is impressive all on its own, but when visitors make their way to the area behind the temple, they’ll be pleased to see the lovely autumn colors Japan is known for. The Shoyoen, or Japanese style garden, found behind the temple is one of the most popular in the area for looking at autumn foliage. The garden allows viewers to take stunning shots of the red, gold, and orange leaves with an accenting central pond. Though it may seem a bit small compared to other spots on the list, this intimate garden is still a perfect choice for red leaf hunting.
Address: 2300 Sannai, Nikko, Tochigi 321-1431
Access: Accessible from Tobu Nikko and JR Nikko Stations (30 minute walk), or by World Heritage Meguri Bus (10 minute ride).
Autumn in Japan – Best spots in Kyoto
One of the most popular spots in Kyoto that has people coming in from all of the country, Tofukuji Temple boasts spectacular views of autumn foliage. The popular bridge called Tsutenkyo Bridge is just as much an important sight to see, but also provides a spot on which the nearby valley of maple trees can be easily viewed. Most of the grounds are free to enter, making this popular destination spot easy on the eyes and easy on the wallet.
Address: 15-778 Higashiyama, Kyoto 605-0981
Access: Accessible from Tofukuji Station (10 minute walk), or Tofukuji bus stop (10 minute walk).
Though Kodaiji Temple may not have numbers on their side, they do have strikingly gorgeous maple trees to help make this autumn foliage viewing spot a hit amongst natives and tourists alike. Just opposite of the large, spacious rock garden, the temple houses a tsukiyama style garden, which includes small hills, intriguing rock formations, pine and maple trees, and the pure essence of Japanese nature. If nighttime events are more your speed, don’t worry – special illumination shows are preformed during autumn as well.
Access: Accessible from Higashiyama Yasuhiro bus stop (5 minute walk), or Higashiyama Station (20 minute walk).
Autumn in Japan – Best spots in Osaka
Used as the primary main street running through Osaka, this road is lined with almost a thousand ginkgo trees that show off their color-changing plumage every year in autumn. The leaves turn a gorgeous golden color right around early December, and are easily visible whether driving or walking along the street. The best part about the placement of the trees is that viewers can enjoy the dazzling leaves in between shopping around the four kilometer stretch of leafy heaven. Even better, you can always rest and take a break from your walking adventures in any of the fine dining establishments and cafes nearby.
Address: Kitaku to Minamiku, Osaka 541-0056
Access: Accessible from Osaka Station (5 minute walk).
One of the best kept secrets for autumn foliage viewing in Japan, Hoshida Park has yet to receive nationwide attention for the spectacular and stunning views it has to offer. As such, the park is not as busy as other spots on this list. Even if a surplus of leaf-viewers wanted to explore the park, there’s more than enough room to accommodate everyone. The park has a wonderful walking trail for those who want to remain and ground level, and a 280-meter-long suspension bridge – called the Star Swing – for those who want to see the forest of autumn leaves from above.
Address: 2 Hoshida, Katano, Osaka 576-0016
Autumn in Japan – Best spots in Nara
Stone lanterns and the glory of autumn’s color-changing leaves lead you on a path towards the front of this shrine. As the most celebrated shrine in all of Nara, it’s not hard to understand why crowds of people flock to it to celebrate the autumn season’s beauty. Unlike the surrounding trees with their color-changing leaves, this shrine always has a unique collection of different lanterns for guests to view and admire. Paired together, the lanterns illuminate the gorgeous colors of the leaves, and together they make a sight that should definitely be seen.
Address: 160 Kasuganocho, Nara 630-8212
Access: Accessible from Kintetsu Nara Station (15 minute walk).
One of Nara’s oldest historical landmarks, Kofukuji Temple is rich in history and surrounded by numerous trees that proudly show their color-changing leaves during autumn in Japan. Over 50-meters tall, the five story pagoda is the perfect background for photos to encompass a feeling of authentic Japan. Next to the building is a clear pond that catches falling leaves throughout the season, suspending them above the water next to the reflection of the pagoda. It really is quite the site to see with your own eyes.
Address: 48 Noboriojicho, Nara 630-8213
Access: Accessible from Kintetsu Nara Station (5 minute walk).
Autumn in Japan – Best spots in Mount Koya (Koyasan)
Garan Temple is quite the sight to behold, and its wonder and beauty are only accented during autumn when the leaves around the main buildings began to change. With a rich history – and multiple fires that have burned down buildings several times over the years – the temple brings in many visitors throughout the year. The temple is especially crowded, however, come the autumn season when the trees are at their most beautiful and vibrant colorings. One walk along the Garan grounds will have visitors exclaiming their delight at the wonderful sights.
Access: Accessible from Senjuinbashi intersection (5 minute walk).
Strangely enough, this temple is generally on many lists as a creepy, scary place to visit in Japan. That may be true during the wee hours of the morning and late at night, but during the day when the sun is shining on the beautiful autumn foliage of the hundreds of trees in the area, it’s hard to say that the temple isn’t gorgeous. Though there are over 200,000 tombstones in the cemetery next to the temple, it’s easy to see that the monks buried there picked a lovely looking place to rest. This spot is great for those looking for something a little off the beaten path during their autumn foliage adventures.
Access: Accessible from Okunoinmae bus stop (15 minute walk).
Autumn in Japan – Best spots in Miyajima
Surrounding the historical buildings, numerous statues, and various religious objects are masses of beautiful trees with color-changing leaves that mark the start and end of autumn in Japan year after year. For those who love a good hike while they experience the rich history of one of Japan’s most important Buddhist temples, there’s a long hiking trail that goes all the way up to the summit of Mount Misen. If you’re willing to brave the hour and a half hike, your reward will be a breathtaking view of the many maple trees that have growing on the island for generations.
Access: Accessible from Miyajima Pier (15 minute walk).
This park is overflowing with maple trees, and is one of the best places to go on the island in search of photo-worthy autumn foliage. Those that aren’t exited to hike up and around the mountain will be pleased to know that the area is relatively level and requires very little upward and downward walking. Take a stress-free stroll through the park and enjoy being surrounded by Japanese nature in one of the best seasons Japan has to offer to the public. If you’re looking for the reddest leaves around, Momijidani Park delivers.
Access: Accessible from Miyajima Pier (20 minute walk).
Just because the country isn’t covered in cute pink flowers doesn’t mean that Japan’s three other seasons don’t have anything to offer. The beautiful red leaves that mark the autumn season in Japan are well worth making the trip for, and are just as beautiful and memorable as any cherry blossoms.
It’s highly recommended that you experience the beauty of Japan’s autumn foliage at least once – especially if you’ve already experienced cherry blossom viewing before. No matter where you are in Japan, chances are that there will be always be great places to view the changing leaves almost anywhere you look.
To better understand the 3 other Japan Seasons, feel free to also read these blog posts: