I personally was thankful I got the chance to visit in the fall. I spent the last week of October and the first week of November exploring this beautiful country in Asia. This timing was perfect for weather/temperatures, fall colors, and even Halloween and holiday decorations!
Autumn in Japan
Japan definitely has all four seasons. While none are extreme, there are well-defined temperature changes. So, this means there is a true spring and fall. Most people want to visit during the famous cherry blossom season. There’s absolutely something to be said about that. I can’t wait to soon share my experience from this past spring!
However, as someone who has now been in both fall and spring, I would like to point out that the fall is still my favorite time to visit. Autumn in Japan can compete with its springtime counterpart and I dare say it’s the best time to visit. Why is that?
Argument 1-Fall Colors
Yep, I realize this one is obvious. But again, the fall foliage in Japan often gets overshadowed by the cherry blossom season in the spring. Japan has a lot of natural wonders and landscapes and therefore is not lacking in gorgeous fall colors that are definitely worth seeing.
Whether it’s a vast forest, view from a bridge, or a park in the city, there are numerous leaf-peeping opportunities!
By climate, I mean autumn in Japan boasts an equally temperament climate to that of springtime. Because of this, weather isn’t a factor in choosing between the two seasons. Average seasonal temps are 50-70° for both!
Argument 3-Holiday Decorations
Admittedly, this one depends on when in the fall you visit. Autumn in Japan happens later than you might expect so early to mid-November is definitely “in-season”. If going then, you can see fall foliage AND the start of Christmas decorations going up (at least around Tokyo).
TIP: Go the last week of October through at least the start of the second week of November and you can celebrate Halloween in Tokyo, see fall colors around the country, AND the start of Christmas decorations!
Top Autumn Places to Visit in Japan
These are my top recommendations for the best places to see fall foliage in Japan. I have done my best to notate the date I was there. Also, all locations will be organized into a Google Map at the end for easy reference.
Mount Fuji-Lake Kawaguchiko
Always the iconic desire, Mount Fuji is absolutely gorgeous in autumn. The snow-capped mountain loves to play daily games of hide-and-seek but catching it surrounded by colorful fall foliage is one of the most spectacular views in all of Japan!
There are several places from which to view Mount Fuji and one of these is Lake Kawaguchiko. The second largest of the Fuji Fives Lakes, it is the most accessible and offers numerous viewing points of the famous mountain within itself.
It’s super easy to get to Lake Kawaguchiko from Tokyo making it a popular day trip option (as we did) or if time permits, there are many hotels and campsites for extended stays. Whichever option you choose, be sure to stroll around the lake admiring the autumn views and capitalizing on the yummy eats!
Date of Visit: November 4th
Getting the opportunity to see this view in the fall was one of the requirements I had for this trip (and for my second springtime trip as well). Chureito Pagoda definitely rewarded me with outstanding scenery complete with Mount Fuji, a gorgeous sunset, and you guessed it…beautiful fall foliage!
In full disclosure, due to its viewing popularity, they have built up a bit of a platform that makes it slightly more difficult to get unobstructed views. So, your view will look a little different and might have parts of the wooden deck in it. I understand they did this to accommodate the many tourists but it does present a challenge for optimal photos.
Date of Visit: November 5th
TIP: There are about 400 steps to climb to get to the pagoda. There is a walking path up to it as well but the path is steep and winding. I did want to note this though as it is possible to get to the base of the pagoda. However, to get up behind it for this view-stairs is the only option I remember seeing.
Nachi Falls (from Kyoto)
By far one of THE top places for viewing autumn in Japan is Nachi Falls. Standing 436 feet tall and 42 feet wide, it is the country’s largest single-drop waterfall. Due to Nachi Fall’s extremely remote location, it is framed by trees galore. In the fall, some of these trees change colors and together with the evergreens, they create gorgeous autumn scenery!
In addition to taking in the falls itself, be sure to explore the Nachi Primeval Forest. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, Japan also considers it to be a “National Natural Monument of Japan”.
Also, there is the Seiganto-ji (Buddhist temple) that includes the Sanjudo Pagoda. I don’t know about you but pagodas are so mesmerizing to me. I love them (not to mention the fact they seem to be accompanied by gorgeous photography opportunities)!
Date of Visit: October 29th
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Fushimi Inari (Kyoto)
So excited to share the quite popular Fushimi Inari! Known for its endless number of torii gates forming incredibly long canopies, it is a really beautiful part of autumn in Japan. These torii gates, called Senbon Torii meaning “thousands of torii gates”, make a great mountain hiking trail.
Once you climb to a certain part of the impressive trail on your way to the summit, you have a couple of lookout points that are worth a stop. The main one is the Yotsutsuji intersection which is around 30-45 minutes into the hike. Take in the fall foliage and sweeping views of Kyoto as well!
