Autumn in Japan is one of the country’s most beautiful seasons. As the hot and humid summer gives way to autumn, the weather gets cooler and soon the leaves begin to change color. Across the country, from city parks to the many forests, you’ll see nature in action, painting the leaves in breathtaking colors of vibrant red and tangy orange, and shades of gold.
Japanese term Momiji-gari, literally means “hunting red leaves.” The national tradition of visiting the color changing sites includes walking in mountains valleys enveloped in swathes of red, orange, and gold; or strolling along an avenue of golden ginkgo trees leading to a shrine. Especially fine in this season are the Japanese maples, burning bush, and golden ginkgo, but many more. We’ve listed below the best places for autumn color viewing in Japan.
- Daisetsuzan Asahi-dake, Hokkaido
- Meiji Jingu Gaienmae, Tokyo
- Rikugien Garden, Tokyo
- Mt. Takao, Tokyo
- Lake Kawaguchi, Yamanashi prefecture
- Kegon Waterfall, Nikko, Tochigi prefecture
- Hakone Tozan train, Hakone, Kanagawa prefecture
- Kamakura, Kanagawa prefecture
- Arashiyama, Kyoto
- Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto
- Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto
- Miyajima, Hiroshima prefecture
- Shirakawago, Gifu prefecture
- Let’s enjoy autumn viewing online
- Other autumn leaves locations
Daisetsuzan Asahi-dake, Hokkaido
2020 peak season: From around Sept. 20
Asahi-dake, in the Daisetsuzan mountain range, is the highest peak in Hokkaido, and the earliest area experience the seasonal coloring of the leaves. At 2,291 meters above sea level, Asahi-dake can be easily climbed via a ropeway for an expansive panoramic view of autumn leaves from the top. After exiting the ropeway, you can hike along the leafy paths.
From Sapporo catch the Limited Express (85 minutes) or local trains (150 minutes) to Asahikawa. From Asahikawa Station to the ropeway base station, take the bus Ideyu-go.
Meiji Jingu Gaienmae, Tokyo
2020 peak season: From around Nov 28
This ginkgo tree-lined roads that extend from Aoyama-dori to Meiji Jingu Gaien is often used in movies and dramas. The beautiful tunnel created by 146 golden ginkgo trees is one of the most popular autumn leaf spots. The ground is completely covered with golden carpet of ginkgo leaves. This incredible nature site in the center of Tokyo collects more than 1.8 million visitors every season.
Gaienmae Station or Aoyama Icchome Station on Tokyo metro
Rikugien Garden, Tokyo
2020 peak season: From late Nov
Rikugien Garden is a Japanese garden from the Edo period and specially designated as a national scenic spot for viewing the weeping cherry blossom trees and autumn leaves. From late November every year, the trees in the spacious garden begin to turn to red and golden. The park has an evening illumination from sunset to 9 pm. Around 400 Japanese maples surround the Sanin Bridge and form Momiji Valley, while the pond offers stunning reflections of the surroundings.
The nearest station is Komagome Station of the JR Yamanote Line or the Tokyo Metro Namboku Line.
Mt. Takao, Tokyo
2020 peak season: From around Nov 19
Mt. Takao is easily accessible from the city center and receives many visitors throughout the year. Here you can enjoy the autumn leaves and hiking at the same time. You can go up to the hillside by cable car or a lift while looking down on the colorful trees. From the top viewpoint, you can see the skyscrapers of Tokyo and even Mt. Fuji when the weather is clear.
about 50 minutes by express train from Shinjuku Station of the Keio Line to Takaosanguchi Station
Lake Kawaguchi, Yamanashi prefecture
2020 peak season: from around Oct 14
Enjoy various scenic sites around the lake including the Tenka Teahouse at 1300m altitude. However, the highlight here in autumn is the Maple Corridor, Momiji Kairo in Japanese; it’s a stunning spot with 60 maple trees. The Momiji Corridor will be lit up during the Autumn Color Festival. You can also gain a view of Mt. Fuji visible beyond the colorful autumn leaves illuminated by the light.
A highway bus from Shinjuku Bus station (2 hours) or a train journey from Shinjuku Station changing at Otsuki (around 2.5 hours)
Kegon Waterfall, Nikko, Tochigi prefecture
2020 peak season: from around mid Oct
Several autumn viewing spots in Nikko are within walking distance from each other, but perhaps the best is the almost 100-meter-tall Kegon waterfall. This waterfall is the only exit for the waters of Lake Chuzenji, and has multiple viewpoints. Take the Akechidaira Ropeway to the observatory for the wider view above and enjoy the sight of the waterfall and Lake Chuzenji in combination with the colorful trees.
