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Mt Asahidake

Mt. Asahidake is the highest mountain (2,290 m) in Daisetsuzan National Park. Around mid-September, the park attracts a number of hikers as the place where people can enjoy the earliest autumn leaves in Japan. The walk around Sugatami Pond is 1.7 km long and takes about one hour. On this short walk you can enjoy seeing autumn flowers (Miyama-gentian, Miyama-goldenrod, etc.) and fluffs of Chinguruma along with autumn leaves. The view of the mountain is also splendid.

Autumn foliage season: Mid-September to early October
Access: 1 hr 30 min ride by "Ideyu-go" bus from JR Asahikawa Station to Asahidake Station. Then take the ropeway (aerial tramway) for 10 min to Sugatami Station.
Further information: Mt. Asahidake

ASAHIDAKE

Onuma Quasi National Park

Located near the southern tip of Hokkaido, Onuma Park sees autumn colours in the second half of October, shortly after Daisetsuzan and Mt Asahidake, which are further north. The autumn colours can easily be enjoyed by taking a pleasant walk along the park's ponds.

The most attractive part of the park is the area located between its two lakes Onuma ('large lake') and Konuma ('small lake') which can easily be explored on foot. Attractive walking courses (15-60 minutes) allow visitors to explore the twin lakes' many peninsulas and islands, several of which are connected with each other by small bridges, and admire the backdrop of Mt Komagatake in the centre of the park.

Autumn foliage season: Mid to late October
Access: 20 min by limited express train (1160 yen non-reserved seat) or 60 min by local train (540 yen) from Hakodate Station to Onuma Koen Station.
Further information: Onuma Quasi National Park

 
Onuma Quasi National Park

Oirase Stream, Aomori

Oirase Stream is a stream about 14 km long which runs from Lake Towada-ko in the northern part of Towada-Hachimantai National Park. There are promenades along the streams, where you can stroll under the coloured leaves of beeches and maples. 

You can enjoy the dynamic and changing beauty of the stream as it flows through a series of riffles and abysses, as well as fourteen waterfalls. Above all, do not miss the 2.9 km long path from Ishikedo to Kumoi Falls, which takes about 1 hour and 10 minutes to walk. A powerful rapid called the Ashura current, and special rocks such as Byobu-iwa and Makado-iwa, are must-sees along the way.

Autumn foliage season: Early October
Access: 90 min ride by bus from JR Hachinohe Station (Tohoku Shinkansen Line) to Ishikedo Station. It is a few minutes walk from the bus stop.
Further information: Aomori Sightseeing Guide

Oirase Stream

Hachimantai, Tohoku

Hachimantai is a mountainous region in the southern part of the Towada-Hachimantai National Park, straddling the border between Akita and Iwate prefectures in the Tohoku region to the north of Tokyo. Some of Japan's most spectacular autumn displays can be found here. Top spots for autumn leaf viewing include Mt Hachimantai, Nyuto Onsen, Tamagawa Onsen, and Goshogake Onsen and nearby Oyunuma Pond.

Autumn foliage season: Early to late October
Access: 3 hrs by hourly Komachi train (JR Akita Shinkansen line) from Tokyo Station to Tazawako Station (around 16,000 yen).
Further information: Towada-Hachimantai National Park

Hachimantai, Iwate

Oze National Park

Oze is a popular hiking and walking destination located about 100 km north of Tokyo. It offers incredible scenic hiking courses along wooden boardwalks through marshlands and ponds. The area's autumn colours begin when the grass-covered marshlands turn a ruddy orange-yellow colour, a phenomenon known as 'kusa-momiji'.

Autumn foliage season: Late September to mid October 
Access: From Tokyo, Oze is best accessed by train via Gunma prefecture. 75 min by JR Joetsu Shinkansen to Jomo Kogen Station (5500 yen, 1 train per hour); 2 hrs by JR Hokuriku or Joetsu shinkansen to Takasaki, then transfer to a local train to Numata Station (5000 yen); 2.5 hours by local trains to Numata Station with a transfer at Takasaki Station (2590 yen). 
Further information: Oze National Park, Oze Preservation Foundation

Oze Wetlands

Lake Chuzenji, Tohoku

Lake Chuzenji is 1,269 meters above sea level, the highest lake in Japan. At the lakeside, there are various trees such as beeches, lacquer trees, and different sorts of maples showing colourful autumn leaves. The banks of this clear and transparent lake provide one of the best spots for viewing autumn leaves. To enjoy the nature of the Lake Chuzenji area, it is recommended to walk along the hiking trail on the lakeside, as well as to cruise by boat and ship.