Date of Visit: October 27th
TIP: There are restaurants along the hike with options that include sushi and udon. Also, please note that the further you ascend up the hiking trail, the more the torii gates “trail off”.
Arashiyama is a well-known area of Kyoto. Most people recognize it for its iconic bamboo forest and monkey park. However, in the fall, the natural landscapes of Arashiyama become a highlight of what to see and do.
This is a popular location to view Japanese maple trees. The district is vast though so you might be interested in these top fall foliage spots in Arashiyama. Best time for viewing autumn in Japan here is late November.
The area is easy to get to as it is well-connected via the JR San-in (Sagano) line which arrives at Saga-Arashiyama Station from Kyoto Station. This isn’t the only option (there are others as you can see here) but it is a quite popular one.
Date of Visit: October 27th
Tofuku-ji Temple (Kyoto)
If you haven’t noticed, Kyoto is a fabulous place to be during autumn in Japan. Admittedly, it’s fantastic for cherry blossom season and really, just in general. Yet another great fall viewing place within Kyoto is Tofuku-ji Temple.
A principal Zen temple, Tofuku-ji gets its name from the Nara temples of Todaiji and Kofukuji. In the fall, both locals and international tourists alike flock to this area due to its gorgeous fall foliage. The prime viewing location here is the Tsutenkyo Bridge. Conversely, the view from the bridge’s nearly 320-foot-long covered walkway is also amazing.
Once again, prime viewing time is around mid-late November.
TIP: While there are several areas that are free to enter within the Tofuku-ji Temple, the Tsutenkyo Bridge does have an admission fee of 600 yen which is the equivalent of around $4 USD.
This one might not have been on your radar. Admittedly, it wasn’t on mine either. I happened upon the start of fall foliage in Hiroshima and while subtle in late October, it was beautiful. I wish it had been on my radar because I missed some crucial spots that I want you to hopefully see!
A few noteworthy areas are Hiroshima Castle as well as Peace Memorial Park. My personal favorite for autumn in Japan in Hiroshima was the view of the Genbaku (Atomic Bomb) Building from across the river.
For comparison and to help you plan more accurately, this is another pretty view but to me, it looks more like spring than fall. This helps illustrate my point that peak autumn in (southern) Japan happens later in mid-November for the most part. When it gets closer to time, there are typically many fall foliage forecasts published which can help guide you.
Date of Visit: October 26th
TIP: Hiroshima can be done as a day trip from Osaka if you are short on time.
While you are in Hiroshima, take a short trip via ferry over to Miyajima Island. I was there too early for true fall foliage. However, it is one of the top places for leaf peeping and these photos can at least show you the views for your imagination!
It is a short 10-minute ride and you will have views of the famous Torii gate that looks like it’s floating in the water. Good news for you, the renovation (for the Olympics) is complete and you won’t have the same views I did! 🙌🏼
TIP: There is a ferry pass from Hiroshima to Miyajima Island included in the JR Pass!
Autumn in Japan-TOKYO
You thought I was going to leave out Japan’s capital, didn’t you? How could I? Tokyo boasts its own spots for autumn in Japan. There really are too many to list but here are some top recommendations.
Autumn leaves in Japan – red Momiji leaves (maple tree) in Tokyo Shinjuku Gyoen Park
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is the perfect place for a serene stroll to enjoy fall colors. It is a favorite of locals and lots of times goes unnoticed by tourists. There are approximately 143 acres to explore and makes a great break from the busy city life of Tokyo!
Fiery maple trees in Koishikawa Korakuen, a traditional Japanese garden famous for brilliant fall foliage in Tokyo, Japan
If I were to return to see more of autumn in Japan (and I plan on doing so), Koishikawa Korakuen Garden might be the top place on my list to visit in later November. The garden just seems like a hidden oasis to get lost in, decompress, and enjoy the scenery.
One of Tokyo’s oldest landscaped gardens and a true “Japanese garden”, Koishikawa is a popular choice for the highly sought-after red leaves of the Japanese maple trees!
View of the Imperial Palace, Tokyo Japan
The Imperial Palace Park is another pretty place to see fall foliage. It’s also a typical place tourists want to cross off their lists in Tokyo anyway. So, if you’re there mid to late fall, it’s a great bonus!
Autumn leaves East Garden-Imperial Palace, Tokyo
This list isn’t exhaustive by any means but it does point you in the right direction for the top locations. Unfortunately, I haven’t been to the northern part of Japan so I can’t direct you there. But, as you can imagine…it’s on my list! 😱😍
As you now have seen, autumn in Japan is a beautiful time to visit a naturally pretty place. It’s hard to pick a bad time since the country has such a long fall season. Just decide what else you might want to pair with it and plan accordingly!
Have you seen autumn in Japan? What month did you go? What all did you see and what was your favorite? Particularly curious if you have been in both spring and fall. Which time did you like better? If you haven’t been, what do you want to see most? As always, let me know below!
‘Til next time…