There’s really no shortage of spectacular views of the Japanese foliage (koyo). Wherever you go you will be enchanted by the vivid colors that come with autumn. To help we’ve gathered up a few of the best spots to give you something to think about when planning your trip.
There’s no doubt that the sakura blossoms of spring are one of the biggest natural draws in Japan, Sure they’re beautiful but they are also quite fragile and the season is so short, if you blink you’ll miss it. That’s why we’re touting autumn as a great time to visit Japan. It’s a welcome relief to have the cooler weather after the sweltering summer and thanks largely to the beautiful momiji (maple tree) Japanese trees put on a spectacular show that is pretty hard to beat. Put in a few features like centuries old temples and bridges and you’ll understand why we’re crazy about autumn.
It’s hard to go wrong in Kyoto at any time of the year – amazing scenery is around every corner – but autumn seems to put a delightful filter over the ancient capital that is pretty hard to beat.The Tofuku-ji Temple in the Higashiyama district is very popular with visitors from Japan and abroad as a member of the Kyoto Gozan or “Kyoto’s 5 great Zen temples”.
The surrounding gardens showcase just about every autumn color you can think of and when you factor in the features of Tsutenkyo Bridge, the creeks and the temple itself and you’ll find no lack of postcard-quality shots. Every year is different but peak viewing is generally in the latter half of November. Be warned, it can get very busy but from the couple of shots we’ve included here we think you’ll agree it’s worth it.
We don’t need any excuse to visit the majestic Kiyomizu-dera in Kyoto. It’s one of our favorite temples and it’s breathtaking location halfway up Mt Otowa, makes it a perfect photo spot at any time of the year. When surrounded by the rich autumn colors of the momiji though, this wooden masterpiece takes on a completely different persona.
It’s always popular but well worth the walk up the hill to get to it and of course make sure to sample some of the sweets on the way up – especially yastushashi (try the soft cinnamon or green tea flavors!). The temple has extended hours (6-9pm) from November 14 – December 6 and the grounds, and of course the autumn leaves, are lit up, so that visitors can fully appreciate the seasonal beauty of this sacred spot.
Momiji Kairo (Maple Corridor)
Next up is a spot near Lake Kawaguchi, which is located in Yamanashi prefecture and is one of the Fuji Five Lakes. It is beautiful in its own right and with a snow-capped Mt Fuji as a backdrop, and autumn colors dotting its shorelines it probably deserves its own spot on this list. But at the northern end of the lake you can find the Momiji Kairo, (Maple Corridor), just a short walk from the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum.
a gorgeous natural tunnel of sorts that is a great favorite with visitors…
The corridor is actually an old river bed that is lined with maple trees, which create a gorgeous natural tunnel of sorts that is a great favorite with visitors to the area. Anytime during November is a good time to check it out, and like many other koyo spots it is lit up in the evening.
If you are in Aichi prefecture in November and looking for foliage then there is probably no better area for you to head than the Korankei Valley. There are around 4,000 maple trees along the clear waters of the Tomoe River that runs through the region. Their maple leaves gradually transform into a variety of colors through the season before turning completely red, creating a koyo-lovers paradise that is known locally as ‘goshoku momiji’ (5 colour maple leaves). And if that’s not enough to convince you to add this location to your list, then you also have the vivid, red Taigetsukyo Bridge, giving you plenty of opportunities to capture that perfect Japanese autumn shot!
Though there are plenty of places across Japan to see the spectacular autumn leaves, we’re going to head back to Kyoto for our last recommendation. The Arashiyama district is on the outskirts of Kyoto and has a number of spots that draw visitors from around the world. Best time to visit is from late November to early December when the mountains come alive with autumn colors and make the perfect backdrop for photo buffs.
Arashiyama is also the home of the World Heritage listed, Tenryu-ji Temple, which is another of the Kyoto Gozan or “Kyoto’s 5 great Zen temples”. This important temple’s gardens boast a truly breathtaking view year round, but it is one of the most sought-after autumn views in Japan and it’s not difficult to understand why. Try stopping at just one photo!
Kawaguchi 3064 Fujikawaguchiko
1-3 Arashiyama Kamikawaracho, Nishikyo Ward, Kyoto, Japan
Autumn Leaves and Vibrant Views
NAVITIME TRAVEL EDITOR