Visit Japan in Fall: Best Places to See Autumn Leaves
With rolling hills and dense maple trees, Japan presents a variety of visual feasts to people in autumn. Each city in Japan has its own special locations and highlights that match the colorful leaves. While ascending Tokyo's Takao Mountain, you can take in a riotous profusion of red leaves falling to the ground. Or visit a traditional Japanese shrine, join the throngs in prayer, and find inner serenity in the wooden temple. Also, there is the delicate city of Nara, where stout maple trees silently guard the deer ambling around at their leisure. Fall wandering in Japan is like stumbling into a palette that is covered in thick layers of crimson and yellow color. All amazing views are collected here. The piece that follows will outline where to go and what to see during Japan's fall.
When to See Fall Colors in Japan
The autumn in Japan is from September to November. At this time, most areas in Japan are at a pleasant temperature of 10 to 20 degrees, with sufficient sunshine. The changing of the leaves is affected by latitude. The earliest red color appears in Hokkaido, which starts in late September. In southern cities such as Kyoto, Nara, and Tokyo, the maple leaves begin to change color in late October. In November, the leaves turn a deep red and it is a great time to enjoy the magnificent fall colors. If you want to see the most beautiful fall colors in Japan, please take these factors into consideration, and choose the cities to visit according to your schedule.
Japan Fall Leaves Forecast Map 2023
Kyoto is an ancient city in western Japan, with mountains of dense red leaves and ancient temples hidden behind colorful branches.
1. Kiyomizu-dera Temple
Kiyomizu-dera Temple, founded in 778, is one of the oldest temples in Japan, as well as one of the most popular. Autumn is considered the best time to visit this ancient temple. Walking through the path adorned with fiery maple trees, you can see the ancient temple with its red walls, green tiles, and eaves carved with colorful clouds. After climbing to the top, the scenery of the entire city is presented before your eyes: Arrays of houses and buildings, green mountains appearing on the distant horizon. Either ancient temples or modern buildings are decorated with endless red. The most beautiful view comes at night. The five-story pagoda on top, as well as other classical temples, have lit golden lanterns, which make the fiery leaves overflow with more glitter.
2. Kodaiji Temple
Located on the foothills of Kyoto, Kodaiji Temple was built in 1624 by the wife of the Japanese general Toyotomi Hideyoshi in memory of him. As a famous maple location in Kyoto, it is usually open to tourists in the evening. In the tenderness of night, the fiery leaves sway in a mild breeze. Some of them occasionally fall onto the eave of the temple, which presents a unique, gentle beauty. On the red-painted wooden bridge, women in kimonos go and pass by as if you are in ancient times. The ground in front of the temple is often presented with glorious light shows that suit the colorful maple leaves. Various lights and patterns are reflected on walls and trees, adding a modern beauty to this quaint temple.
3. Arashiyama Mountain
Arashiyama Mountain is located in the highlands of Kyoto, with a height of about 375 meters. It's recommended to visit it on a sunny day. Standing on a long bridge, you can see the continuous mountains dotted with flaming maple leaves and a gurgling river meandering through the gorge. The place called Kimono Forest, where you can see 600 columns wrapped with all kinds of kimono cloth, is popular among girls wearing flowery kimonos to take photos. A delicate sightseeing train slowly travels through the road strewn with fallen leaves leading to a fairytale-like world. In addition to the red, there is also a bamboo forest in the mountain. Strolling through the green trunk and leaves, your soul may refresh.
Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama
4. Rurikoin Temple
The Rurikoin Temple is tucked away in a verdant mountain, and it has been a popular site for photography enthusiasts where many amazing photos have been taken. If you want to take nice photos, it's better to visit it on a sunny day. Inside the temple stand many Japanese-style wooden structures under drooping red branches. When you walk up the mountain along the mossy stone steps, time in here seems to be slowed down with your pace as well. You may also come across the cute stone sculptures hidden in the bushes and carp swimming in the pond.
The most beautiful scenery is on the second floor of the temple. Clusters of flaming leaves outside the window are an utterly splendid view, which is reflected on the clear, painted table, thus filling the entire room with red lights and shadows. It feels like being in a room made of colored glass in all directions. Meanwhile, the sound of monks chanting scripture comes from behind may remove any annoyance in your heart.
Mount Fuji has the purest landscape in Japan. As the highest elevation in Japan, Mount Fuji is always covered with snow on its top, as if an oil painter giving his finishing touch to the peak.
1. Lake Kawaguchi
Standing on the bank of Lake Kawaguchi, you will embrace the vast, blue water and overlook the pure mountain merging into the azure horizon. At noon, the clouds in the sky gradually dissipate, and sunlight falls on the red leaves above, bringing the enjoyable warmth of mid-autumn. On the other side lies a surprising flower land. The clusters of red bassia scoparia dancing in the cool freeze before your eyes like little elves.
