Besides the ever-popular cherry blossom season, fall in Japan is easily one of the best times to explore this gorgeous country. The best places to visit in Japan during fall span across the country, but what’s interesting is the nature of the entire season. Autumn here spans from September to November, but two distinct waves of foliage occur. These are led by yellow leaves (from ginkgo trees) in late October, followed by red leaves (from Japanese maple trees) in early November. This is when people go “hunting red leaves,” which is the literal translation of the Japanese term Momiji-gari. It’s a national tradition where people visit the country’s color-changing sites. These include walking in fall foliage-swathed valleys and mountains or strolling down ginkgo trees avenues that lead to a shrine.
Clearly, the fall in Japan is a revered time, just like everything else in this wonderful country. Thankfully, there are many places as well as ample time for travelers to enjoy this seasonal spectacle. From the Hokkaido mountains to the temples of Kyoto, check out these gorgeous destinations for Japanese autumn.
Table of contents
- Rikugien Garden, Tokyo
- Lake Kawaguchiko, Yamanashi
- Nara Park, Nara
- Nikko, Tochigi
- Lake Towada, Aomori
- Hitachi Seaside Park, Ibaraki
- Jozankei Onsen, Hokkaido
- Minoo Park, Osaka
- Naruko Gorge, Miyagi
- The Shingu Kumano Shrine, Fukushima
- Our Verdict!
- Which city in Japan has the best autumn?
- Is it worth visiting Japan in the fall?
- When should I go to Japan for autumn foliage?
Rikugien Garden, Tokyo
Best garden. If you’re only in Tokyo for a short while and want to soak in the autumn colors, then one of the best spots near the city is Rikugien Garden. This famous landscaped garden is home to numerous maple trees that turn all shades of burnt orange, auburn, and red during peak autumn. In fact, the garden even hosts an evening illumination during autumn evenings, which is basically a very rare chance to see the fall foliage in a different light. We highly recommend taking an entire afternoon off and strolling the park’s many trails. Later on, enjoy a spot of tea at one of the teahouses. Our vote goes to the Tsutsuji no Chaya teahouse, from where the views of the garden, along with the stream, the Fujishirotoge viewpoint, and the Togetsukyo Bride are particularly beautiful.
Colors peak: Late November-early December.
- If you’re on a short trip, then this Tokyo fall attraction is one of the easiest to see.
- It’s a designated national scenic spot for viewing autumn leaves.
- It’s also connected well by public transportation.
- It’s a within-city attraction.
Where to Stay: Hotel Gran Villa, which is a 15-minute walk from the gardens, is a great place to stay. Besides free Wi-Fi, parking, and luggage storage, this hotel also has a 24-hour front desk for convenience. The rooms are utterly modern with minimalistic design, swish mod-cons, and immaculate bathrooms with free toiletries.
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Lake Kawaguchiko, Yamanashi
Most popular. If there was one photograph that screamed ‘Japan,’ it would be that of Mt Fuji surrounded by stunning autumn leaves. And while all the Fuji Five lakes are great spots to check out the seasonal foliage, none is more gorgeous in the fall than Lake Kawaguchiko. There are two vantage points on the lake, the iconic Momiji Tunnel, which frames Mt Fuji with red maple leaves, and the Momiji Corridor along the Nashigawa River. This is also where the enchanting fall foliage festival of Fuji-Kawaguchiko Momiji Matsuri is held every year. Every evening of the festival sees the Maple Corridor lit up like there’s no tomorrow.
Colors peak: Mid-to-late November to early December.
- It’s one of the best spots to capture amazing photographs of Mt Fuji.
- The fall festival is a sight to behold.
- Despite being a trail, the Momiji Tunnel and Corridor are extremely accessible.
- If it’s a cloudy day, then Mt Fuji will be hidden by the clouds.
Where to Stay: Staying on Lake Kawaguchiko is a dream come true, and that dream can come true in luxurious style at the Kawaguchiko Urban Resort Villa. This villa-hotel offers a bevy of lake-facing accommodations, all with fridges, microwaves, and patios overlooking the lake. The outdoors at this hotel is one to behold, as it boasts landscaped gardens overlooking the lake and unparalleled views of Mt Fuji.
