The Japanese landscape changes from the white of snow in winter, the pink of cherry blossoms in spring, the deep green of trees in summer, and the red and yellow of autumn leaves in fall. Of these, the autumn season is the most colorful.
In Japan, you can enjoy beautiful autumn leaves from late September to early December. The best season of autumnal leaves varies completely from place to place, so please try looking for the most beautiful place during the time you travel to Japan. On this page, I will introduce the foliage spots of various parts of Japan.
Click on each map for detailed information, reviews, related tours, etc. on a separate page.
Table of Contents
- Best place to see autumn leaves: Daisetsuzan (Hokkaido)
- Best place to see autumn leaves: Oirase Stream (Aomori Prefecture)
- Best place to see autumn leaves: Metasequoia Avenue (Takashima City, Shiga Prefecture)
- Best place to see autumn leaves: Eikando Zenrinji Temple (Kyoto)
- Best place to see autumn leaves: Tofukuji Temple (Kyoto)
- Best place to see autumn leaves: Kiyomizudera Temple (Kyoto)
- Best place to see autumn leaves: Miyajima (Hatsukaichi City, Hiroshima Prefecture)
Best place to see autumn leaves: Daisetsuzan (Hokkaido)
The area where autumnal leaves start in the earliest in Japan is Daisetsuzan of Hokkaido (also called Taisetsuzan). Daisetsuzan is a very wide mountainous area located in the center of Hokkaido, it is designated as a national park. In Daisetsuzan there are mountains of altitudes around 2000 meters including Mt. Asahidake (altitude 2,291 m), Mt. Hakuundake (2,230 m), Mt. Kurodake (1,984 m). At the foot of the mountains there are spa towns like Sounkyo (close to Mt. Kurodake), Asahidake Onsen (close to Mt. Asahidak).
In Daisetsuzan, autumn leaves begin from the summit of the mountains in late August (there are mountains with no trees on the summit). In early September, the summit of the mountains will be dyed red. In mid September, autumn leaves peak at the middle of the mountains. In late September, beautiful autumnal leaves are seen even at the foot of the mountains, and snow will begin to fall on the summit.
There are countless places where autumn leaves are beautiful in Daisetsuzan. Among them, Mt, Asahidake and Mt, Kurodake are the ones that I would like to recommend as a place where you can easily go to hiatus on the ropeway. Of these two, if I choose either, I will choose Mt, Asahidake which can be seen in the above photos and videos.
Mt.Asahidake is the highest mountain in Daisetsuzan. The time required to reach the ropeway platform at the foot of the mountain is 40 minutes from Biei by car, 1 hour from the blue pond and 1 hour 30 minutes from Furano. From the window of the ropeway (10 minutes each way) you can enjoy the magnificent autumn leaves scenery. From the top of the ropeway, walking path to Sugatami Pond seen in the above movie is maintained. The walking path is about 1.7 km / lap. You can enjoy hiking for about an hour. Enjoying this walk from the top of the ropeway is a great appeal of this course. For details, please refer to the following sites.
Meanwhile, Mt. Kurodake is relatively close to Sounkyo, a famous spa town. A ropeway (7 minutes each way) is running from Sounkyo. From the top of the ropeway you can go further on riding a further lift. Even with this course, you can enjoy splendid autumn leaves.
Both courses are very crowded during autumn leaves. So, please plan to arrive at the station of the ropeway as soon as possible.
Oirase stream is located in Aomori Prefecture in the northernmost part of Honshu. This stream flows out from Lake Towada to the north east. A range of approximately 14 km from the lake (height difference is about 200 meters) is called Oirase stream. Oirase streams are flowing through the beautiful woods, countless small waterfalls are very beautiful. You can take a promenade along a stream. In autumn the forest turns red, so you can enjoy wonderful views. On top of the stream, autumn leaves begin in early October. The autumn leaves peak in mid-October. On the downstream side, autumn leaves can be seen from late October to early November.
When sightseeing the Oirase Stream, you should walk from the downstream to the upstream. Then you can appreciate the flow of water more beautifully. The slope of the promenade is gentle. It takes 4-5 hours to walk all 14 kilometers. Because the bus is operated along the mountain stream, you can use the bus well and walk only a part.
It takes 2 hours by bus from JT Shin-Aomori station and 1 hour 30 minutes from JR Hachinohe station to Yakeyama which is the starting point (downstream) of the Oirase stream. Hoshino Resort Oirase Stream Hotel located in the Oirase Stream is popular, so if you stay, it is better to book early.
Best place to see autumn leaves: Metasequoia Avenue (Takashima City, Shiga Prefecture)
The tree of Metasequoia is very tall and beautiful. There is a place where such Metasequoia are lined all along the straight road. The trees of Metasequoia are about 12 meters high, with 500 in all. This tree-lined avenue about 2.4 km in length is located in Takashima City, Shiga Prefecture, located west of Kyoto.
This avenue is beautiful whenever you see it, but I recommend you go especially during the autumn leaves. The autumn leaves in this area peak at the end of November every year. Although it is good to go by car, I think that it is better to borrow a bicycle at a nearby station. You can rent a bicycle at the tourist office in the nearest JR Makino station.
