news When & where to see autumn in Japan 2019: Hotspots & hidden gems

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When & where to see autumn in Japan 2019: Hotspots & hidden gems

Think of Japan, and what comes to mind could be Mount Fuji, anime, sushi, bullet trains, sumo wrestling – or perhaps cherry blossoms. Indeed, Japan is closely associated with the fleeting pink blooms in spring, but did you also know that Japan makes a wonderful autumn destination? 

In autumn, the colours of the leaves change to wonderful shades of red, orange and yellow. The beauty of autumn in Japan is apparent in many nature spots throughout the country, be it in a garden within a city or in a national park. To top it off, autumn falls between the peak holiday season of June (in summer) and December (in winter), allowing you to escape the maddening crowds and bask in the pleasant autumn weather. 

Below, you’ll discover exactly when and where to see the autumn in Japan. Also, if you would like to find out what to wear during autumn in Japan, you’ll find it at the end of the article.

When is the best time to see autumn in Japan: Autumn foliage prediction 2019

Autumn in Japan generally begins in early to mid-October, from Japan’s northernmost prefectures, in Hokkaido and Aomori. In late October, autumn foliage starts to show up in Miyagi and Tottori. It’s really in November that the autumn is most widespread in Japan, appearing in Yamanashi, Kanagawa, Aichi, Oita and Kagawa. In well-known places like Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, the leaves start turning colour in November too, and may still appear distinctly crimson until early December. 

To secure the cheapest flights to Japan for the autumn scenery, you should book your flights in advance. You may also want to look into these autumn travel deals for a value-for-money way to experience autumn in Japan. 

Do take note that the time period indicated is a prediction and the actual autumn foliage dates may differ, depending on the weather patterns. We will continue to update this page with the latest prediction if any.

Where are the best places to see autumn in Japan

Hokkaido

When to go: Mid October

How to get to Hokkaido: Book cheap flights to Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport

Hokkaido is famous as a winter destination. A contributing factor is the Sapporo Snow Festival which draws in millions of visitors to the island’s capital each year. What many people don’t realise is that Hokkaido is a year-round destination with top-notch autumn foliage. 

Within Sapporo itself, walk around the campus of Hokkaido University to find stretches of road with an umbrella of the golden canopy above you during autumn in Japan. Outside the city, Mount Moiwa beckons. Take the Mount Moiwa Ropeway from Moiwa Sanroku Station for a bird’s eye view of the city, Ishikari Bay, and a lush mountain range.

Other places to catch this natural spectacle would be in hot spring resorts like Jozankei and Noboribetsu. The onsens (hot springs) in these resorts are spread along the banks of the river, allowing you to soak in the scenery as you soak in the mineral-rich waters. A Hokkaido autumn vacation will surely be breathtaking!

Tokyo

When to go: November to early December

How to get to Tokyo: Fly directly with one of the cheap flights to Tokyo Haneda or Narita Airport

Tokyo needs little introduction. The ever-bustling capital of Japan, this city is a mish-mash of ultra modern with pockets of tradition found in temples and other historic sites. Autumn in Tokyo is best experienced in the many parks dotting the city, such as Ueno Park, Yoyogi Park, Meiji Jingu Gaien and Shinjuku Gyoen

Also, don’t miss Koishikawa Korakuen. Dating back to the Edo period in the seventeenth century, this is one of the oldest gardens in Tokyo. Rikugi-en, which translates to Garden of the Six Principles of Poetry, is also a gem as its maple trees turn a bright shade of red come autumn. Slightly outside of the heart of Tokyo, towards the west, is Inokashira Park.

If you have more time to spare, make your way to Takao Mountain as a day trip. You can ride the cable car up and then hit the hiking trails. The autumn foliage here comes in many shades and in clear weather, you can see as far as Mount Fuji!

Yamanashi

When to go: Mid November 

How to get to Yamanashi: From Tokyo, take the Limited Express Azusa train directly to Yamanashishi Station, or ride the JR Chuo train line with a transfer at Takao Station

Tucked in the central area of Japan, in the Chubu region west of Tokyo, the prefecture of Yamanashi is best known as being home to Japan’s icon: Mount Fuji. You can get a gorgeous shot of Mount Fuji with a frame of fall foliage from the banks of Lake Kawaguchi. Time your trip to coincide with the festival celebrating autumn in Japan that is held at this sightseeing spot each year. While you’re there, don’t miss the Tunnel of Autumn Leaves, which is essentially a road lined with maple trees located on the northern bank of the lake. 