Near Lake Kawaguchi, there is a channel with leafy maples on both sides, which is called "red leaves corridor". The red branches intertwine above the corridor and naturally form a beautiful dome. When you stand inside the corridor, it's like the entire world is wrapped in red leaves and glittering under the sunshine.
2. Lake Ashi
Lake Ashi is a scenic part of Hakone, located near Mount Fuji. The peaceful lake is embedded in a group of mountain ranges, still and serene, like a huge mirror as clear as the autumn sky. Along the shore are layers of red, yellow, and green forests that nestle tightly on the water, where only branches and leaves can be seen, not the land. A huge red torii gate of the Hakone Shrine stands in the lake, backed by the forest.
The most popular activity here is a cruise tour. Take a luxurious ship and slowly move on to the vast, rippling lake. Standing on the deck, you will be surrounded by the glittering lake and cool breeze, seeing the colorful ridges on the shore slowly drift backward. From afar, the pure Mount Fuji stands quietly amid the surging clouds and mists. Cycling around the lake is also great fun. Later, you can have a good rest at the restaurants and hot springs nearby.
Several ancient pilgrimage routes lead to the sacred sites of Kumano Sanzan, deep in the forest or along the road, with rivers trickling through and towering trees surrounding them, allowing you to fully experience the autumn chill. This is the Kumano Kodo, which has become one of the best trekking routes in Japan, especially in the autumn, when the paths and magnificent shrines are set against a backdrop of lush maple trees.
Kumano Kodo in Autumn
1. Kumano Hongu Taisha
It is a fascinating experience to follow the Nakahechi of Kumano Kodo to Hongu Taisha from late November to early December, which gives you a sense of the layers of autumn that are unique to the Japanese mountains and forests. As you walk along the path, all around you is the warble of birds hiding in the cedars, which have blocked out most of the bright autumn sun, leaving their dappled shadows on the rocky ground and lighting the little shrine along the way. A little further down is the path of golden leaves beneath the trees, interspersed with the occasional half-red maple leaf, leading to a deeper place where the sun-like warmth of the yellow-red maple leaves covers the sky. Coming out of the forest, where lined with maples on either side, you can see splashes of bright red, like rubies, glittering under the clear autumn sky.
The sight of the spectacular Torii in front of Miyamoto Taisha means the end is near. Don't forget to make a short stop at the natural hot spring near the shrine, which is said to have therapeutic and miraculous effects. If you're sporty, you can start from Hosshinmon Oji station which is a long walk usually around 3 hours. As for those who want to take it easy, you can simply take the bus to Taisha and start your walk from the end.
2. Kumano Nachi Taisha
Walking up the ancient stone steps from Daimonzaka for about 2.7km, and past through the two vermilion Torii on the road, you can see the rows of Japanese cedars leading to the majestic Nachi Taisha on the slopes of Mt. Nachi. The fiery red maple leaves against the crimson buildings make it hard to tell which part is the shrine. Apart from the maple trees in front of the main hall, be sure to check out the Seigantoji pagoda at the back. Slowly walking in with the sound of the water, the top of the pagoda hidden under the maple leaves gradually appears, with the canvas-like peaks tinted with red and yellow by the autumn leaves, and even the pure white Nachi no Taki waterfall in the middle, decorated with the occasional maple leaf falling into the water, with a hint to autumn red.
The path to Nachi Taisha is a little easier, with roadside stalls offering a variety of refreshments under the flaming maple trees, such as the Toga no Ki Teahouse, one of the most famous places to view the fall color. Sitting on a bench with a chestnut snack and a cup of matcha tea, watching the maple leaves sway in the autumn breeze overhead or fall into your hands, it's no pity if you don't make it to the end.
Autumn Colors in Japan
Nara is one of the ancient capitals of Japan as well as a delicate city that only requires one day to fully explore its beauty. On a sunny autumn day, it's wonderful to ramble in the ancient temples and meet cute deer in the forest.
1. Kasuga Taisha
Lying on the Kasuga Mountain, Kasuga Taisha is one of the three major shrines in Japan. Founded in 768 AD, this sacred temple has a high status in Japan, so logging has been banned here for thousands of years. Therefore, it presents spectacular towering trees with thick roots. Hidden in the lush forests are wooden temples painted red and roofed with green tiles. One of the most eye-catching landscapes is the rows of copper lanterns hung in the temple, each being an exquisite antique. In the evening, the shrine will be lit up by the lanterns, emitting a red glow in the dark forests, and the paths will also be illuminated to welcome people coming for prayer.
