Looking to experience autumn in Japan?

First there is the beautiful scenery, turned white under a blanket of snow in winter, wreathed in pink cherry blossoms in spring, bright green and lush in summer, and striking reds and oranges in autumn.

Then there are the seasonal foods, the festivals, events and traditions.

Whilst spring has always been the most popular time for travellers to Japan, autumn offers many attractions too. The autumn leaves are arguably as beautiful as the cherry blossom, and the weather is similarly balmy and pleasant.

The following are our five favorite spots for enjoying “koyo”
(or “leaf-peeping”, as it is also known).

1. Kyoto’s temples

Kyoto, which served as the capital of Japan for over a millennium, should be at the top of anyone’s leaf-peeping list. It’s not for nothing that Kyoto is known as the “City of Ten Thousand Temples”, and many of its ancient temples and shrines make stunning settings for koyo. One of our favourite spots is Kiyomizu-dera Temple, where we recommend visiting in the evening to see the leaves lit up with lanterns.

2. Daisetsuzan National Park

Hokkaido is Japan’s second-largest and least-visited island, and it’s nothing like the Japan you’ll see in guidebooks and magazines. With rolling fields, steaming volcanoes, craggy mountains and thick forests, it’s one of the best places to appreciate nature in all its wildness and glory – especially in the autumn. We recommend Daisetsuzan National Park, which is one of the first places to see autumn colours every year (from mid-September until late October).

3. Lake Towada

In the rugged northern region of Japan’s main island lies Lake Towada, the largest caldera lake in Japan. The lake is stunning at any time of year, but from late October until early November its banks are covered in reds, golds and oranges – best viewed from the waters on a sightseeing cruise.

4. Kenrokuen Garden

Widely acknowledged to be one of the finest gardens in Japan, if not the finest of them all – Kenrokuen is a lovely place to appreciate autumn colours. Located in the city of Kanazawa, which is renowned for its preserved historical buildings and rich culture, this is a fantastic addition to any Japan itinerary.

5. Nikko

Easily reached on a day trip from Tokyo, Nikko is a destination packed with history and atmosphere. The area is famous as the final resting place of Japan’s greatest shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, and his mausoleum is one of the most elaborate examples of Japanese architecture in existence. The tomb and temple complex are surrounded by deep forest and national park, making this a fabulous place for koyo.

Be sure to extend your visit to include beautiful Lake Chuzenji and the Kegon Waterfall!

Visiting in Spring? Read more about the:

Blossoms in Japan


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    Travel Dudes

    I'm sure you've had similar experiences I had whilst traveling. You're in a certain place and a fellow traveler, or a local, tip you off on a little-known beach, bar or accommodation. Great travel tips from other travelers or locals always add something special to our travels. That was the inspiration for Travel Dudes.