Autumn foliage season: Late September to early November
Access: 50 min ride by Tobu Bus from Nikko Station (JR or Tobu Railway) to Chuzenji-ko-onsen. It is a 5 min walk from the bus stop.
Further information: Tochigi Prefecture Guide

CHUZENJI

Rikugien Gardens, Tokyo

Rikugien is considered one of Tokyo's most beautiful Japanese landscape gardens. One of the best times to visit is in autumn, when maple trees turn the garden into one of Tokyo's best-known autumn foliage spots. The garden opens for special illuminations during the peak of the season. Get ready to wield your camera at the best viewpoints, which include the Togetsukyo Bride, the Fujishirotoge viewpoint, and the stream that runs by the garden's tea house.

Autumn foliage season: Late November to early December
Access: 5-10 min walk south from Komagome Station (JR Yamanote Line or Namboku Subway Line). During the autumn foliage season, the closer Someimon Gate is also open to the public.
Further information: Rikugien Gardens

Rikugien Garden, Tokyo

Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens, Tokyo

Along with Rikugien, Koishikawa Korakuen is known as one of Tokyo's best traditional Japanese landscape gardens. And like its sister garden, Koishikawa Korakuen is attractive all year round, but is especially so during the autumn foliage season, when it becomes one of the city's most pleasant autumn leaf viewing spots. 

Dozens of maple trees planted around the garden's main pond turn vivid shades of orange and red in late November. There are also several other picturesque autumn spots dotted around the park's three ponds. One of these is a small grove of ginkgo trees tucked away in the southeast corner of the garden that turn a vibrant golden-yellow colour in the autumn.

Autumn foliage season: Late November to early December
Access: 5-10 min walk from Iidabashi Station (JR Chuo Line or Tozai/Yurakucho/Namboku/Oedo Subway Lines); 5-10 min walk from JR Suidobashi Station (JR Chuo Line); 10 min walk from Korakuen Station (Marunouchi/Namboku Subway Lines)
Further information:Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens

Koishikawa Botanical Garden

Fuji Five Lakes (Fuji Goko)

If what you want is stunning views of Japan's iconic Mt Fuji framed by the fiery colours of autumn leaves, then there is nowhere better to head than the Fuji Five Lakes area at the northern base of the mountain. The northern shores of nearby Lake Kawaguchiko also offer some especially nice views during autumn.

Autumn foliage season: Late October to mid November
Access: By train from Shinjuku Station to Otsuki Station (JR Chuo Line): 70 min by direct limited express train (2500 yen) or 100 min  by local train (1320 yen). Then from Otsuki Station, ride the Fujikyu Railway Line for 55 min to Kawaguchiko Station (1140 yen). Direct highway busses also operate from Tokyo, Shinjuku and Shibuya Stations and Kawaguchiko Station (around 2 hrs, 1800-2050 yen).
Further information: Fujiyoshida City

Mt Fuji in autumn

Shosenkyo Gorge

Shosenkyo Gorge is often referred to as Japan's most beautiful gorge, and is particularly spectacular during the autumn leaf season, when the narrow gorge is lit up with a wealth of vivid autumn hues. It is part of the Chichibu Tama Kai National Park, which covers more than 1250 sq km of densely forested mountains, valleys and rural enclaves a few hours west of Tokyo (about 2 hours by car, 4 hours by train).

A hiking road follows the curves of the river for about 4 km along the Arakawa River from the Nagatoro Bridge to the 30 metre high Sengataki Waterfall. Above the waterfall is a small village with souvenir shops and restaurants and a ropeway (cable car) up to an observation deck offering panoramic view of Mt Fuji and the southern part of the Japan Alps on clear days.

Autumn foliage season: Late October to mid November
Access: By train and bus from Tokyo. Train: 90-105 min from Shinjuku Station to Kofu Station by direct limited express train (4000 yen) or 160 min by local train (2270 yen, transfer at Takao). Alternatively, 2 hr 10 min by highway bus from Shinjuku Station to Kofu Station (2000 yen). Then take the bus from outside Kofu Station into the gorge (30-50 min, 590-900 yen, departures once every 1-2 hrs).
Further information: Shosenkyo Tourism Association

Shosenkyo Gorge

Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route

Completed in 1971, the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is a unique and spectacular route through the northern Japan Alps. Several means of transport, including cablecars and high-altitude trolley busses, allow visitors to explore the magnificent scenery throughout the seasons.

