Autumn in Japan: It's not too late to enjoy colorful foliage

Autumn in Japan: It's not too late to enjoy colorful foliage

Live Japan

Planning to visit Japan this autumn for captivating fall foliage? Get ready for a visual feast! As famous as cherry blossoms, Japan's autumn season paints landscapes with breathtaking hues. From October to December, vibrant reds, oranges, and golds adorn the country, creating a stunning display of nature's artistry.

Here we share the best time and places to see autumn leaves in Japan. Our Japan Autumn Leaves Forecast includes a map of Japan with estimated peak foliage times according to the Japan Meteorological Corporation.

From Tokyo to Kyoto, read on to discover the best spots for Japan's autumn colors and create unforgettable memories on your journey.

When is the autumn season in Japan?

Autumn in Japan spans from September to November, with foliage changing from mid-October onwards. The end of November is the peak time to enjoy vibrant foliage across the country.

Two waves of foliage occur: yellow leaves (ginkgo trees) in late October, followed by red leaves (Japanese maple) in early November. Peak colors vary by region, influenced by elevation and weather, sometimes extending to late November or early December.

For more information on visiting Japan in autumn, popular destinations, tours and more, see the article below.

Purchasing a Japan Rail Pass or regional rail pass in autumn allows travelers to explore the country's breathtaking fall foliage with ease and affordability. As leaves transform into vivid hues, visitors can journey between historic sites, picturesque towns, and scenic spots without the hassle of buying individual tickets - and saving money at the same time.

For details, check the links below.

Recommended rail passes

When can we see autumn leaves in Japan in 2023?

Images: Japan Meteorological Corporation

This fall, warmer temperatures are expected nationwide. The peak period for autumn foliage might be around the average time or slightly later than usual. For yellow leaves, the western part of Japan is on track for average timing, while northern and eastern Japan might experience the peak around the usual time or a bit later.

Tokyo's best autumn foliage is predicted around December 1st, and Osaka around December 4th, both typical for the season. Some areas like Sapporo and Nagano could see peak foliage over 10 days later than usual.

Let's look at the best times and places to enjoy the autumn leaves across different regions in 2023 (released on October 3, 2023). Travelers who love the scenic beauty of fall foliage can decide where to go based on their travel dates.

Impact of 2023 Temperatures on the Timing of Autumn Leaves & Yellow Leaves Color Change Predictions

Northern Japan
・Temperatures are expected to be significantly above average from September to October and average or slightly above from November to December.
・Autumn foliage peak: Average or slightly delayed. In Sapporo, a notably delayed peak is predicted, possibly the latest on record.
・Mountainous areas: Mid-October to mid-November; Plains: Late October to early December.
・Yellow leaves peak: Average or slightly delayed. Plains: Early to late November.

Eastern Japan
・Temperatures are predicted to be significantly above average in September and above average from October to December.
・Autumn foliage peak: Average or slightly delayed.
・Mountainous areas: Late October to mid-December; Plains: Late November to late December.
・Yellow leaves peak: Average or slightly delayed. Plains: Mid-November to early December.

Western Japan
・Temperatures will likely be significantly higher in September and average or slightly higher from October to December.
・Autumn foliage peak: Average or slightly delayed.
・Mountainous areas: Early to early December; Plains: Late November to mid-December.
・Yellow leaves peak: On par with the average. Plains: Mid-November to mid-December.

1. Hokkaido (Sapporo/Hakodate)

1-Hokkaido University; 2-Jozankei Onsen; 3-Sounkyo; 4-Noboribetsu Onsen (Photos: PIXTA)

Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island, unveils the country's first autumn colors, making it a spectacular destination. The fall foliage begins at Mount Asahi in the Daisetsuzan Volcanic Group and gradually spreads southward. The unique combination of broadleaf trees and conifers, including maple, Japanese rowan, black locust, Ezo spruce, and Sakhalin fir, creates a mesmerizing blend of red, yellow, and green hues.

Notable places to enjoy autumn leaves in Hokkaido and the best viewing times in 2023 include:

  1. Sapporo City (Best around November 12): Hokkaido University and Nakajima Park offer stunning fall foliage views. (See tours and hotels in Sapporo.)
  2. Jozankei Onsen (Best from October 20-30): This hot springs resort near Sapporo boasts picturesque autumn colors along the peaceful Toyohira River. (See tours and hotels near Jozankei.)
  3. Sounkyo (Best from October 14-23): Located in central Hokkaido, this area captivates visitors with its towering cliffs, waterfalls, and vibrant foliage. (See tours and hotels near Sounkyo.)
  4. Noboribet su Onsen (Best from October 28-November 5):A volcanic region in southwestern Hokkaido, where fiery foliage surrounds bubbling pools of water. (See tours and hotels in Noboribetsu Onsen.)