Also, why see Mount Fuji from afar? Get closer to the picturesque Mount Fuji to marvel at its autumn foliage. You can do so at the Fuji Five Lakes area at the foot of the mountain, or on the slopes of the mountain itself at the Fuji 5th station. 

Kyoto

When to go: Mid November to early December

How to get to Kyoto: Fly to Kansai Airport near Osaka and take the Limited Express Haruka train to Kyoto Station

The city of Kyoto brims with multiple spots to view the autumn foliage. It is no wonder that it is frequently considered as the top spot to view autumn in Japan. There are over 1,600 Buddhist temples in Kyoto, and you can kick-start the autumn spectacle at Tofukuji Temple, Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Eikando Temple (also known as Zenrinji Temple), Kōdaiji Temple, Yoshimine-dera Temple, Tenryuji Temple or Toji.  

Kinkaku-ji, the Temple of the Golden Pavilion, is also a must-visit with its golden facade reflecting in the shimmering pond in front of it. Then, hop over to its lesser-known brother, Ginkaku-ji, known as the Temple of the Silver Pavilion – but oddly, don’t expect to see any silver facade here!

To find peace and more viewing spots outside the city, head to Arashiyama, or an hour north of central Kyoto to Sanzen In, a Tendai school Monzeki temple tucked in the village of Ohara. In all the aforementioned spots, you can expect a magnificent backdrop of red Kyoto autumn foliage.

The closest international airport to Kyoto is in the city of Osaka.

Kanagawa

When to go: Mid to late November

How to get to Kanagawa: From Tokyo, take the Tokaido Line towards Odawara and drop at Yokohama station

The coastal prefecture of Kanagawa offers a refreshing change of scenery. Witness the autumn foliage near the capital, Yokohama, at the expansive grounds of Sankeien Garden, or wander around the open-air Hakone Museum where you can view artworks in the countryside. 

To fully immerse in nature, make a beeline for the gorgeous lakes in Kanagawa. Lake Ashi, also known as Hakone Lake, offers boat cruises where you can take in views of the mountains – including Mount Fuji. Lake Tanzawa, on the other hand, comes alive with a riot of colours in autumn. Take a stroll to Miho Dam and Kamioda Shrine while you’re in the area. 

Aomori

When to go: Mid to late November

How to get to Aomori: Fly to Aomori Airport 

In the Tohoku region of Japan, Aomori Prefecture is known for its vast coastline, exciting festivals and tranquil temples from the Edo Period. A gorgeous spot to view the autumn leaves would be Oirase Keiryu, a mountain stream that meanders 14 kilometres from Lake Towada to Yakeyama. Along the walk, you’ll encounter waterfalls and gushing rapids. 

The Hakkoda Mountains, a collection of 16 peaks created by volcanic eruptions, is another fantastic autumn spot. Between your discovery of the alpine forests and high-altitude wetlands, you’ll find a spectrum of autumn colours. For panoramic views, step on Jogakura Bridge, the longest deck arch bridge in Japan, and before bidding Aomori goodbye, find some zen at Josen-ji Temple. 

Miyagi

When to go: Late October to early November

How to get to Miyagi: Fly to Sendai Airport

The changing colours of autumn leaves are a sight to behold in Miyagi Prefecture, also in the Tohoku region of Japan. Naruko Valley is a renowned spot that draws in visitors with its natural charm. There are stretches of trail along the ravine, but it is towards the western end that the scenery gets most resplendent with views of the Ofukazawa Bridge.

There’s also Entsu-in, a Buddhist temple whose grounds house a Japanese-style moss garden, a rose garden, and a mausoleum of a samurai ruler’s grandson. As it has special evening opening hours in autumn, you can come during dusk to see the reds of the maple trees illuminated first by the sun and then by artificial light. 

Osaka

When to go: Early November to early December

How to get to Osaka: Fly to Kansai Airport

The food capital of Japan, Osaka is a paradise for okonomiyaki (thick pancakes) and takoyaki (octopus balls). You can munch on street snacks as you go around the city in search of Osaka autumn leaves. You’ll definitely spot them at a major tourist attraction, the Osaka Castle Park. This public park which spans two square kilometres is a calm oasis with grassy lawns. It’s home to the enchanting Nishinomaru Garden as well as historic structures like the castle tower. 

On the outskirts of Osaka, tucked in a forested valley is Minoo Taki, a scenic waterfall that cascades from a height of 33 metres. While this is Minoo Park’s main attraction, the area’s natural blanket of autumn colours would be good enough a reason to escape the city. Look out for stalls selling Momiji tempura, which are maple leaves deep-fried in batter. 