Thanks to the enormous elevation range covered by the Route - from zero to up to 3000 m above sea level - autumn foliage can be enjoyed somewhere along it all the way from late September until early November.

Autumn foliage season: Late September to early November
Access: From Tokyo via Matsumoto, Nagano or Toyama. Via Matsumoto: 2.5 hrs by JR Azusa limited express from Shinjuku Station to Matsumoto Station. Then ride the JR Oito Line 1 hr to Shinano-Omachi Station (7500 yen). Via Nagano: 1 hr 40 min by JR Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Nagano Station (8000 yen). Via Toyama: 2 hrs 10-40 min by JR Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Toyama Station (12,500 yen). 
Further information: Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route

Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route

Kurobe Gorge

Kurobe Gorge is a steep, forested ravine hidden deep within the rugged mountains of the northern part of the Japan Alps. It is one of Japan's deepest gorges, with near-vertical cliff faces, pristine virgin forests, and clear, fast-flowing rivers and streams. 

Visitors can take in the autumn hues at their leisure while sitting down with a ride on the Kurobe Gorge Train. Originally built to aid construction of the Kurobe Dam, the sightseeing train's 80 minute journey sees it trundle 20km into the gorge's innermost reaches, negotiating 20 bridges and 40 tunnels on the way.

Autumn foliage season: Late October to mid November
Access: From Tokyo: 2.5 hrs by JR Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Kurobe Unazuki Onsen Station (11,500 yen). 
From Kyoto/Osaka: 2 hrs 10 min by JR Thunderbird limited express train from Osaka or Kyoto Station to Kanazawa Station (hourly departures). Then ride the JR Hokuriku Shinkansen for 35 min to Kurobe Unazuki Onsen Station (11,000 yen). 
From here, walk 4 min to Shin-Kurobe Station and ride the Toyama Chiho Railway for 25 min to Unazuki Onsen Station (630 yen, 1-2 departures per hour). Walk 2 min to Unazuki Station from where the Kurobe Gorge Railway departs.
Further information: Kurobe Gorge Railway

Kurobe Gorge Railway

Korankei Valley, Chubu

Korankei Valley near Nagoya is one of the best spots for viewing autumn colours in the central Chubu Region. Hundreds of maple trees line the walking trails crisscrossing Mt Iimori and the Tomoe River which cuts a wide arc around it. 

In the 17th century, the head priest of the temple atop Mt Iimori planted the first maple trees, sparking a trend that has continued over the centuries and borne fruit in the form of a beautiful scenic area for autumn foliage viewing and photography - vermilion Taigetsukyo Bridge is a top photo spot.

There is also a traditional village nearby with thatched houses and workshops where visitors can experience traditional Japanese handicraft activities such as bamboo craft (tea coasters and decorations), aizome (Japanese indigo tie-dye), warazori (straw sandals) and washi (Japanese paper) postcards.

Autumn foliage season: Mid to late November
Access: 2 hrs from Nagoya Station using trains and busses (1500 yen; multiple routes possible). Around 1 hr drive by car in good traffic conditions. The area can get very crowded during autumn leaf season, especially on weekends, so it is advised to try and arrive as early as possible
Further information: Sanshu Asuka Yashiki Village

Korankei

Tofukuji Temple, Kyoto

Founded in the 13th century, Tofukuji Temple is a large Zen temple in the southeast of Kyoto that is very famous for its spectacular autumn foliage. In autumn, people come from all over Japan to see Tofukuji's autumn foliage, especially the views of and from the famouse Tsutenkyo Bridge. 

Views of the Tsutenkyo Bridge can capture it framed against a backdrop of a valley of lush multi-coloured maple trees. Views from the bridge are equally impressive - the 100 meter long elevated, covered walkway gets extremely crowded when the vivid hues reach their peak, usually around mid to late November each year.

Autumn foliage season: Mid to late November
Access: 10 min walk from Tofukuji Temple from Tofukuji Station (JR Nara Line or Keihan Main Line), which is 2 min from  Kyoto Station (140 yen). Alternatively, 10 min walk from Tofukuji bus stop, which is 15 min from Kyoto Station by Kyoto City Bus 208  (230 yen).
Further information: Tofukuji Temple

Tofukiji Temple

Arashiyama, Kyoto

Arashiyama is a pleasant riverside district on the outskirts of western Kyoto. Japanese people have been enjoying the spring cherry blossoms and autumn foliage in Arashiyama since the Heian period (794-1185), when it became a popular leisure district for nobles from the Imperial court. 