2. Tohoku (Sendai/Aomori)

1-Oirase Gorge; 2-Naruko Valley; 3-Zao Onsen; 4-Kakunodate; 5-Geibikei Gorge (Photos: PIXTA)

Tohoku, located in the northern part of Honshu, Japan's largest main island, offers a captivating autumn foliage experience.

The prime time to witness fall colors in Tohoku is from mid-October to late November, earlier than other regions in Japan, similar to Hokkaido.

Notable places for autumn leaves in Tohoku and the best viewing times in 2023 include:

  1. Oirase Gorge (Best from November 2-9): Oirase Gorge is a breathtaking natural wonder located in Aomori Prefecture, Japan, renowned for its serene beauty and vibrant autumn foliage. It features a winding river flanked by lush forests, creating a stunning backdrop of vivid red, orange, and yellow leaves during the fall season. (See tours and hotels near Oirase Gorge.)
  2. Naruko Valley (Best from November 3-16): Located in Miyagi Prefecture, a 10-minute car ride from Naruko Onsen Station, this picturesque valley showcases breathtaking scenery with towering cliffs stretching for 2.5 kilometers. During autumn, the valley transforms into a vibrant display of red, gold, and orange hues. (See tours and hotels near Naruko Onsen.)
  3. Zao Mountain Range (Best from October 24-November 11): Straddling Yamagata and Miyagi prefectures, the Zao Mountain Range boasts magnificent fall foliage. (See tours and hotels in Zao Onsen.)
  4. Kakunodate (Best from November 11-20): Located in Akita Prefecture, Kakunodate is renowned for its well-preserved samurai district and picturesque streets lined with historic cherry trees. During autumn, the area comes alive with vibrant colors, creating a captivating ambiance. (See tours and hotels in Kakunodate.)
  5. Geibikei Gorge (Best from November 2-13): Located in Iwate Prefecture, Geibikei Gorge features a serene river flanked by steep cliffs and vibrant forests, creating a backdrop of vivid red, orange, and yellow leaves during the fall season, making it an ideal destination for a picturesque autumn escape. (See tours and hotels near Geibikei Gorge.)

3. Kanto (Tokyo/Yokohama)

1-Mt. Takao; 2-Nikko (Lake Chuzenjiko); 3-Meijijingu Gaien; 4-Hakone; 5-Kamikochi (Photos: PIXTA)

The greater Tokyo area offers a wealth of renowned autumn leaf spots, including the famous Nikko area and the Golden Ginkgo Avenue in Meijijingu Gaien (Meiji Shrine Outer Garden).

In addition, Japanese gardens throughout the area provide tranquil settings to immerse yourself in the vibrant colors of autumn, with peak viewing times varying from place to place, generally occurring from late November to mid-December.

Notable autumn leaf destinations in the Tokyo area and the best viewing times in 2023 include:

  1. Mt. Takao (Best from November 22-December 4): Located to the west of downtown Tokyo, this popular mountain offers a perfect blend of nature and spirituality. Hiking trails adorned with colorful foliage provide a rejuvenating escape from the bustling city. (See tours and hotels in Tokyo.)
  2. Nikko (Best from November 8-22): Known for its UNESCO World Heritage sites, Nikko captivates visitors with its majestic shrines and temples surrounded by magnificent autumn colors. The iconic Toshogu Shrine is a must-visit spot. (See tours and hotels in Nikko.)
  3. Meijijingu Gaien (Best from November 27-December 8): Situated in the heart of Tokyo, the Meiji Shrine Outer Garden boasts a stunning ginkgo avenue that transforms into a golden paradise during autumn. Strolling along this picturesque pathway is a memorable experience.
  4. Hakone (Best from November 14-29): The Hakone Museum of Art in Hakone offers a peaceful and less crowded setting to appreciate autumn foliage. The museum's gardens are adorned with colorful trees, creating a serene and artistic ambiance. (See tours and hotels in Hakone.)
  5. Kamikochi (Best from October 23-November 6): Situated in Nagano in the Japanese Alps, Kamikochi is a pristine gem lauded for its untouched beauty and resplendent fall foliage. The area boasts crystalline rivers, towering peaks, and a palette of rich red, orange, and golden leaves during autumn. (See tours and hotels in Kamikochi.)

