Japan is well known for having four distinct, beautiful seasons, and it offers truly breathtaking views all year round. But fall is widely considered one of the best times to visit by Japan fans.
But why is fall often said to be the best season? The answer is the stunning red, yellow, and brown autumn leaves and the breathtaking views you can find throughout Japan during the fall season. The temperatures also tends to be mild, making it an ideal time to spend outdoors.
If this has piqued your interest and you want to find out more about fall in Japan and some of the best destinations in order to enjoy the beautiful autumn views, see our top recommendations from our local staff at MACHIYA INNS & HOTELS!
Autumn in Japan is absolutely gorgeous — a time of amazingly vibrant colors and pleasant weather perfect for long walks.
In Japan in the autumn, leaf viewing, or “momijgari” (紅葉狩り), is a popular pastime that dates back centuries, and one of the top things to do in Japan in fall. Viewing autumn leaves is just as important to the Japanese as the spring cherry blossom season, so locals treasure beautiful views both in natural environments and in curated parks within cities.
For locals and tourists alike in Japan, fall leaves, known as “koyo” (紅葉) add a special touch to leisurely strolls. The weather is usually ideal for exploring, especially if you plan to visit shrines, temples, castles, and other fascinating sites. Many of these spots offer wonderful views of autumn in Japan as well.
In Japan, fall is a long season, stretching from mid-September to December. However, the cold weather starts in northern Hokkaido and slowly moves downwards, so your views of the autumn leaves can differ depending on where you visit during your Japan fall adventure.
Fortunately, once leaves start to turn red in one area, they usually stay that way for three to four weeks. That’s different from the cherry blossom season, which tends to be shorter.
Overall, our local experts recommend mid-to-late November as the best time to see autumn in Japan on the mainland of Honshu. If you plan on visiting mountain areas and up north in Hokkaido, plan your travels near the end of October to early November to catch the fall foliage.
Now that we’ve got the basics of fall in Japan down, where are the best destinations to add to your Japan itinerary so you can make the best of the fall season? Take a look at our list of some of the top destinations to keep in mind if you want to see autumn leaves in Japan!
Up first on our list, Kyoto is considered by both locals and tourists alike as one of the best places in Japan to experience autumn. Kyoto City, Japan comes alive during the fall season, with the colorful leaves and traditional wooden architecture combining to create stunning views that will have you in awe.
The best part is that almost every location in Kyoto will present you with gorgeous fall leaves to feast your eye on, so you don’t have to worry so much about where to go while in Kyoto to enjoy the autumnal views. There are a few locations that are considered the very best places to enjoy fall in Kyoto, however, so if you want to see the most famous autumn views, be sure to visit one of our recommended spots!
If you’re looking for the top temples in Kyoto for autumn leaf viewing, our locals recommend visiting Bishamon-do Temple and Tofukuji Temple. If you’re looking at visiting more general areas to enjoy fall, add the Arashiyama area as well as the area surrounding Kiyomizudera Temple to your itinerary.
Depending on how long you spend in Kyoto during your trip to see autumn in Japan, you can also explore the nearby surrounding area. For example, other locations in the Kansai area(such as Osaka and Shiga) also have many famous fall sight-seeing spots that are worth a trip. They’re an easy trip from Kyoto, and make the perfect day trip destination as you base yourself in Kyoto, Japan!
If you want to see the best fall views during your time in Kyoto, our Japan experts recommend planning your trip around mid-November to late November for the best chances.
As a bustling city with a population of more than 37 million people, Tokyo might seem like an urban jungle. It’s not all just skyscrapers and towers, however, as Tokyo boasts a surprisingly high number of spots ideal for soaking up autumn views. If you’re planning on visiting Tokyo anyway, then it’s an ideal spot to add in some autumn leaf-viewing to your Japan itinerary.
Our top picks for leaf viewing in Tokyo are:
You can easily combine these locations with your other plans while in Tokyo. If you’re looking to extend your reach, however, Tokyo also offers fantastic access to other charming autumn sightseeing spots in nearby areas. Make day trips to locations such as Nikko, Hakone, and even Kamakura nearby, which are all popular locations with locals for enjoying the fall views and weather.
To catch the best autumn views in Tokyo, Japan, we recommend visiting mid to late November.
