20 Places to See Autumn Leaves in Japan 2021

Autumn leaves Japan Japan

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.

1. Daisetsuzan Asahi-dake, Hokkaido

2021 peak season: From mid-September to the end of September

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.

2. Meiji Jingu Gaienmae, Tokyo

2021 peak season: From mid-November to early December

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

3. Rikugien Garden, Tokyo

2021 peak season: From late November

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.

4. Mt. Takao, Tokyo

Mt.Takao autumn foliage

2021 peak season: From mid-November to early December

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

5. Lake Kawaguchi, Yamanashi

2021 peak season: From the end of October to early November

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)

6. Kegon Waterfall, Nikko, Tochigi

2021 peak season: From mid-October to the end of October

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. 

7. Hakone Tozan train, Hakone, Kanagawa

2021 peak season: From mid-November

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.

8. Kamakura, Kanagawa

2021 peak season: From the end of November to mid-December

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. 

9. Arashiyama, Kyoto

Hozu river in Arashiyama Kyoto

2021 peak season: From mid-November to early December

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). 

10. Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto

2021 peak season: From the end of November to early December

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

11. Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto

2021 peak season: From mid-November to early December

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. 

12. Miyajima, Hiroshima

2021 peak season: From mid-November to the end of November

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)

13. Shirakawago, Gifu


2021 peak season: From the end of October to early November

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)

14. Korankei, Aichi  

2021 peak season: From early November to the end of November 

Located in Toyota City in Aichi prefecture, there are about 4,000 maple trees beautifully colored during autumn. Usually the autumn festival is held for a whole month of November, and many food stalls can be enjoyed along with autumn foliage viewing. In the evening trees are lit up, and you can see the red and yellow foliage reflected on the river. Visit Asuke House, the folk museum to learn the history of the farm life, you can also see the live performance of craftsmanship at the house and participate in the workshops.  


From Higashi Okazaki Station, take Meitetsu Bus toward Asuke and get off at Korankei (about 70 minutes)

15. Metasequoia Namiki, Shiga 

2021 peak season: Late November to early December 

About 500 metasequoia trees line up for 2.4 km long and during the autumn season, they turn their color gradually from yellow to brown. Depending on the time and weather, the color of foliage will change. 


From JR Kosei Line Makino Station, take Makino Kogen Bus and get off at Makino Pick Land (6-20 minutes)

16. Bandai-Azuma Skyline, Fukushima

2021 peak season: From the end of September to mid-October 

Bandai-Azuma Skyline is about 29km long and it’s a perfect place for a drive. The most popular autumn foliage viewing spots are Tsubakuro Valley and Tengu Garden which is named after the legend that Tengu used to play jumping between rocks there. From there, you can see the beautiful color gradient on the slope of Mt. Kofuji. 


From JR Fukushima Station, take a taxi for 100 minutes 

17. Naruko Gorge, Miyagi 

2021 peak season: From the end of October to early November 

Alongside Daiya River, Naruko Gorge stands. You can see the contrast between red and yellow foliage and green foliage of pine trees. There is a trail that you can walk safely and enjoy the view while hiking. The scenic view from the Obukasawa Bridge is the most popular viewpoint of the area, and it attracts many tourists every year. 


From JR Naruko Onsen Station, dive 10 minutes or from Nakayama-daira Onsen Station, drive 10 minutes 

18. Fujieshi Gyorakuen, Fukuoka 

2021 peak season: From mid-November to the end of November 

This beautiful Japanese garden is said to be designed by Sesshu, who is one of the most prominent Japanese painters and a Buddhism priest from the 15th century. 
Mountains in the background, it was built during the Onin War that occured in Kyoto, when Sesshu escaped from Kyoto, he built the garden praying for peace. 


From Buzen-Kawasaki Station, take Fureai Bus (Kijo Arahira course) and get off at Arahira Kominkan and walk 5 minutes 

19. Autumn foliage in the sea, Saga

2021 peak season: From the late October to the middle of November 

Shichimenso (Suaeda japonica) is a salt-tolerant plant that grows near the Ariake Sea. 
It changes its color in autumn and it’s called autumn foliage in the sea. Its unique scenery that red plants create spread through the field near the ocean. If you want to see the autumn foliage that is different from usual trees, this is a perfect spot for you! 


About a 30 minutes taxi ride from JR Saga Station 

20. Okutsu Valley, Okayama  

2021 peak season: From the end of October to mid-November 

Okutsu Valley is 3 km long and you can see the Giant’s kettle, some of which were five hundred thousand years old. It used to be known as a hidden spot since it’s not easily accessible, but it became a popular spot once the national highway opened in 1914. Many tourists enjoy hiking trails in the valley during autumn. 


From JR Tsuyama Station, Hokubu Chutetsu Bus bound for Ishikoshi (50 minutes) and get off at Obata Stop and walk for 10 minutes

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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Happy traveling!

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