4. Hokuriku (Kanazawa/Fukui)

1-Kenroku-en; 2-Kuzuryu Gorge; 3-Kurobe Dam (Photos: PIXTA)

The Hokuriku area, spanning central and northern Honshu, is renowned for its vast mountain ranges and heavy snowfall during winter.

Mid-November is the best time to witness autumn leaves in Hokuriku, although some locations may experience peak colors earlier, so planning accordingly is recommended.

Notable places to enjoy autumn foliage in Hokuriku and the best viewing times in 2023 include:

  1. Kenroku-en (Best from November 19-December 2): Located in Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Prefecture, Kenroku-en Garden is a special scenic spot and one of Japan's Three Great Gardens. It dazzles visitors in every season, but autumn stands out with its vibrant foliage. The trees are beautifully illuminated after sunset, creating a captivating and magical atmosphere. (See tours and hotels in Kanazawa.)
  2. Kuzuryu Gorge (Best from November 4-15): Situated in Toyama Prefecture, Kuzuryu Gorge offers a breathtaking display of fall colors. Visitors can take a scenic hike along the gorge, with vibrant foliage lining the path and the clear waters of the Kuzuryu River flowing beneath. (See tours and hotels in Toyama.)
  3. Kurobe Dam area (Best from November 7-25): The Kurobe Dam area, also in Toyama Prefecture, provides stunning autumn scenery. Surrounded by majestic mountains, the dam offers panoramic views of colorful foliage that reflect on the tranquil waters below.

5. Chubu (Mt. Fuji/Gifu/Nagoya)

1-Lake Kawaguchiko; 2-Shuzenji Nature Park; 3-Yoro Park; 3-Shirakawa-go (Photos: PIXTA)

The Chubu region, home to Mount Fuji, Japan's highest mountain, offers an array of picturesque spots with beautiful autumn colors. The Fuji Five Lakes area, including Lake Kawaguchi, is particularly renowned for its stunning foliage.

Lake Kawaguchi, in November, hosts the Autumn Leaves Festival on its northern shores. A must-see attraction is the Momiji Corridor, where you can capture the breathtaking scenery of Mount Fuji and vibrant fall foliage in one frame. It's an iconic sight often featured on postcards and tourist websites, making it a highlight of any trip to the region.

Notable autumn leaf destinations in the Chubu region and the best viewing times in 2023 include:

  1. Lake Kawaguchi Area (Best from November 16-25): One of the Fuji Five Lakes, Lake Kawaguchi captivates visitors with its tranquil waters and magnificent views of Mount Fuji. The surrounding area bursts with vibrant autumn colors, creating a picturesque landscape. (See tours and hotels near Mt. Fuji.)
  2. Shuzenji Nature Park (Best from November 26-December 5): Located in Izu Peninsula, Shuzenji Nature Park is a serene escape known for its lush greenery. In autumn, the park is adorned with colorful foliage, providing a peaceful atmosphere for nature enthusiasts.
  3. Shirakawa-go (Best from November 4-17): Located in Gifu Prefecture, Shirakawa-go is a UNESCO World Heritage site famous for its traditional thatched-roof houses. The surrounding mountains provide a stunning backdrop for autumn colors. (See tours and hotels near Shirakawa-go.)
  4. Yoro Park (Best from November 24-December 9): Situated in Gifu Prefecture, Yoro Park is renowned for its art installations and natural beauty. During autumn, the park showcases a vibrant display of foliage, offering a serene setting to appreciate the changing colors. The Site of Reversible Destiny is also a colorful destination nearby. (See tours and hotels in Gifu.)

6. Kansai (Kyoto/Osaka)

1-Arashiyama (Kyoto); 2-Osaka Castle; 3-Nara Park; 4-Metasequoia Namiki Avenue (Shiga) (Photos: PIXTA)

The Kansai region, home to major historic cities such as Kyoto and Osaka, offers a wealth of autumn foliage destinations.

Notable places for autumn leaves in the Kansai region and the best viewing times in 2023 include:

  1. Kyoto (Best from around November 27-December 12): Renowned for its stunning autumn landscapes, Kyoto combines traditional Japanese architecture with vibrant fall colors. Highlights include ArashiyamaKiyomizu-dera Temple, and Enko-ji Temple, among many other beautiful spots. (See tours
    and hotels in Kyoto.)
  2. Osaka (Best from around November 24-December 4): Experience the incredible autumn scenery in Osaka City. Iconic foliage spots include Osaka Castle ParkMinoh Falls, and the picturesque Midosuji Street. (See tours and hotels in Osaka.)
  3. Nara (Best from November 19-December 6): The ancient city of Nara also delights visitors with its autumn foliage. Explore the vibrant colors at historic shrines and temples, Nara Park, or venture to Mount Yoshino for breathtaking scenery. (See tours and hotels in Nara.)
  4. Shiga (Best from around November 25-December 5): Hikone Castle is particularly beautiful in autumn. Another destination includes the Metasequoia Namiki Avenue in Takashima City. This avenue gained fame through a popular TV drama and features around 500 metasequoia trees along a 2.4 km road. Its stunning autumn colors led to its selection as one of Japan's "New 100 Scenic Avenues." (See tours and hotels in Shiga.)

