Chase the autumn leaves in Japan

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While some travelers head for sunny places as soon as the leaves start to fall to escape this wet season, others can't wait to enjoy the wonder of autumn.  Whether you are a fan of autumn or not, you have to admit that some places just become much more beautiful during this season. Japan is one of these cases which turns into a gold, yellow and orange fairy tale starting from September. And we can honestly say: We cannot imagine a more beautiful season to visit Japan.

When are the colors at their best?  

Each region in Japan has its own autumn peak, which can last from 2 to 4 weeks on average. It can even happen that within a given area, different places have separate peak seasons. For example, the mountains of Nikko are already past their peak, while the mainland has yet to begin.  

If there is a specific location that you would really like to see at its autumn peak, be sure to look for its average peak moments. Like cherry blossom time, the Japanese also take autumn time very seriously, so there are several websites that track when the autumn colors reach which location. Also for example the site of the railroads of Japan. Below is an image from their website.

In any case, keep in mind that autumn in Japan moves from north to south. Discoloration begins on the northern island of Hokkaido around mid-September. On the main island of Honshu, the leaves change color in mid-October to early December.

The island of Shikoku changes color between mid-November and early December. On the southern island of Kyushu, you will enjoy the autumn colors between early and late November. So each place changes color at its own time, but if you travel in November, you are guaranteed to spot many autumn colors! 

Autumn Blossoms

Did you know that there are not only spring blossoms, but also autumn blossoms? Trees that blossom in autumn can be spotted in some places in Japan.  

The most well-known place for this is in the Obara Fureai Park near Toyota City in the Aichi Prefecture which is in full bloom in November. In Jomine Park in the Saitama Prefecture, you can even spot winter blossoms in autumn, a true spectacle!   

Our five favorite destinations in Japan during autumn.

5. Tokyo
The capital of Japan is, of course, not to be missed. The range of urban parks and Japanese gardens in Tokyo is surprisingly large, and in autumn it is beautifully shrouded in autumn colors.  

To experience the ultimate autumn feeling in this city, though, you need to know where to go. Visit the University of Tokyo campus where you can stroll through a golden tunnel or stroll down the enchanting ingu Gaien Ginkgo Avenue. 

Also highly recommended is Yoyogi Park. The trees in this western park turn red and yellow in autumn. An ideal place for a walk.

4. Fujiyama
Japan's highest mountain is spectacular to see by itself. The volcano Fujiyama that towers over Tokyo with its snowy summit and five lakes at its foot is magical. The mountain is a sacred site for a reason. In autumn, this picture along with the bright red leaves creates an impressive contrast. 

Still, autumn is not the ideal season to climb Fujiyama, but the Fuji Hakone Izu National Park - of which the mountain is a part - is a colorful sight in autumn.

We recommend you pick one of the five lakes and then be enchanted by the autumn colors in the surrounding forests. For example, near Lake Kawaguchi you will find the Chureito pagoda, where you have a view of the volcano. The pagoda is surrounded by cherry blossoms that turn rusty red in autumn.

If you do climb Fujiyama, you will find yourself in the yellow sea of the Karamatsu, the only coniferous tree that turns color in autumn.

3. Kanazawa
Kanazawa is a beautiful old town located between the Japanese Alps and the Sea of Japan. The city is known for the Kenrokuen Garden, one of the three most beautiful landscape gardens in Japan. You can also visit the old Higashi Chaya district and walk through Nagamachi, the old Samurai district. 

A must in the evening is to enjoy the extremely good sushi for which Kanazawa is famous. 

As one of Japan's most beautiful gardens, Kenrokuen Garden is also a wonderful place to enjoy the autumn colors. 

You can also take a day trip from Kanazawa to Kaga Onsen, some rustic villages south of the city known for its many high-quality hot springs.

2. Hitachi Seaside Park
On a sunny autumn day, hike to the top of the so-called Miharashi no oka - lookouthill for the best view of the red-colored fields of Hitachi Seaside Park contrasting with the bright blue sky.

For where in spring you get lost in a sea of flowers of baby blue Nemophilas, in autumn this area transforms into a landscape dotted with red-colored Kochias. 

The large park northeast of Tokyo is a popular destination to enjoy the so-called koyo, the coloring of the trees.

The path running through the park leads you past its many gardens. Want to see more of this gigantic area in less time? Rent a bike or hop on the train that runs through the park. To enter Hitachi Seaside Park, you pay only around five euros.

1. Kyoto
The former capital of Japan is bursting with classical architecture and culture. You walk through a backdrop of temples, palaces, pavilions and traditional Japanese geishas amid colorful landscapes, which in autumn are topped off with vibrant yellow and red leaves. 

From mid-November, the red leaves of the many maples are at their most beautiful. Keep in mind that it can be a lot cooler in Kyoto than in Tokyo around this time. 

It is not difficult to find a temple in Kyoto from which to admire the autumn scenery, but some well-known spots include the Tofuku-ji, Kiyomizu-dera, Yoshimine-dera and the Eikando temple. Also be sure to take an evening walk, after dark the trees in Kyoto are illuminated.

Where to stay

Japanese themselves love the autumn season, and masses of tourists flock to various places in Japan during that period to witness this wonderful natural spectacle. That means hotels across the country are crowded. When we were in Kyoto in November, there was no place to sleep in the entire area. Everything was completely booked. If you are traveling through Japan during the fall season, book your accommodations at least several months in advance. Otherwise, the good options are definitely gone.

Below are our favorite sustainable hotels.

The Trunk hotel in Tokyo
The Trunk Hotel is one of the best eco-friendly accommodation options in the hipster neighborhood Shibuya. The property has a motto of “to live true to yourself. The boutique hotel is for sustainable travelers living in the here and now and wanting to make an impact on others around them. 

Located in Shibuya the hotel sits in one of the most popular areas of the city. Restaurants, shops, and cafes line the streets, as well as the infamous Onden Shrine opposite the Trunk Hotel. Rooms feature a simple and minimalistic design.

The Trunk Hotel takes great pride in embodying the concept of ‘socializing.’ They donate a portion of their profits each year to create social opportunities for the daily lives of guests and residents in Tokyo, as well as a determination to make people more social and energetic. The hotel provides water-saving toilets, bike rentals, and display work from local artists and designers.

Good nature hotel in Kyoto
The first certified hotel in the world as environmentally and health-conscious is called GOOD NATURE HOTEL KYOTO. There slogan is ”Good for people and nature.“ They make use of the ancient wisdom of respecting nature and incorporating it into our lives, which has been rooted in Kyoto since ancient times.

They propose comfortable and enjoyable products and services for both people and nature. 

The hotel offer a variety of wonderful activities to purify your body and mind such as intensive full-body beauty treatments. Also they offer yoga.

This article was last updated on May 09, 2023.