Mt. Fuji is one of Japan’s most easily recognizable symbols, and a sight to behold. What better way to enjoy autumn in Japan than combining your leaf viewing with a visit to this epic mountain?
The Fuji Five Lakes, or “Fujigoko” (富士五湖) lie at the foot of Mt. Fuji, to the northern side in Yamanashi prefecture. The area is considered a lake resort, where you can enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, camping, and snow sports as well as enjoy hot springs, museums, and even the Fuji Q Highland amusement park. Although you can enjoy autumn leaves along with great views of Mt. Fuji from any of the lakes, Lake Kawaguchiko (河口湖) offers one of the best and most famous views. There are also more things to do and see near Lake Kawaguchiko, compared to the other 4 lakes, while also being the most easily accessible lake.
If you plan on making a trip out Lake Kawaguchiko, we highly recommend timing your trip to coincide with the Lake Kawaguchi Autumn Leaf Festival — one of the most popular events during fall in Japan. The event is held from late October to late November, but we recommend visiting early to mid November for the best views of fall at Lake Kawaguchiko.
Planning to visit Japan a little earlier in autumn? Head over to Hokkaido. Hokkaido prefecture is the second largest and northernmost of the 4 main islands that make up Japan. It is also the least developed of Japan’s main islands, meaning that Hokkaido is a haven of jaw-dropping natural scenery. A visit to Hokkaido is one of the top things to do in Japan if you’re looking for incredible mountain scenery while also getting to sample some of the fresh and delicious seafood Hokkaido is known for.
Our locals’ favorite spots in Hokkaido include the Mikuni Pass, a beautiful sea of trees which transform to autumn gold during the fall season, as well as Jozankei Onsen, a quaint hot springs resort where you can relax while enjoying the views.
Hokkaido enjoys fall weather first as it’s the northernmost prefecture, so you may get to see those incredible views as early as September. If you’re just staying in the Sapporo and Hakodate area, it’s best to visit in late October to early November for fall leaves. Be sure you don’t visit too late in the season. however, and or you’ll have snowy views instead (which are, of course, still beautiful)!
No matter the season, Hiroshima prefecture is a popular destination in Japan for good reason. Delicious food, historic temples and sites, and other sightseeing spots make Hiroshima a great destination for travelers in Japan. You can also enjoy amazing autumn views, with locals recommending this prefecture as one of the stop destinations during the fall season in Japan.
Our local Japan experts recommend visiting the Peace Memorial Park as well as Hiroshima Castle. Both are great destinations all year round, but you can enjoy beautiful autumnal views. Another must-visit location is Miyajima, also known as Itsukushima. Miyajima is a registered UNESCO site, and considered one of the top 3 views in all of Japan. You can access this island destination by a short ferry ride from the main land. Not only will you see the famous ‘floating’ shrine and torii gates, but also get the enjoy gorgeous leaf viewing sites all across Miyajima.
We recommend visiting Hiroshima in mid to late November for the best autumn views, but if you plan on visiting Miyajima, be also aware of the timing during the day of your visit! The iconic floating view of the shrine and torii are best during high tide, while during low tide the water drains. and lessens that illusion.
A must-see destination while visiting is Shirakawa-go. Shirakawa0-go is famous for the gassho-zukuri architecture, and a magnificent place to add to your itinerary not just for the great views, but as a historical destination. The maple trees here change color before they do in other areas, creating autumn views in late October to early November.
Our locations in Gifu prefecture that we recommend are Gujo Hachiman Castle, Gero Onsen, as well as the picturesque mountain city of Hida Takayama.
Hida Takayama is a city surrounded by bountiful nature and brimming with traditional Japanese architecture and historical sites. It’s well worth a visit at any time, but the autumn leaves help bring it to life like nothing else. Be sure to take the time to explore Takayama Old Town, often called the ‘Little Kyoto’ of the Hida region for the charming wooden architecture. It’s one of our favorite places to take in the atmosphere while doing a little shopping and sampling delicious Japanese street food in Takayama. You can also plan your trip to coincide with the fall Takayama Festival, considered one of Japan’s top 3 most beautiful festivals.
No matter where you decide to visit in Japan, the autumnal season is truly one of the most beautiful times to visit this historical country. We hope our list of some of the best destinations during fall in Japan have inspired you for your travels and helped you start planning your Japan trip!