As sweltering summer turns to autumn, leaves take on an amber hue starting from the mountains in Hokkaido and spreading southwards. Here are three top spots where Japanese people go koyo (autumn leaf) hunting!
Japan Autumn Leaf Hunting Spot 1: Arashiyama, Kyoto
Surrounding Kyoto’s famous shrines and temples like Kiyomizu-dera are spectacular natural scenes. Autumn colors the landscape in warm hues, and one of the best places to see Kyoto’s fall foliage is around Arashiyama on the western outskirts of Kyoto.
Among other attractions, the tourist town is famous for its bamboo forest and spring cherry blossoms along the river and wooded mountains. However, the colorful autumn trees take over the landscape in fall making Arashiyama one of the top places for viewing fall foliage in Japan.
The scene is especially breathtaking from one of Arashiyama’s most famous landmarks Togetsukyo Bridge, or Moon Crossing Bridge. While the riverside park impresses in spring with several cherry blossom trees, autumn is equally as pleasant.
The river’s aqua color creates a vibrant contrast against the crimson and yellow hues rolling down the hills with some accents of green. The wild natural scenery is breathtaking, and you can also visit temples and gardens with well-groomed Momiji trees.
When Is the Best Time to Visit Arashiyama, Kyoto to See Fall Foliage?
The best time to catch the autumn leaves in Arashiyama is from Late November to early December. During this time, the fall foliage reaches its peak. However, it may be crowded because it is such a popular place to view autumn leaves in Japan.
Travel Tips for Viewing Arashiyama Autumn Leaves
There are many ways to enjoy the brilliant autumn foliage in this area in the western outskirts of Kyoto. The vista from Tofukuji’s Tsutenbashi Bridge is so breathtaking that one can lose track of time. Also, you can take countless photos at Kyoto’s oldest and largest temple. Furthermore, you can enjoy a nostalgic train ride via the Sagano Scenic Railway.
How to Get to Arashiyama
To see the fall foliage in Arashiyama, Kyoto, you can take the Sagano Scenic Railway. If you are coming from Tokyo, take the Shinkansen bound for Kyoto Station and transfer to the JR Sagano Line to Arashiyama Station.
Japan Autumn Leaf Hunting Spot 2: Nikko, Tochigi
Nikko in Tochigi Prefecture is packed with cultural and historical landmarks that attract crowds of tourists year-round. For example, Nikko is home to intricately decorated shrines and temples like Toshogu and the final resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu.
These amazing attractions lie within Nikko National Park. Of course, the area preserves some of Japan’s most incredible natural scenery, making it another spectacular area to see fall foliage in Japan. Beyond the temples and shrines, Okunikko and Lake Chuzenji are especially beautiful in the fall as autumn hues fill the landscape.
Bordering Fukushima to the north, Gunma to the west, Saitama to the south, and Ibaraki to the southeast, Tochigi Prefecture, Nikko’s home prefecture, provides great access to autumn leaves near Tokyo and other exciting areas.
When Is the Best Time to Visit Nikko, Tochigi to See Fall Foliage?
Because Nikko is located a bit farther to the north of Tokyo, autumn leaves start to appear a bit sooner. So, the best time to visit Nikko to see fall foliage is from early October to early November. Again, Nikko is a very popular place in Tochigi Prefecture, especially in autumn. As a result, you can expect to see plenty of crowds. However, the view is certainly worth the trouble.
Travel Tips for Viewing Nikko Autumn Leaves
Due to the wide range of elevation, the fall foliage season spreads over a longer period here. Ryuzu (“Dragonhead”) Waterfall is one of the first spots to display its autumn colors. Also, don’t forget to see the UNESCO World Heritage Site Toshogu Shrine, where the first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate Ieyasu Tokugawa is enshrined, in its autumn glory.
How to Get to Nikko
To get to Nikko in Tochigi Prefecture to see autumn leaves, take the Tohoku Shinkansen to Utsunomiya. From there, change to the JR Nikko Line until you reach Nikko Station.
Japan Autumn Leaf Hunting Spot 3: Mt. Hakkoda, Aomori
Moving up north, we arrive at another popular viewing spot of autumn leaves in Japan, Mt. Hakkoda in Aomori Prefecture. After the excitement of the dazzling Nebuta Matsuri summer festival, Aomori bursts with color again in the fall as autumn leaves appear.
The name “Aomori” roughly translates to “Blue/Green Forest”. As you can imagine, the prefecture is well known for its greenery which transforms in the fall to display vibrant autumn hues. As a result, it became one of Japan’s favorite places for hiking in the fall to hunt for yellow and crimson leaves.
When Is the Best Time to Visit Mt. Hakkoda, Aomori to See Fall Foliage?
Aomori Prefecture is one of northernmost prefectures on Honshu Island. In fact, its capital, Aomori City, is the most northern prefecture capital on Japan’s main island. You can even take a ferry from here to Hokkaido. So, the fall colors reveal themselves earlier than other popular autumn leaf hunting areas. The best time to visit Mt. Hakkoda in Aomori is from late September to early October.
Travel Tips for Viewing Mt. Hakkoda Autumn Leaves
Mt. Hakkoda operates a ropeway that takes you up the mountain, soaring above the sprawling landscape painted in autumn hues. The trip up the one of the mountains volcanic peaks 1,324 meters above the sea leavel is one of the best places to catch a view of Aomori’s breathtaking fall foliage.
How to Get to Mt. Hakkoda
To get to Mt. Hakkoda to see fall foliage in Aomori, take the Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Shin-Aomori. From there, transfer to the JR Ou Line to Aomori Station. The station has plenty of busses bound for Lake Towada that will take you to the Hakkoda Ropeway Station bus stop.