Besides cherry blossoms, another season many travellers love visiting Japan is autumn! When red, yellow and brown leaves take over the landscape, it's the most captivating sight ever ?
If it's your first time spending autumn in Japan, but you're not sure when to catch the foliage (or koyo as it's called) or the best spots, we've prepared this guide just for you!
1. Check the autumn foliage forecast
While the window to view autumn leaves isn't as limited as cherry blossoms, you still need to research in advance and look for weather changes that may affect your experience. As a rule of thumb, mountainous regions and northern parts of Japan will welcome autumn first. As the turning of leaves depends on temperature and elevation, there's a higher chance that autumn will come earlier if the weather gets colder earlier in the year.
But based on forecast this year, you can expect the period for autumn foliage to be as such:
Hokkaido: Early Oct to Early Nov
Being the northernmost part of Japan, Hokkaido will see its leaves turning yellow first! But as the island is huge, the autumn foliage varies according to where you're.
The mountainous area of Daisetsuzan will see autumn leaves as early as the second week of September till the first week of October. But if you're heading to Sapporo, do plan your trip from earth October as that's the best viewing time for autumn foliage.
P.S. If you're heading to Hokkaido, make sure you check out our budget Hokkaido guide!
Tokyo and Kanto region: Early Nov to Early Dec
Typically for most parts of Tokyo and the Kanto region, the best viewing time for autumn leaves is between late November and early December. But there are exceptions if you're heading out into the more mountainous areas. In Hakone, you'll start to see autumn leaves from early November, but the best viewing time would probably be in the middle of the month, while in the picturesque town of Nikko, it'll be from mid-October to mid-November. The neighbouring Fuji Five lakes area gets covered in autumn foliage from early to late November.
For the coastal cities of Kamakura and Yokohama, autumn comes much later, where you can expect leaves to turn red and yellow only from late November to mid-December.
Kansai region (Kyoto, Osaka, Nara): Early to Late November
For much of the Kansai region, which travellers like to frequent, such as Kyoto, Osaka and Nara, you'll start to see autumn foliage in early-mid November, with the peak season in late November, sometimes even stretching to early December.
P.S. Travelling to the Kansai region? Check out our 5D4N Osaka-Kyoto-Nara itinerary!
Kyushu: Mid to Late November
If you're heading to the southern cities of Fukuoka, Nagasaki, and Kagoshima or visiting the scenic Takachiho Gorge or Mt Aso, try to time your vacay from mid to late November to experience the autumn foliage.
Hiroshima and Chugoku region: Mid to Late November
Similarly, for those planning a trip to Hiroshima, Miyajima Island, and other parts of the Chugoku region, the peak season for autumn foliage is from mid to late November.
2. Best viewing spots for autumn foliage
Once you know the best viewing times for autumn foliage, it's time to plan your itinerary and include sightseeing spots that let you experience the most magnificent autumn colours ?
Credit: Raita Futo on Flickr
Enchanting as it is elegant, the Rikugien Garden is a splendid representation of a traditional Japanese garden. The fiery maple trees steal the spotlight during koyo season, and visitors often complement their picnic in the garden with a trip to the nearby teahouse for matcha and Japanese sweets.
Address: 6-16-3 Hon-komagome, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0021
Opening hours: Although the specific dates for 2022 have yet to be announced, the illumination normally takes place between late November to early December.
Nearest subway station: Komagome Station
Tokyo’s biggest forested public park, you can expect to find a myriad of features at Shinjuku Gyoen: it comprises a traditional Japanese garden, a formal French garden and a stunning English landscape garden!
Credit: Japan Backpackers Trip on Facebook
With over 20,000 trees here, you can imagine the amount of accumulated foliage at the park – it’s the perfect opportunity for that golden Instagram shot ?
Address: 11 Naitomachi, Shinjuku, Tokyo 160-0014
Opening hours: 9am - 4pm (gates close at 4,30pm)
Nearest subway station: Shinjuku-Gyoemmae
Icho Namiki Dori (Meiji Jingu Gaien)
Situated snugly between two luxurious fashion and business districts, Icho Namiki boasts a stretch of impressive gingko trees which turn golden in autumn.