Near the temple, on the road dotted with red leaves, there are many docile, beautiful deer with pointed ears, which are considered to be the messengers of God in Japan. Cookies specially made for deer are sold to people who want to feed these cute creatures.
Located near Nara Park, Tdai-ji is a magnificent wooden temple with a history spanning over 1200 years. Walking through the intertwining red branches, you can see the huge wooden temple with mottled walls, red doors, and green tile roofs. Golden sunlight scatters on the grassland in front. The most prestigious landmark in the temple is a giant Buddha statue about 15 meters high. The black Buddha sits upright on the lotus platform, solemnly overlooking the front. There are also vivid statues on each direction of the temple, conveying the ancient Buddhist culture in silence.
3. Mizutani Tea House
Mizutani Tea House is a small wooden diner in Nara Park, yet with unexpected beauty and leisure. The maple leaves here are particularly red and thick, and underneath the fiery branches is the small tea house, a splendid place to have a short rest after a long time of walking. It provides Japanese cuisine, such as fried rice, noodles, and glutinous rice snacks. The ground nearby is densely covered with red leaves, which feels like a red velvet carpet when walking on it. The brimming red color is also a wonderful setting to take pictures. In addition, there are many stores selling persimmon leaf sushi, which is a specialty of Nara.
Tokyo, the capital of Japan, is a city with a long history. Here you can see not only endless red leaves on a popular mountain, but also large scales of golden ginkgo leaves outside a shrine.
1. Mount Takao
Mount Takao is a popular hiking mountain in Tokyo about 600 meters high. From November to December, the mountain will be dotted with endless red, yellow, and green leaves. It is recommended to climb it in sunny weather. Cable and sightseeing train are both available to reach the mountainside. Taking a slow cable, you will see maple trees standing tall and upright, with red and golden leaves swaying under the sunlight, as if you were in a glimmering oil painting. The paths to the top are soft, covered with red leaves, and the air is fresh without any smell of urban. Upon reaching the top, you will catch a superb panorama of stretching mountains in greenery and a blue sky spotted by clouds. It is truly a paradise for outdoor lovers.
Both in the entrance and on the mountainside, there are various Japanese snacks being sold, such as octopus balls and roasted chestnuts. What's more, on weekends and holidays in November, there will be the Red Leaf Festival which holds various traditional musical performances. Japanese-style handicrafts and liquor are also sold on stalls.
The Meiji-jingū is one of the three major shrines in Japan. Instead of fiery leaves, here is a 300-meter avenue of golden gingkos. In November, you can see lines of towering golden ginkgos on the avenue, one side of which trimmed to a straight upward shape, and the other side stretching out freely. People ride bicycles on the broad, golden avenue resemble the scenes from Japanese TV series. On sunny days, the golden leaves shining under sunlight is a perfect setting, thus attracting streams of people to take photos. There are also various imperial guards being sold in the shrine. It's believed that, if you write down and place it in the imperial guards.your wish would come true.
Located at the highest latitude in Japan, Hokkaido has Japan's earliest autumn. Here you can enjoy the red leaves while relax yourself in a natural hot spring pool.
1. Daisetsuzan National Park
Daisetsuzan National Park, with a nicked name called "God's courtyard for amusement", is a natural forest park with a beautiful canyon lying in the center. In late September, the maple leaves here gradually turn yellow and red. To fully admire the colorful mountain, you can take a cable car to go through the cliffs with trees that are wildly growing. Along the way, the gurgling sound of the brook echoes in the canyon. Finally, you reach the top, where you can look down to catch a panorama of the colorful leaves all over the mountain.
Sapporo-shi is famous for its hot spring town. Taking a cable up the mountain, you can see many hot spring hotels hidden in the colorful trees. Both high-end hotels and small, warm lodges are available to satisfy different needs. Bathing in the hot spring full of water vapor, you can enjoy the picturesque red leaves outside the window and thoroughly unwind.
With their awe and deep understanding of nature, Japanese people keep most of the colors and views here to retain their original beauty and connect them harmoniously with quaint architecture. In the beautiful autumn, walk through each picturesque view: the flaming maple forest, the solemn wooden temples, and the lovely deer. Are you motivated? Just contact us for a personalized Japan tour, and we'll take you to catch the rays of fresh vitality in the natural tranquility.
What Our Clients Say
CONTACT A TRAVEL EXPERT
1-to-1 Service | Reply within 24hrs | Expert's Advice
SUBSCRIBE TO WIN A FREE TOUR
Subscribe to our newsletter for a chance to win a free 12-day China tour! And more insider travel news, exclusive offers, and inspiration will be sent straight to your inbox.