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Nara Park, Nara
Most walkable. Alt-J sang “To be a deer in Nara,” and we certainly agree with that. In fact, Nara Park is one of the top things to do in Nara. Besides the presence of hundreds and hundreds of deer in the park, Nara Park is also one of the best places to take in all the autumn foliage. One of the best spots for soaking in the fall foliage is the area surrounding the Todaiji Temple, which is full of brilliant yellow ginkgo trees, red Momiji maple trees, and the famous bowing deer of Nara.
That said, we were bowled over by Ukimido, a beautiful wooden pavilion in the middle of the park that looks like a floating gazebo. This place is especially scenic in autumn as the vibrant foliage is reflected in the surface of the pond, making for an arresting optical illusion.
Colors peak: Mid-November through December.
- Nara is one of the most peaceful big cities to enjoy Japan’s fall foliage.
- It’s one of the smallest cities to explore Japan’s fall foliage.
- The city is great for culture lovers too.
- Not everyone will be comfortable with the hundreds of deer roaming everywhere.
Where to Stay: You can’t come to Japan and not stay in a ryokan (traditional hotel), and the luxurious Ryokan Asukasou sits right next to the park. It has Japanese-style rooms with wooden and tatami-mat floors, and the ryokan is famed for its rooftop onsen (hot tub drawing water from a natural hot water spring). The best bit? It offers spectacular views of the park and the Kofukuji Temple, which lights up at night.
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Sitting just north of Tokyo, Nikko is much like a mini-Kyoto with its amazing Unesco World Heritage-listed temples swathed in hues of red during autumn. The entirety of this small city looks picture-perfect in Autumn, but some of the best spots to soak in the scenery are the Shinkyo Bridge, Kegon Waterfall, and the Ryuzu Falls. Shinkyo Bridge is near the entrance to Nikko’s main temples and shrines, with its vivid red hue perfectly matching the seasonal vermillion foliage. The 100-m (328 ft) tall Kegon Waterfall is the only exit for Lake Chuzenji’s waters, and there are multiple vantage points for watching the bright red leaves. Ryuzu Falls, a.k.a. Dragon’s Head Waterfall, flows into Lake Chuzenji. During fall, the leaves here turn shades of brilliant red, orange, and gold, giving the cascades a dragon-like appearance.
Colors peak: Early October-early November.
- Nikko is one of the best places to visit for culture lovers.
- It lies just two hours north of Tokyo.
- It has UNESCO World Heritage-listed temples.
- One or two days might be a little too less to explore the city.
Where to Stay: Blend a luxurious stay with a traditional one at the Okunoin Hotel Tokugawa. This luxury ryokan sits amidst lush greenery just outside the town center. Its rooms feature lovely private terraces with breathtaking views of the Japanese gardens of the hotel. In fact, the higher-up rooms even have relaxing open-air onsens to unwind after a day of exploring Nikko.
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Lake Towada, Aomori
Imagine a caldera lake being one of the best leaf-peeping spots for autumn, but it’s true. Lake Towada, Japan’s Honshu Island’s largest caldera lake, is a real sight to behold come fall. Since the climate is cooler up north in Aomori, the leaves change colors slightly earlier, with the peak being around mid-to-late October. The shores, which are full of Momiji maple and beech trees, turn shades of bright yellow and vibrant vermillion. However, what makes this scenic spot truly jaw-dropping is the reflection of Mt Towada and its seasonal foliage on the still waters of the lake’s surface.
Colors peak: Mid-late October
- This scenic spot is away from the maddening crowds of southern Japan.
- It’s one of the most unique spots to see fall foliage in Japan.
- There are a lot of other places to explore nearby during the fall season.
- The region might get cold a little too soon for people’s comfort.
Where to Stay: Do you want to stay right on the lake? Do it right and stay at the Towada Prince Hotel, complete with lakeside-facing landscaped gardens and rooms. The rooms are excellent, with the best ones facing the lake. Besides free shuttle service, the hotel also has a 24-hour front desk and can arrange for an array of activities for guests to enjoy, like cycling, kayaking, hiking, etc.
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Hitachi Seaside Park, Ibaraki
Have you had your fill of red Momiji leaves? Or are you simply looking for something different to add to your Japanese autumn photo gallery? Head to Hitachi Seaside Park in Ibaraki on the country’s eastern coast, three hours north of Tokyo. It’s home to cute pom-pom plants called “Kochia” (summer cypress), which fill the park come autumn and are a sight to behold. These small busy plants sway merrily in the autumn zephyr, turning brilliant red as the seasons go by. In fact, this massive field is filled with some 32,000 of these Kochia ball plants, which are a spectacular sight. In fact, there’s even the Kochia Carnival which is held every autumn, so don’t miss it!