Credit: Julien Tirode on Facebook
This popular avenue draws crowds of tourists and locals who stroll under the leaves or relax at one of the charming cafes. Don’t miss the annual festival held here: you can find wide variety of merchandise, browse Japanese handicrafts, sample the local cuisine and enjoy street performances!
Address: Between the Gaienmae fashion district and the Aoyama Itchome business district
Opening hours: 24h
Nearest subway station: Aoyama-Itchome station
Koishikawa Korakuen, or Koishikawa Botanical Gardens, is the oldest garden in Japan and also the best-preserved garden!
Credit: @suparuj on Instagram
Built during the early Edo period, it’s hard to believe that this century-old park stands next to the ultra-modern Tokyo Dome City complex. The arrangement of the twinkling pond, maple trees and manmade hillsides are thoughtfully placed as a tribute to traditional gardens of Japanese and Chinese influences.
Address: 1-6-6 Koraku, Bunkyo, Tokyo 112-0004
Opening hours: 9am - 5pm (last entry at 4.30pm)
Admission fee: JPY300
Nearest subway station: Lidashi station (JR Chuo Line)
This is said to be the best place for hiking on the outskirts of Tokyo. It’s a 90-minute climb to the summit, but it’s worth it. If you’re lucky, you’ll get gorgeous panoramic views of Tokyo or Mt Fuji!
Credit: jpellgen on Flickr
When it's autumn, the view from up the mountain comes complete with autumn-perfect trees ?
Address: Mount Takao, Takaomachi, Hachioji, Tokyo 193-0844
Directions: Take the Keio railway from Keio Shinjuku station and alight at Takaosanguchi station.
Mt Fuji and Fuji Five Lakes:
A backdrop of stunning autumn colours and Mt Fuji? There's no way you can resist that! If you have the privilege of heading to the Fuji Five Lakes area, you'll be treated to the Fuji-Kawaguchiko Autumn Leaves Festival. There'll be stalls selling snacks, crafts, cute souvenirs and more. As Lake Kawaguchi is huge, here are some places to get the best views:
Credit: skyseeker on Flickr
A walk along the Momiji Tunnel is not to be missed. Momiji means "red leaves", and this is a popular spot to catch a line of gorgeous maple trees together with a breathtaking view of Mt Fuji. Walk further along the tunnel, and the view will impress you.
Credit: Ja Aey on Facebook
Another unmissable sight here is the Maple Corridor, where a row of maple trees is lined along a canal. At night, the trees are illuminated, which makes the entire area magical. Not to mention that this is also the main area of the festival, so you can also soak in the bustling atmosphere!
Credit: Rio Erwin on Facebook
If you'd like to elevate your viewing experience literally, we recommend heading up to the Chureito Pagoda where you'll get a sweeping view of the Fujiyoshida area and the red and yellow hues, and if you're lucky enough, Mt Fuji. For those of you looking for a more peaceful koyo experience, then head over to Lake Yamanashi - you'll have an equally amazing view of Mt Fuji and autumn leaves but without the crowd!
Directions to Fuji Five Lakes: To get to the Fuji Five Lakes area, refer to our all-in-one Muslim-friendly guide on conquering Mt Fuji and Hakone!
The scenic mountainous town of Nikko in Tochigi prefecture is one of Japan's top spots to experience autumn foliage. It's located around 2h 40min from Asakusa in Tokyo, so it makes for a perfect day trip if you're staying in Tokyo.
Akechidaira Plateau and Kegon Falls
Credit: Wow Japan! Club Tourism on Facebook
Not only does Akechidaira offer a stunning bird’s eye view of Nikko, but you'll also get to see the stunning autumn colours on the endless mountains, plus an overview of the volcanic Lake Chuzenji and Kegon Falls.
It’s hard to miss the sight of the iconic Shinkyo Bridge when you’re in Nikko, as it's the first thing you see when you enter the town. Known as “sacred bridge,” it’s one of Japan’s three finest bridges and was built in 1636.