There are many shrines and temples with beautiful autumn colors in Kyoto. Among them, Eikando temple has been highly appreciated for more than 1000 years as the most beautiful place of autumn leaves.
Although the official name of Eikando temple is “Zenrinji”, it has long been popular with this designation from long ago. “Eikan” comes from the name of the person who has done the charity work at this temple. Eikando temple is located on the slope of the mountain in the eastern end of Kyoto. About 3000 maples are planted in the premises. These trees turn bright red in November. The peak of autumn leaves is around late November. At that time, it is crowded with so many tourists that you may have to line up in order to enter Eikando temple. Lighting up at night is also done, and you can enjoy fantastic scenery.
It is convenient to use the bus to Eikando temple, but there may be traffic jams during autumn leaves. I always get off at the Keage station in Metro and walk from there. There are many people walking on this route, so you will not get lost in the first place. It takes about 20 minutes on foot to Eikando temple, but on the way there is a famous Nanzenji temple. This temple is also very beautiful autumn leaves. I first go up to the observatory of the San-mon (main gate) of Nanzenji temple, then view the autumn leaves from there. It is a short walk from Nanzenji to Eikando temple.
In Eikan-do, the peak of autumn leaves is from late November to early December. However, I think that you can enjoy autumn leaves even if you go in mid November. Previously, I have been to Eikendo on November 10th. At that time, the maple was not completely colored. Yet green, yellow, red maples produced a wonderful landscape. The view of the red is of course the most beautiful, but the scenery with various colors is also superb. Furthermore, it is not so crowded in the first half of November, so you can stroll comfortably.
If you go to Eikando temple in the peak season, you may have to line up for a long time in order to enter the precincts. In such a case, I recommend that you eat at “Eikando Kaikan (Eikando Hall)” next to the precincts in advance. In this hall you can eat kaiseki dishes at day and night. To be honest, the dish here was not very tasty. However, if you use this hall, you can enter the precincts immediately after eating, not in line. Unfortunately, at English booking sites, I can not find this meal tour. If you are able to request reservations from your hotel concierge or your friend, please consider it.
Best place to see autumn leaves: Tofukuji Temple (Kyoto)
Tofukuji temple is located in the southeast of Kyoto station. It is about 10 minutes on foot from Tofukuji temple station of JR Nara Line or Keihan Train. There are 2000 maples planted in the precincts of Tofukuji. The autumn leaves of Tofukuji will peak around late November. Even early December, the leaves of bright red maple have fallen to countless numbers on the ground and it is very beautiful. At the time of autumnal leaves, 400,000 tourists visit Tofukuji, and it is very crowded like Eikando temple.
In Tofukuji there is a wooden corridor called “Tsutenkyo”, and the scenery of the view from this corridor is very famous. However, as it is very crowded, I think that you can not take pictures quite easily. If you want to see the autumn leaves slowly, you’d better get up early so that you can enter the gate at 8:30 in the morning.
Best place to see autumn leaves: Kiyomizudera Temple (Kyoto)
Kiyomizudera Temple is a great temple representing Kyoto with Kinkakuji temple. It is located on the mountain slope on the east side of Kyoto and you can see Kyoto city from the main hall setting as seen in the picture above. In the evening it is lighted up and you can enjoy the fantastic scenery.
There are so many maples in Kiyomizudera Temple, so when looking down from the main hall setting in autumn, a bright red maple spreads like a sea. A lot of people visit Kiyomizudera every autumn to see this autumn leaves. The autumn leaves of Kiyomizudera will peak in late November. Because the precincts are very wide, you will not feel cramped by congestion, but if you want to enjoy the autumn leaves fully, you should visit early in the morning. You can enter the premises of Kiyomizudera from 6 :00. If you want to see the light up event in the evening, it is very crowded around 18:30 right after the light up starts, so I recommend you to go after 20:00.
Because Kiyomizudera is located on the slopes of the mountains, transportation is not convenient. It is usually best to use a bus, but it gets crowded during autumn leaves. If the road seems to be heavily congested, it may be faster to walk from Kiyomizu-gojo station on the Keihan Train. It is about 20 minutes on foot from this station to Kiyomizudera Temple.
Miyajima Island in Hatsukaichi City, Hiroshima Prefecture, is very popular among foreign tourists, along with Fushimi Inari taisha Shrine and Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto. Miyajima is a small island in a quiet ocean, where there is an old shrine representing Japan, Itsukushima Shrine. A big torii in the ocean is very impressive. However, if you travel in Miyajima in autumn, do not forget to appreciate autumn leaves. In Miyajima, there is a beautiful autumnal leaves park called “Momiji-dani” (Momiji Valley). There are about 700 maples in this park. Because it is very crowded at the time of autumn leaves, let’s go to the park in the morning if possible. The peak of autumn leaves is around mid-November to late November.
Besides this, I recommend that you go to Senjokaku (the official name is Hokoku Shrine) in Miyajima. Ginkgo’s big trees watching from the vast wooden floor are very beautiful.
Thank you for reading to the end.
Now, let’s plan to make your vacation in Japan the best experience ever!