The trees covering the forested hills of Arashiyama and dotted amongst its temple grounds change into their autumn clothes each year in the second half of November. Togetsukyo Bridge, a wooden bridge spanning the width of the river, is Arashiyama's well-known landmark, and makes the perfect centrepiece in photographs with the lushly forested mountains in the background.

Autumn foliage season: Late November to early December
Access: From central Kyoto, via Japan Railways (JR), Hankyu Railways or Keifuku Railways (Randen).
By Hankyu: Take the Hankyu Main Line 10 min from Kawaramachi or Karasuma Station to Katsura Station. Then ride the Hankyu Arashiyama Line 7 min to Arashiyama Station (220 yen). From here, it is a 5-10 min walk to central Arashiyama. 
By Randen: 25 min from Shijo-Omiya Station to Keifuku Arashiyama Station (Keifuku Dentetsu Arashiyama Line, 220 yen). From here it is a 3-5 min walk to central Arashiyama.
By JR: Take the JR Sagano Line (also known as JR Sanin Line) 15 min from Kyoto Station to  Saga-Arashiyama Station (240 yen). From here, it is a 10-15 min walk to central Arashiyama.

Arashiyama, Kyoto

Kiyomizudera Temple, Kyoto

One of Kyoto's most instantly recognisable temples, Kiyomizudera is also one of the most visited during the autumn leaf viewing season. The best views can be had from the iconic wooden stage which juts out from the temple's main hall over 10 metres above the hillside below. It affords views of the sea of maple trees that burst into colour in the autumn against a backdrop of the city of Kyoto. 

The trees around Kiyomizudera's large wooden stage usually acquire their autumn hues during the second half of November, when the temple also hosts special night-time illuminations to allow visitors to see a different side of the autumn foliage when it is spectacularly lit up at night.

Autumn foliage season: Late November to early December
Access: 15 min by bus from Kyoto Station by bus number 100 or 206 (230 yen). Alight at Gojo-zaka or Kiyomizu-michi bus stop. From here, it is a 10 min uphill walk to the temple. Alternatively, 20 min walk from Kiyomizu-Gojo Station on the Keihan Railway Line.
Further information: Kiyomizudera Temple

Kiyomizudera Temple in autumn

Yoshiminedera Temple, Kyoto

This spacious Buddhist temple on the western outskirts of Kyoto is the yin to Kiyomizudera's yang. While Kiyomizudera is situated on Kyoto's eastern mountains (Higashiyama), Yoshiminedera's many shrine buildings can be found distributed across the slopes of Kyoto's western mountains (Nishiyama).

Like its eastern cousin Kiyomizudera, Yoshiminedera also affords impressive views from the hillside out over Kyoto, and is especially attractive when it is adorned in beautiful fiery colours during the autumn leaf season - the colours are at their best here in the second half of November.

Autumn foliage season: Mid to late November
Access: 7 min from Kyoto Station to Mukomachi Station by JR Kyoto Line  (180 yen) or 20 min  from central Kyoto to Higashimuko Station by Hankyu Kyoto Line (220 yen). Then ride the  Hankyu Bus #66 for 30 min to the temple (350 yen, hourly departures).

Yoshiminedera Temple, Mt Hiei

Eikando (Zenrinji Temple), Kyoto

Tucked away to the north of its larger and more famous neighbour, the temple complex of Nanzenji, Eikando should not be overlooked as a prime autumn leaf viewing spot during the autumn foliage season. The temple grounds of Eikando, whose official name is Zenrinji Temple, are one of Kyoto's most popular leaf viewing spots. 

Eikando is an interesting temple to explore, with a pond garden, an unusual sideways-looking statue of Buddha, and numerous shrine buildings connected with wooden walkways housing such delights as painted fusama screens, secret rock gardens, and a Tahoto-style pagoda with both square and round floors. It is also one of the handful of temples that offer night-time viewings of the leaves when they are specially illuminated at nights. 

Autumn foliage season: Late November to early December
Access: 15-20 min walk from the nearest subway station, Keage Station. The station is 20 min  from Kyoto Station on the Tozai Subway Line (260 yen). Alternatively, a 5 min walk from the nearest bus stop, Nanzenji-Eikando-michi bus stop. The bus stop is 35 min from Kyoto Station by Kyoto City Bus number 5  (230 yen).
Further information: Eikando (Zenrinji Temple) 

Eikando Temple

Daigoji Temple, Kyoto

UNESCO World Heritage site Daigoji's large temple complex is spread out across a mountainside, from the base of the mountains to the summit, in southeast Kyoto. Highlights include the elegant Sanboin, the head priest's former residence, dating from the 12th century, and a 38 metre tall, five-storied pagoda that is Kyoto's oldest verified building.