With the lush autumn foliage and beautiful river as the bridge’s backdrop, will you admire the bridge from a distance feel like you’re staring at a gorgeous painting ? If you’d like, you can get on the bridge too for a small fee of ¥300, but it’s only open till 5pm (Apr – Sep) and 4pm (Oct – Mar).
Directions to Nikko: If you're wondering how to get to and around Nikko, plus tips on finding Muslim-friendly food options, check out our guide on 7 essential tips for visiting Nikko!
With many sightseeing spots in the Kansai region, it's no wonder that many Muslim travellers keep coming back to the Kansai region. Whether you're soaking in the quiet atmosphere at the temples of Kyoto or looking for a respite in busy Osaka, you won't have a shortage of scenic spots!
Most famous for its iconic bamboo forest, the traditional district of Arashiyama is also worth visiting for its stunning views in different seasons like spring and autumn.
Credit: Meiling Cherdchu on Facebook
Head to the Togetsukyo Bridge to catch a breathtaking sight of autumn foliage gracing the forested mountains in the surrounding areas. Then make your way to Tenryuji to catch some zen and revel in the beauty of the autumn leaves in the temple's garden before hopping on the Sagano Romantic Railway and be amazed by the lush autumn foliage. For those of you who can't get enough, we recommend going on the Hozugawa River Cruise and immerse yourself in nature while taking in the memorable sight ?
Constantly known as one of the best temples to view autumn leaves in Kyoto, Tofukuji has a vast garden consisting of maple trees which turn into a pop of red in autumn.
Credit: Zen moment on Facebook
The most popular spot here is the Tsutenkyo Bridge where you can feast your eyes on impressive views and it can also be very crowded so do plan to visit early! Do also note that the best views here are usually in the second half of November.
Address: 778 Honmachi, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0981, Japan
Opening hours: 8.30am-4.30pm (Nov-early Dec)
600 yen (Tsutenkyo Bridge and Kaisando Hall)
500 yen (Hojo and gardens)
1000 yen (everything)
Nearest subway station: Tofukuji station (10 min walk)
Minoo Park, Osaka
Known as probably the best place to view autumn leaves in the Osaka prefecture, a visit to Minoo Park is a must! This scenic spot has mountains, temples, waterfalls and hiking trails.
Credit: Drop Inn Osaka on Facebook
The awe-inspiring Minoo Falls is the main highlight here. Do note that during autumn, you can expect many travellers to visit Minoo Park, and many people like to hike up the waterfall while taking in the beautiful surroundings.
Address: 1-18 Minookōen, Minoo-shi, Ōsaka-fu 562-0002, Japan
Opening hours: 24h
Nearest subway station: Minoh station (Hankyu Minoh Line). Take the Hankyu Takarakuza line from Umeda in downtown Osaka and transfer to the Minoh Line at Ishibashi station.
Osaka Castle Park, Osaka
If you're strapped for time and can only sightsee in Osaka, we recommend heading to Osaka Castle Park.
Credit: Drop Inn Osaka on Facebook
Not only will you get to visit the majestic Osaka Castle, but you'll also get to admire the red, brown and yellow autumn leaves around the park.
Address: 1 Ōsakajō, Chūō-ku, Ōsaka-shi, Ōsaka-fu 540-0002, Japan
Opening hours: 24h
Nearest subway station: Osakajokoen, Morinomiya
Hokkaido University, Sapporo
Credit: Driving in Japan on Facebook
Feast your eyes as over 70 gingko trees turn yellow during autumn. The neatly lined trees along the road make for a picture-perfect opportunity ? Don't miss out on the Golden Leaf Festival where the trees will be illuminated in a spectacular sight and you can also look forward to activities and street snacks.
Address: 5 Chome Kita 8 Jonishi, Kita Ward, Sapporo, Hokkaido 060-0808, Japan
Nearest subway station: Kitajunijo
Shiretoko Goko Lakes
Credit: Nhật Bản on Facebook
A picturesque natural area with 5 lakes, Shiretoko Goko is the place to go if you want to be one with nature. Start your exploration from the Shiretoko Goko Field House, take a walk on either of its two trekking courses, and witness the beauty of the gorgeous autumn foliage reflecting against the lake!
