10 Best Places To See Autumn Leaves In Kyoto – Discover The Beautiful World Of Red Leaves

Shimizu autumn foliage Kyoto

If you come to Japan in foliage season, one of the most worth-to-visit region is Kyoto.
You should put Kyoto in your autumn itinerary and stay for several days. Since ancient days, autumn leaves viewing has been well-known for the beauty among the aristocrats. You will be overwhelmed by the view of mountains with colourful Maple, Ginkgo, and Wax leaves.

The beautiful red world of Kyoto

When is the autumn foliage season in Japan?

If you want to know when is the best foliage season in Japan, let’s see the link below.
https://www.jrailpass.com/blog/japan-autumn-leaves-forecast Since the best timing is depending on the region, you need to plan a little. While you are making your own itinerary, the foliage forecast might be useful.

In Kyoto, normally leaves start to change their color from late October. Hence, the best time to view autumn leaves, also known as koyo, comes to Kyoto from mid November to early December. For the Japanese that timing is widely known as the best time for traveling in Kyoto.

If you require to specify the peak season of the spot you want to visit, we recommend visiting the website of Kyoto City Official Travel Guide. From the website, you can find out the best timing of the foliage leaves in each spot. Also, it mentions the special event such as Fall Festival, Light up, Special Opening.

Please see the followings if you are not sure where you can see the beautiful foliage.
The followings are our top 10 recommended spots in Kyoto.

Top 10 spots for viewing the foliage leaves in Kyoto

Jojakko-ji Temple

Jojakko-ji temple is not a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it certainly is one of the most beautiful temples in Kyoto throughout the year. There is a thatched roof gate, fresh green mos, bamboo pathway, great mountain view, and 200 maple trees. In spring and summer, you will feel as if you are in a completely different world because everything is green in the temple. Though, it is still beautiful. Only in November & early December, when the maple leaves change their colour, you will see the breathtaking contrast of maples & green mos. If you come to Kyoto in November, this place is a must-visit!

Jojakko-ji Temple
¥500 yen per adult
By foot, it takes approx. 20 min. from JR Saga-Arashiyama Station, and approx. 10 min. from Arashiyama Bamboo Forest.

Togetsu Bridge

beautiful view of the bridge and river

You might have seen a picture of a grand bridge as above. That is Togetsukyo Bridge. The iconic bridge of Arashiyama area. In the peak time of foliage, the whole mountain seems like a big mosaic art works. After you enjoyed view, there is another attraction which is Monkey Park.Also, if you like, you can enjoy boating around here.

Daikaku-ji Temple

If you walk northwards for approximately 20 min from JR Saga Arashiyama Station, you’ll find Daikaku-ji nearby a big pond. Daikaku-ji is featured in the Tale of Genji, the first novel in Japanese literature. Today, the temple is known as one of the places to feel the ancient court atmosphere and that’s why it is often used for Japanese historical movies. Since Daikaku-ji is not close to other popular tourist spots, it is less crowded than other big temples (such as Kiyomizu, Golden Pavilion, etc). Due to the reflection of foliage leaves & red pagoda in the pond, it is also called Deep Crimson Mirror.

Daikaku-ji Temple
¥500 yen per adult
Recommended time is 17:30~20:30 because of the illuminations.

Kitano Tenmangu Shrine

Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is mostly known for their 2,000 beautiful plum trees in early March, but also it is the spot to view foliage in late autumn. From late October to early December, their Foliage Garden is opened. In the garden hundreds of maple trees line the river in the garden. Also, you can see the road covered by foliage like a koyo carpet.

Kitano Tenmangu Shrine
Free entrance to the shrine, Foliage Park ¥700.
From Tokyo Station take a bus for 40 minutes.

Genko-an Temple (temporarily closed for renovation)

the art of autumn leaves and architecture

If you are first-timer in Kyoto, you should visit Kinkaku-ji Temple (Golden Pavilion). Before or after Kinkaku-ji, we recommend heading north. After about 30 min walking, you will arrive at Genko-an Temple. It’s a tiny Zen temple with round & square window called “The Window of Enlightenment” & “The Window of Confusion”. Through these windows, you can enjoy the view of the small garden wiz foliage. This is the place where you can forget about the big crowds of tourist.

Genko-an Temple
Temporarily closed for renovations.

Eikando Temple

Eikando is famous for having the best of the best foliage view in Kyoto. That’s why in November, there are many people from all over Japan come to enjoy the view of Eikando Temple. In the evening, their 3,000 of maple trees are lit up. It might be crowded, but there is a worth to visit. Since Eikando locates beside the end of Philosopher’s Path (another scenic place in Autumn), it is nice to enjoy Eikando & Nanzen-ji after strolling Philosopher’s Path

Eikando Temple

Nanzen-ji Temple

Nanzen-ji is the most important Zen temple in Japan, constructed in the 13th century. This huge temple has many attractions. The first one is their gate. You can go up to the gate and stand on the deck which overlooks the surrounding woods & hill. The second feature is the ruin of aquaduct from 19th century. It was built when Kyoto city started the Industrial Revolution. The third and last one is their diverse Zen Garden. In Nanzen-ji, you can enjoy various style of gardens (and if you like, have a matcha tea here).

Nanzen-ji Temple
¥500 yen

Kiyomizu-Dera Temple

As you might know, Kiyomizu-Dera Temple is one of the most popular spot for the tourists in Japan. Although it is most crowded spot, it is also enjoyable place. Due to its size, there are a lot of worth-to-visit things throughout the year. The most famous is its wooden stage which is just behind the main hall. In late November, if you have a chance, try to see sunset on the stage!

Autumn foliage Kiyomizu temple Kyoto by night

Kiyomizu-Dera Temple
6am – 6pm (extended opening times in summer).

Tofuku-ji Temple

As well as Eikando Temple, another giant attraction during the foliage season is Tofuku-ji Temple. There are 2,000 maple trees that change its the colour to red in November. Since the size is big, there are many viewing points. The most well-known view point is Tsutenkyo bridge, see the picture above. Tofuku-ji locates southeastern Kyoto, close to Fushimi Inari Shrine (the shrine famous for its ten thousands of vermilion gates). So, maybe it is nice plan to visit Tofuku-ji before/after Fushimi Inari Shrine.

Tofuku-ji Temple

Bishamondo Temple

The location of Bisyamondo Temple is far-eastern Kyoto (The closest station is JR or Keihan Yamashina Station). Not very well-known, but Bisyamondo is also highly recommended to enjoy the foliage view. If you come to Bishamondo during the peak of the foliage season, your entire visual field will be filled by red autumn colours! Due to the access and the low awareness, it is a true hidden gem.

Bishamondo Temple

Map of top 10 places for viewing Foliage Leaves

Recommended Guide Tour to enjoy foliage view in Kyoto

Our recommended tour and activities available Kyoto.

 Spot on the above list
included in the tour
Kiyomizu TempleKyoto Full-Day Sightseeing Tour including Nijo Castle and Kiyomizu Temple
Tofuku-ji TempleHalf Day Small-Group Kyoto Cultural Tour
Jojakko-ji Temple, Togetsu BridgeArashiyama and Sagano Walking Food Tour
Nanzen-ji Temple or Togetsu BridgeKyoto Rickshaw Tour
You can request where you wantFull-Day Kyoto Private Custom Walking Tour

We hope you have a wonderful time in Kyoto. Where in Kyoto will you go and see the beautiful autumn colours? Let us know in the comments or tag us on instagram @Japan_wonder_travel to get featured! 

Happy travelling!

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