However, during autumn the highlight at Daigoji is undoubtedly the Bentendo Hall, tucked away at the back of the Shimo Daigo area of the temple complex. Surrounded by a pond and dozens of maple trees, the diminutive structure with its gracefully curved roof and arching bridge, is perfectly reflected in the pond and is easily the temple's most photographed building.

Autumn foliage season: Mid to late November
Access: 15 min walk from Daigo Station (Tozai Subway Line). Take the JR line 5 min from Kyoto Station to Yamashina Station (190 yen). Then ride the Tozai Subway Line  for 8 min  (260 yen). Alternatively, take Keihan Bus number 22 or 22A for 20 min from Yamashina Station to Daigoji Station (220 yen, three departures per hour).
Further information: Daigoji Temple

Daigoji Temple

Jingo-ji Temple, Kyoto

Jingo-ji Temple is a mountain temple standing on the hillside of Mt. Takao-san, located in the northwest of Kyoto City. It is also known as the temple where Priest Kukai (774-835) lived and worked for 14 years after he had returned home from Tang (China). After going up steep stone steps for about 15 minutes, you will find one of the best spots for autumn leaves in Japan.

The landscape from the garden of Jizo-in Temple is called "Kin'unkei," a full view over the valley of the Kiyotaki River in red leaves. In the precincts, you will also be astonished to see the red leaves of the old trees such as Takao-kaede (maple). And here, you can try a play called "Kawarake-nage," by throwing small unglazed plates into the vast garden, which is performed also as the practice of exorcism.

Autumn foilage season: Mid-to late November
Access: Take the JR Bus from JR Kyoto Station to Yamashiro-Takao. It is a 20 min walk from the bus stop.
Further information: Welcome to Kyoto

Jingo-ji Temple

Mt Koya (Koyasan)

Koyasan or Mt Koya is home to a mountain-top temple complex founded in the 9th century by Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism, a sect of Japanese Buddhism. He based his sect's headquarters on top of Mt. Koya, and today it is home to over 100 temples in a secluded and peaceful temple town. Mt Koya is a good place for early autumnal foliage viewing if you are too early to see the leaves at lower elevations in the Kansai region.

Autumn foliage season: Late October to mid November
Access: Koyasan is around 3 hrs by train from central Osaka. 
Further information: Koyasan Tourist Association

Mt Koya - Ⓒ Tanabe City Kumano Tourism Bureau

Mt. Daisen, Tottori

1,729 metre high Mt Daisen is part of Daisen-Oki National Park in Tottori prefecture and is the highest mountain in the Chugoku Region of western mainland Japan. The mountain provides scenic hiking and walking opportunities among attractive autumn colours from the trailhead at Daisen-ji Temple to the highest accessible point, Misen Peak (1709 metres). Alternatively, the rusty hues of the maple and beech trees clothing the mountain's sides can be equally well viewed from afar.

Autumn foliage season: Late October to early November
Access: Take the train to Yonago or Daisen-guchi Stations on the JR Sanin Main Line). From here, take a bus to Daisenji Temple: 1 hr from Yonago Station  (720 yen) or 30 min from Daisen-guchi Station (480 yen). Yonago town is 35 min by train from Matsue (JR San-in Line, 500 yen) and 50 min by train from Izumo (JR Yakumo limited express, 2,640 yen, hourly departures).
Further information: Mt Daisen, Daisen-Oki National Park

Mt Daisen

Momijidani, Hiroshima

Momijidani Park is located at the foot of the primeval forest of Mt. Mi-yama and is designated as a natural monument. It is situated in the backyard of Itsukushima Shrine, which is regarded as one of the best three landscapes in Japan. Being true to its name Momijidani, valley of autumn leaves, the park appears in magnificent colours in its season. Wild deer are also found in the park, while 1,000 maple trees of five different varieties show off their beautiful colours. In addition, the view of the Momiji bridge area is splendid with the brazing red of maple leaves.

Autumn foilage season: Early to mid-November
Access: 5mins walk from JR Miyajima-guchi Station (San-yo Line) to Miyajima-guchi Sanbashi. From there, take JR ferry or Miyajima Matsudai Kisen ferry for 10mins and exit at Miyajima Sanbashi. It’s 20mins walk from the boarding point.
Further information: Miyajima Island

Koichi Shintani - Momijidani Park