Address: Onnebetsumura, Shari, Shari District, Hokkaido 099-4356, Japan
Opening hours: 8am-5pm
Directions: Shiretoko Goko is located about a 1.5h Shari bus ride from the Shiretokoshari station. Alight at the Shiretoko Goko bus stop. The fare will be around JPY2000.
Credit: @elsyeditraveller on Instagram
Want to experience the wonders of autumn leaves in a Japanese garden? This is the place to go! With around 150 different types of trees here, you can expect different shades of red and yellow here. Be sure to catch the Hakodate MOMI-G Festa too where the trees will be lit up and there'll be performances too.
Address: Hokkaido, Hakodate, Miharashicho 56
Mt Moiwa, Sapporo
Credit: Welcome to Sapporo on Facebook
Mt Moiwa is already breathtaking in other seasons, with a commanding view of Sapporo. Known for having one of the best night views of cities in Japan, the route up to Mt Moiwa via the ropeway is even more beautiful with a splash of red and yellow. Get the best of both worlds and stay till the night to catch the stunning night view too ?
Address: Moiwayama, Minami Ward, Sapporo, Sapporo, Hokkaido 005-0041, Japan
Opening hours: 10.30am-10pm
Directions: Take the Sapporo streetcar line from Susukino to Ropeway Iriguchi. From there, take the free shuttle to the lower ropeway station.
3. Know the peak travel seasons
If you're still planning your autumn trip to Japan, there are some peak seasons which you need to know. If you're not avoiding the peak season, make sure you're mentally prepared for it!
Silver Week (end-Sep)
A term coined following the popular Golden Week in late Apr-early May, the Silver Week is when many Japanese have holidays, and they might want to travel around the country to get the first views of autumn leaves. But this only applies if you're visiting Hokkaido in autumn, as the rest of Japan is not welcoming the autumn season yet, so there's not much to worry about! In 2022, Silver week involves two 3-day weekends. The first starts officially on Saturday, September 17, and continues through Monday, September 19. The second begins on Friday, September 23, and continues through Sunday, September 25.
Peak autumn foliage season (end-Nov)
Credit: Wellington Kuswanto on Facebook
Many of the more popular tourist destinations like Tokyo and Kyoto will be entering their peak autumn foliage season during this time, and we don't recommend that you avoid this season as it's one of the most beautiful times to visit Japan. But we recommend planning your time around the autumn foliage spots as they might get crowded during certain times of the day. Or better still, you can visit the lesser known spots for a better autumn foliage experience ?
Do note that as there'll be many tourists during this time, you might need to book your accommodation and transport tickets in advance as prices will be higher too. Note that there is also a public holiday at the end of November (Labour Thanksgiving Day - 23 Nov) where the Japanese might take a weekend off to travel.
4. Weather and how to dress warm
Once autumn takes over in Japan, the humidity and temperature begin to drop. How you dress depends on when you're visiting Japan and the region you're heading to. As a rule of thumb, remember to constantly check the weather before going and even while you're there. You can use your phone's weather app or refer to apps like Accuweather and the Japan Meteorological Agency. The weather in autumn fluctuates sometimes - it's sunny on some days, and you can expect rain on other days. Don't forget to bring an umbrella or raincoat while you're out and about!
The key to dressing during this season is to layer up. While the weather is more pleasant than winter or summer, you'll still need to prepare for the worst. For sunny afternoons, you can either wear a long-sleeved shirt or add on a sweater and when evening and night come, put on a coat to keep you warm. Don't forget to bring a scarf, gloves and a beanie as there might be chilly winds. If you're heading up to mountainous areas, be prepared to wear an extra layer.
5. Immerse in Japanese culture
If cherry blossom viewing is called hanami, autumn foliage is often referred to as koyo or momiji (red leaf) and the activity to search for the most stunning autumn leaves is called momigari, which literally means "red leaf hunting"! One thing to note is that unlike cherry blossom season, when the Japanese would be out and about having picnics in parks and gardens, the autumn season is associated more with the outdoors, where the Japanese will be doing more hiking, camping or even activities like fishing as the weather is more cooling.