The trains to Nikko leaving Tokyo at least once an hour by JR and Tobu lines. From Nikko, the journey to the Chuzenjiko bus terminal takes just under an hour.
Hakone Tozan train, Hakone, Kanagawa prefecture
2020 peak season: from around Nov 19
One fun way to enjoy the scenery in Hakone is by taking a ride on the Hakone Tozan Railway. This unique mountain railway works its way up to Mt. Hakone along its steep slopes. The ride takes you through a beautiful natural forest. The train stops halfway on a bridge (between Tonosawa Station and Ohiradai Station) for some seconds to let you see the breathtaking view during autumn foliage season.
There are two lines you can take from Tokyo: the Tokaido Shinkansen line and the Odakyu line. From Odawara you then take the Hakone Tozan train.
Kamakura, Kanagawa prefecture
2020 peak season: from around Dec 4
Kamakura in fall is popular with breathtaking scenery, easy hiking trails, awe-inspiring history, and Buddhist temples. The autumn foliage makes everything more spectacular. Hase-dera is the only place in Kamakura that lights up the autumn colors. The opening hours are extended during illumination period. It is recommended that you enter the temple during the day and enjoy the color change at dusk and stay; thus avoiding the crowd just for the illumination. Additional viewing sites in Kamakura include the Kotokuin Temple (the home of the Great Buddha), and he Hokokuji Temple (bamboo temple). There is also a great hike through the forest by following Daibutsu Trail.
JR Yokosuka Line connects Tokyo Station directly for just under an hour.
2020 peak season: from around Nov 24
In world famous Arashiyama, there are many spots for viewing the changing autumn leaves, but you must not miss the spectacular view of the Togetsukyo Bridge, where the gentle waters of the Katsura River flow between mountain sides with rich with autumn leaves. It can be a fun hike also up to the Monkey Park Iwatayama on Mount Arashiyama. Here, Tenryuji temple, The World Heritage Site, offers a most tranquil atmosphere in autumn. You can continue your journey to the Bamboo Forest. Autumn is the perfect season for Arashiyama.
The fastest access from Kyoto Station is by the JR Sagano Line (JR Sanin Line).
2020 peak season: From mid Nov
Kiyomizudera is considered one of the most iconic temples in all of Japan. During autumn, vibrant fall colors are illuminated at the temple during a special night lighting, an event that includes illumination of 1,000-plus maple trees that form a veritable sea of red along the temple’s hillside. Keep an eye on Kiyomizudera’s official site for dates and times. The whole area is full of many photogenic scenes.
Bus from Kyoto Station
Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto
2020 peak season: from mid Nov
Fushimi Inari Shrine is well known for the hiking paths behind the main shrine buildings that are covered by hundreds of torii gates. The forest behind the shrine is mostly made up of cedars, so shows very little color. As you go hiking up, there are more red-colored trees that allow for some nice photos.
JR Inari Station is 5 minutes ride from Kyoto Station by the JR Nara Line. Or take Keihan line from Kyoto center.
Miyajima, Hiroshima prefecture
2020 peak season: from around Nov 17
Miyajima’s Momijidani Park extends along the river of its name to the foot of the World Heritage sacred Mt. Misen, the highest peak on Miyajima. The park is a 20-minute walk from the Miyajima Sanbashi Bridge, and is also serviced by ferries. Some 700 trees color the park in autumn, including a colorful variety of Japanese maples. The Miyajima Ropeway affords an aerial view of the sublime natural vistas of Mt. Misen.
Trains depart from Hiroshima Station every 15 minutes to Miyajimaguchi (JR Sanyo line)
Shirakawago, Gifu prefecture
2020 peak season: from around Oct 27
The historic villages of Shirakawago, a UNESCO site is well known as a traditional village showcasing a building style known as gassho-zukuri. This is also a great place to visit in autumn. As the temperatures begins steadily falling in autumn in the rice here turns a golden brown, and the pampas grass sways in the wind. The leaves start changing their color from around mid-October.
Take the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo to Shin-Takaoka Station (3 hours) and transfer to the Kaetsuno Bus for Shirakawa-go (2 hours)
Let’s enjoy autumn viewing online
Enjoy the beautiful autumn foliage at some popular spots in Japan! This interactive virtual tour will also help you plan your next trip in autumn.
We highly recommend these trips in the autumn season, when the leaves offer such a varied and dramatic change of colors. As we hope we’ve made it clear, there are quite a number of spectacular areas and sites to visit, many relatively close the city centers, and/or convenient train lines.
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