Colors peak: Mid-October. They turn dusty golden after that.
- They’re an offbeat autumn attraction to explore during Japanese autumn.
- These Kochia fields make for a gorgeous photo opportunity.
- They’re just three hours from Tokyo, making it possible to make this a day trip too.
- Those who have limited time in Japan and want to see traditional Japanese ginkgo or maple trees should probably skip this one.
Where to Stay: One of the best hotels closest to Hitachi Seaside Park is Hotel Crystal Palace. This modern, four-star hotel has wonderful rooms with bathrooms featuring bathtubs. Amenities include a continental breakfast, a shared lounge, a garden, free Wi-Fi, a concierge, and even free bikes.
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Jozankei Onsen, Hokkaido
Japan is most famous for its onsens, so imagine spending autumn in an onsen town! Welcome to the charming Jozankei Onsen in western Hokkaido, a favorite with “Koyo” seekers. The place turns particularly picturesque during autumn when the areas around the famous red Futami Suspension Bridge and Hoheikyo Dam are awash with vibrant fall foliage. The peaceful waters of the Toyohira River make for the perfect backdrop, or you could attain an aerial vantage point by riding the gondola at Sapporo International Ski Resort.
Colors peak: Early-mid October.
- This onsen town is perfect for a laidback, quiet holiday.
- It’s one of the few places you can see the fall foliage from above.
- Staying in an onsen town is one of the most unique experiences in the country.
- It doesn’t have the action of a big city like Tokyo or even Kyoto.
Where to Stay: Enjoy a relaxing stay at Jozankei Daiichi Hotel Suizantei, which is a stone’s throw from Tsukimibashi Bridge. It has not one but three private hot springs, with each blended with slightly different compositions for rich spring water quality. Besides the communal baths, one can also enjoy hot springs in their rooms for privacy. Plus, the meals are excellent, varying from Japanese to continental cuisine. Since Daiichi Hotel sits in the center of Jozankei Onsen, it’s easy to explore the town on foot.
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Minoo Park, Osaka
How would you be interested in eating Momiji tempura? We’re talking about the fall foliage maple leaves being freshly deep-fried in the batter! This is Minoo Park in Osaka, a region that might be lesser known for its natural landscape – save for Minoo Park. Besides the allure of the tempura, Minoo Park is an excellent place to visit during the autumn for the fall colors. The colors are especially gorgeous around the main park attraction, the 33-m (108 ft) cascading Minoo Falls. With a backdrop of plush autumn foliage, these falls check all the right boxes. A leisurely 45-minute trek leads you to the falls, along which you’ll find local temples and shops that add to the charm of the place. This is where you’ll find the Momiji leaf tempura, which is a local delicacy.
Colors peak: Mid-late November
- These waterfalls are one of the most unique fall attractions in Japan.
- The Momiji leaf tempura is another thing unique to this park.
- The trek to the waterfalls is easy.
- This attraction lies an hour outside Osaka, warranting a day trip at least.
Where to Stay: The Sanso Kaze no Mori, which sits less than five minutes from the park, is one of the most unique stays in the region. It has just 20 rooms, all of which offer superb views of Osaka city. The open-air bathtubs are made from Japanese umbrella pine trees in the special annex rooms. The restaurant serves kaiseki (traditional Japanese meals) and other cuisines. The best bit is that the hotel has three onsens, of which the Komorebi-no-Yu uses only minerals with far-infrared effects and is accessible only by guests staying here.
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Naruko Gorge, Miyagi
This jaw-dropping Naruko Gorge in the north-western area of Miyagi prefecture is one of the Tohuku region’s top natural attractions. The 100-m (328 ft) deep gorge has been carved out over hundreds of years. The oranges and reds of maple, oak, and beech trees dot the cliffs, accented by the conifer trees’ deep green hues dotted among them. During the season, the foliage here turns lovely shades of auburn and gold. The best views can be spied at Narukokyo Resthouse, one of the most famous and must-eat-at restaurants here. It has a wonderful observation deck from where you can spy views of the lovely Ofukazawa Bridge that stretches between the trees – straight out of a painting! You could also stroll along the leaves-laden Ofukasawa Promenade at the bottom of the gorge. Sometimes, you can even spot trains running along slowly, blaring its horn, making for a wonderful photo op.