One of the things we always look forward to in Japan is their seasonal snacks! In autumn, you can expect many shops selling maple-shaped cakes and check this out, maple leaf tempura is a unique snack you have to try in Japan.
Credit: Jessica Amanda Salmonson on Facebook
If you're wondering what it is, yes, maple leaves are dipped in tempura batter and then deep-fried, and it's best eaten with Japanese tea. Don't worry, the Japanese don't fry the leaves which have dropped from the trees, and they only fry the yellow leaves. One of the places where you can try this exclusive snack is Minoo Park in Osaka (Takido Street), where there are over 10 stalls selling maple leaf tempura.
Credit: Japan Dream on Facebook
Besides maple leaf tempura, the autumn season also brings various crops and fruits. You can look forward to an abundance of persimmons and pears, chestnuts, matsutake mushrooms and ginkgo nuts. For those interested in Japanese desserts (wagashi), you'll be pleased to know that some seasonal wagashi will have these seasonal items in them, mainly chestnut and persimmon. Another snack you can look forward to in autumn is yakiimo (roasted sweet potato) which you can find in various stores throughout Japan.
As the Japanese always love to celebrate seasons, you can expect them to welcome the autumn season with some interesting festivals (matsuri). In Kyoto in October? Then you'd have to witness the Jidai Matsuri, one of the city's three big festivals.
Credit: JAPAN in Pictures on Facebook
Around 2,000 people will participate in a procession which tells the history of Japan between the late Edo period and early Meiji period.
Credit: Junichi Horiguchi on Facebook
For those visiting Tokyo in November, don't miss out on the Tori no Ichi Festival held at the Asakusa Ootori and Hanazono Jinja Shrine. This festival is held to pray for good fortune in the following year, and it follows the Chinese zodiac, which celebrates the "rooster" days in November. It's interesting to see vendors selling various good luck charms shaped like cranes, tortoises, treasure ships, etc.
6. Take as many photos to capture the autumn scenery
Ask anyone who's been to Japan in autumn, and they'd tell you that it's one of the most romantic seasons to visit the country ? Trust us when we say you won't want to miss capturing this romantic season!
Credit: Daniel Ramirez on Flickr
Well, we couldn't agree more! It's hard not to love the breathtaking red, brown or yellow foliage that covers most of the country's landscape.
Head to the autumn foliage spots early to avoid getting photobombed by random strangers. Having a camera tripod and controller is useful for taking solo or group shots without missing anyone in the picture. You also have the liberty of deciding your desired angle and backdrop!
Credit: Pariwat Pari on Facebook
As many parks have festivals to illuminate the trees, don't miss out on the night views of the stunning autumn leaves too. While you might think it won’t be worthwhile, the foliage comes alive with illuminations at night - absolutely a magical sight to behold ?
#HHWT Tip: To make your photos look even better, rent a kimono and strike a pose with it!
7. Savour yummy halal food
One of the things you can't miss in Japan during any season is savouring halal food! With so many halal and Muslim-friendly eateries in major cities and more coming up in tourist areas, you'll be able to try halal Japanese dishes in Japan.
Craving for a comforting bowl of ramen or Japanese BBQ in Tokyo or looking for authentic halal takoyaki and okonomiyaki in Osaka? Japan's got it all! Do check out our list of halal food guides in these popular Japanese cities to find out just where to get the best halal Japanese dishes:
If you're thinking of experiencing autumn in the Mt Fuji/Hakone region or Nikko, do check out our Muslim-friendly guides to both areas, too - complete with Muslim-friendly food options and prayer spaces:
Now that you know the best time for viewing autumn leaves and the most beautiful spots to catch them, plus other essential tips, you're more than ready to have the most fulfilling autumn vacation in Japan! SHARE this with your travel buddies and let them know these important tips too ?
P.S. Check out these articles as well (updated!) to help you plan your long-awaited trip to Japan!