Aichi

When to go: Mid to late November

How to get to Aichi: Fly to Nagoya Chubu Centrair Airport

Aichi Prefecture is located in the centre of Honshu Island. It’s home to the city of Nagoya, an industrial hub that teems with culture and history. You can have fine autumn in Japan experience at parks within the city, such as Meijo Park and Shirotori Garden. 

Then, make a break for Korankei Gorge. With over 4,000 maple trees of 11 different varieties, this is a site not to be missed. An hour away, Mount Horaiji is a treasure with undisputed scenic beauty. Scale the 1,425 stone steps to Horai-ji Temple while keeping your eyes out for giant cedar trees and splendid fall colours. 

Tottori

When to go: Late October to early November

How to get to Tottori: Fly to Tottori Airport

You may have heard of Tottori Sand Dunes, quite possibly the highlight of the lesser-known coastal Tottori Prefecture. For the best autumn landscapes, head deeper inland to Mount Daisen, towering 1,729 metres on the western end of the prefecture. So resplendent is the changing scenery each season that residents consider this a sacred mountain. 

Nearby, the Senjo-daki Waterfall which flows down a cliff is framed by colourful autumn leaves when viewed from the Mitaki suspension bridge. Another spot in Tottori for the red autumn foliage would be Suwa Shrine, which has a maple leaf as its crest. 

Oita 

When to go: Mid November

How to get to Oita: Fly to Oita Airport

Oita Prefecture straddles the eastern coast of Kyushu Island. It boasts famous onsens and entire cities dedicated to onsen tourism such as Beppu. 

After enjoying rejuvenating dips in hot springs, see the best of autumn landscapes in Kyushu is at the Shin-Yabakei Gorge. This region comprises valleys that flank the Yamautsuri River. While it’s known for its rock formations, the autumn foliage here is a colourful spectacle. Visit the Hitome-Hakkei Observatory for the best views! 

Tochigi

When to go: Early to mid October

How to get to Tochigi: From Tokyo, take the JR Tohoku line to Utsunomiya, the centre of Tochigi 

In the Kanto region north of Tokyo, Tochigi prefecture is easily accessible from the country’s capital. This makes it’s autumn viewing spots particularly attractive for those flying into Tokyo. 

Just within Nikko, which is the prefecture’s eastern region comprising the city of Nikko and Nikko National Park, you can find majestic autumn scenery. The colours of autumn first appear at higher elevations, in the mountainous Okunikko before appearing in Lake Chuzenji and eventually the city of Nikko. Less than two hours from Tokyo, the highlands of Nasu-kogen is also a pleasure for those seeking impressive autumn colours. 

Kagawa

When to go: Mid to late November

How to get to Kagawa: Fly to Okayama Airport

The prefecture of Kagawa, northeast of Shikoku Island, is beautiful regardless of season, but it’s arguably autumn that takes the crown. 

The autumn scenery unfolds majestically at Kankakei Gorge, recognised nationally as a Place of Scenic Beauty. Ride the ropeway for panoramic views – you’ll see an explosion of colours as this gorge is peppered with thousands of Japanese maple trees. The shrine of Kotohira-gū is another autumn sightseeing spot that will require a bit of effort on your part. Getting to the main shrine (Hongu) requires 785 steps while getting to the innermost shrine (Okusha) requires 1,368 steps. Rest assured, you’ll be duly rewarded. 

What to wear during autumn in Japan

The weather during autumn in Japan differs according to exactly when and where you visit. For example, in November, Tokyo experiences a high of 17 degrees Celsius and a low of 9 degrees Celsius, while Sapporo (in Hokkaido) experiences a high of 8 degrees Celsius and a low of 1 degree Celsius. Therefore, to be prepared on what to wear during autumn in Japan, you should check the weather at your destination on your travel dates. 

If you’re visiting a location with similar temperatures to that in Tokyo, you can wear a long-sleeved shirt and jeans in the daytime. It’ll be handy to keep a hoodie, sweater or a thin down jacket at hand, especially for the chilly nights. If you’re visiting a place with similar temperatures to that of Sapporo, you should be ready with winter clothes – long johns as an innerwear, and fleece or down jackets as outerwear. 

Map

If you’re all set for autumn in Japan, find the best deal for flights, hotels and car hire on Skyscanner. If you’re not totally convinced that Japan’s for you, you should look into the best spots to see the autumn foliage in South Korea or Taiwan