Colors peak: Late October-early November
- It’s one of the region’s and the country’s top natural attractions.
- It’s very easy to spend time here, as there are multiple viewpoints and a restaurant.
- The contrast of the autumn foliage against the conifer’s green is very unique.
- The gorge is 2.5 hours north of Fukushima and takes a lot of time to get to.
Where to Stay: We recommend heading to the Oedoonsen Monogata Masuya, an amazing onsen hotel lying less than 10 minutes from the gorge. The open-air onsen here boasts sweeping views of the mountains. What’s more, the hotel also has modern rooms with free WiFi, a restaurant serving kaiseki cuisine, and a buffet Asian/American breakfast can be enjoyed at the property. The accommodation offers 3-star accommodation with a hot spring bath and public bath.
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The Shingu Kumano Shrine, Fukushima
What’s a shrine doing on a list of Japan’s best fall weather places? When you see the Shingu Kumano Shrine in Fukushima, you’ll understand. The Nagatoko (large rectangular praying area) of the Shingu Kumano Shrine has been designated as an “Important Cultural Property of Japan.” Here, it’s referring to the open-air, wall-less structure that’s the worship hall. It’s home to a 30-m (98 ft) large ginkgo tree which is dyed a beautiful shade of yellow in autumn. What’s more, the ground is completely covered in ginkgo leaves and looks just like a carpet of gold. One of the most unique views of the yellow-colored Nagatoko and the giant ginkgo is from between the roof and the pillars. Are you here in mid-November? There’s a light-up display at night for just one week.
- It’s one of the easiest places to visit and is accessible to everyone.
- The shrine, with the autumn hues, makes for a wonderfully peaceful place to pray.
- It’s one of the most culturally important places in Japan.
- It’s a singular attraction rather than a region.
Where to Stay: Active Resorts Urabandai is one of the best places to stay in Fukushima. The luxury resort offers both Western and Japanese-style tatami floor rooms. What’s more, it boasts panoramic views of the lush forests around. Besides free Wi-Fi, the resort also features a sauna room and outdoor/indoor hot-spring baths.
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Best city in autumn. If you have the time to visit just one place in all of Japan for autumn, then Kyoto, Japan’s cultural capital, is your best bet. It’s home to some of the country’s best and most famous “Koyo” spots, including the picturesque Daigo-Ji and Ruriko-in temples. The garden’s fall scenery in the latter temple is reflected on a polished black lacquered table. In fact, Kyoto’s temples are the highlight of the Koyo season. Yet another place where you can catch the gorgeous foliage is the Tofukuji Temple. Arashiyama might be most popular for its bamboo forest, but Kyoto’s countryside neighborhood also has beautiful fall foliage on its forested mountains along the river.
If you board the Sagano Train from Osaka, you can enjoy a day trip around Kyoto and see landscapes aflame in a blanket of fiery red.
Colors peak: Mid-November through early December
- Kyoto’s temples are one of the best places to enjoy the fall foliage.
- The city is one of the most diverse landscapes to watch the fall foliage.
- None, really.
Where to Stay: If money isn’t an issue, then there’s only one place you should stay in Kyoto – the Suiran. This luxurious but intimate property on the banks of the Katsuma River is Japanese in idea but modern in construction and hospitality. The restaurant serves both Japanese and global cuisines, while the tatami-mat rooms have wooden onsens, private gardens, and swish mod-cons. In fact, Suiran is one of the best hotels in Kyoto.
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Fall in Japan is as varied in terms of geography as the months! That said, we’ve rounded up a shorter, more specific list for you.
- Best garden: Rikugien Garden, Tokyo
- Most popular: Lake Kawaguchiko, Yamanashi
- Most walkable: Nara Park, Nara
- Best city in autumn: Kyoto
Which city in Japan has the best autumn?
The Fuji Five Lakes area, including the gorgeous Lake Kawaguchi, is particularly known for its stunning autumn foliage.
Is it worth visiting Japan in the fall?
For many, fall in Japan outshines its cherry blossom season!
When should I go to Japan for autumn foliage?
Broadly speaking, the autumn foliage season begins in mid-September in the northernmost part of the island and through as late as early December in cities like Kyoto.