10 Best Places to See Autumn Leaves in Kyoto

Shimizu autumn foliage Kyoto

If you come to Japan during the foliage season, Kyoto is one of the famous autumn spots that is worth a visit. In ancient days, autumn leaves viewing had been appreciated for its beauty among the aristocrats.
Here is the complete guide to the autumn leaves viewing in Kyoto, enjoy the stunning view of mountains with colourful Maple, Ginkgo, and other trees!

When is the autumn foliage season in Japan?

If you want to know when is the best foliage season in Japan, check the autumn leaves forecast.
Autumn leaves forecast in Japan 

Since the best timing of the autumn foliage, when it starts coloring and ends,  depends on the region. The sakura season starts from the region with a warm climate but the autumn foliage season is the opposite. It starts from the north (Hokkaido) and the latest is the south (Kyushu region). 
In Kyoto, normally leaves start to change their color from late October. Hence, the best time to view autumn leaves, also known as koyo, is from mid-November to early December. Around this time, it is widely known as the best time to travel in Kyoto, and that makes it the busiest time for tourists in Kyoto. 

If you want to specify the peak season of the spot you want to visit, we recommend visiting the 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 special events such as fall festivals and light-up events.

Top 10 spots for viewing the foliage leaves in Kyoto

1. Jojakko-ji Temple

Jojakko-ji temple is not registered as 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 covered with green in the temple. Only in mid-November and early December, when the maple leaves change their colour, will you see the breathtaking contrast of red maples and green moss. 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.

2. Togetsu Bridge

beautiful view of the bridge and river
Photo by ⓒKentagon

You might have seen a picture of a grand bridge across the river in Kyoto. That is Togetsukyo Bridge, the iconic bridge of the Arashiyama area. In the peak time of foliage, the whole mountain looks like a big mosaic art work. One of the best ways to enjoy the view is from the traditional boat called Yakatabune, or you can rent a rowboat.
After you enjoy the view, head to another attraction in the Arashiyama area, Monkey Park, if you have time.

3. Daikaku-ji Temple

If you walk northwards for approximately 20 min from JR Saga Arashiyama Station, you’ll find Daikaku-ji near 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 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 temple, Golden Pavilion, etc). The reflection of foliage leaves and red pagoda in the pond is called Deep Crimson Mirror.

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

4. 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 open. In this garden, hundreds of maple trees line up along the river. 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.

5. Genko-an Temple (temporarily closed for renovation)

the art of autumn leaves and architecture

If you are a first-timer in Kyoto, you should visit Kinkaku-ji Temple (Golden Pavilion). And then, we recommend heading north. After about a 30 minute walk, you will arrive at Genko-an Temple. It’s a tiny Zen temple with a round and square window called The Window of Enlightenment and The Window of Confusion. Through these windows, you can enjoy the view of the small garden with autumn foliage. This is the place where you can forget about the big crowds of tourists.

Genko-an Temple
Temporarily closed for renovations.

6. Eikando Temple

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

Eikando Temple

7. 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 Sanmon Gate. You can go up to the deck and overlook the surrounding forests and mountains. The second feature is the ruin of the aqueduct from the 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

8. Kiyomizu-Dera Temple

As you might know, Kiyomizu-Dera Temple is one of the most popular spots for tourists in Japan. It’s the most crowded spot with many attractions. There are a lot of places to visit and keep visitors entertained throughout the year. The most famous tourist spot is its wooden stage which is just behind the main hall. In late November, if you have a chance, try to see the sunset on the stage!

Kiyomizudera temple autumn

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

9. Tofuku-ji Temple

As well as Eikando Temple, another major attraction during the foliage season is Tofuku-ji Temple. There are 2,000 maple trees that change their colour to red in November. Since the size is big, there are many autumn color viewing points. The most well-known viewpoint is Tsutenkyo bridge.
Tofuku-ji is located in southeastern Kyoto, close to Fushimi Inari Shrine (the shrine famous for its ten thousands of vermilion gates). So, maybe it is a 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 autumn foliage view. If you come to Bishamondo during the peak of the foliage season, it will be entirely filled by red autumn colours! Being away from the center and due to 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 colors?  

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Happy travelling!

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