7. Chugoku (Hiroshima/Okayama)

1-Miyajima; 2-Korakuen Garden; 3-Okutsu Valley (Photos: PIXTA)

Chugoku, located in the western part of Honshu, comprises five prefectures, including Hiroshima and Okayama.

Notable places for autumn leaves in the Chugoku region and the best viewing times in 2023 include:

  1. Miyajima (Best from November 17-30): Most famous for its grand torii gate standing in the water, Miyajima (officially called Itsukushima) offers a stunning destination for a day trip. Its historic buildings and iconic spots become even more enchanting when adorned with autumn colors, captivating visitors from around the world. (See tours and hotels in Hiroshima.)
  2. Okayama Korakuen Garden (Best from November 22-December 7): Another of the Three Great Gardens of Japan, Korakuen showcases exquisite landscaping and harmonious architecture. During autumn, the garden's foliage adds a touch of vibrant beauty to its serene atmosphere, providing a captivating experience. (See tours and hotels in Okayama.)
  3. Okutsu Valley (Best from November 9-21): Found in Okayama Prefecture, the Okutsu Valley is a hidden treasure cherished for its serene charm and vibrant autumnal panorama. With its meandering river and dense forests, the valley transforms into a captivating canvas of deep red, warm orange, and brilliant yellow leaves in the fall.

8. Shikoku (Kagawa/Tokushima)

1-Ritsurin Garden; 2-Kankakei Gorge; 3-Nametoko Gorge; Iya Valley (Photos: PIXTA)

Shikoku, an island located southwest of Honshu, is a captivating region known for its untouched natural beauty.

Notable autumn leaf destinations in Shikoku and the best viewing times in 2023 include:

  1. Ritsurin Garden (Best from November 23-December 6): Located in Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture, Ritsurin Garden is a picturesque landscape garden renowned for its meticulous design. During autumn, the garden's foliage adds a colorful touch to its serene atmosphere. (See tours and hotels in Kagawa.)
  2. Kankakei Gorge (Best from November 15-December 3): Situated in Kagawa Prefecture, Kankakei Gorge captivates visitors with its vibrant autumn foliage. As one of Japan's Three Beautiful Valleys, Kankakei transforms into a vivid foliage paradise during fall. The valley's ropeway, renovated in 2015, provides a mesmerizing panorama of the entire area, offering breathtaking views.
  3. Nametoko Gorge (Best from November 19-30): Found in Ehime Prefecture, Nametoko Gorge entices with its stunning autumn colors. The gorge features scenic walking paths along the riverbank, surrounded by towering cliffs and radiant foliage. (See tours and hotels in Ehime.)
  4. Iya Valley: Located in Tokushima Prefecture, Iya Valley is a hidden gem known for its remote and untouched landscapes. The valley boasts enchanting autumn foliage, creating a picturesque setting for sightseeing during the fall season.

9. Kyushu (Fukuoka/Kagoshima)

1-Yabakei Gorge; 2-Takachiho Gorge; 3-Kiyomizu-dera Honbo Garden (Photos: PIXTA)

Kyushu, known for its relatively temperate climate and popularity as a hot springs destination, offers a variety of places to experience autumn leaves.

Notable places for autumn leaves in Kyushu and the best viewing times in 2023 include:

  • Yabakei Gorge (Best from November 14-26): Located in Nakatsu City, Oita, Yabakei is one of the region's colorful autumn leaf spots. A pleasant promenade guides you through the gorge, allowing for a leisurely autumn walk. We recommend visiting just before sunset to witness the magical transformation from light to dark, as portions of the area are lit up at night. (See tours and hotels in Oita.)
  • Takachiho Gorge (Best from November 23-December 1): Found in Miyazaki Prefecture, Takachiho Gorge offers a breathtaking setting with towering cliffs and a pristine river. The gorge is adorned with vibrant foliage during autumn, creating a stunning backdrop for sightseeing and boat tours. (See tours and hotels in Miyazaki.)
  • Kiyomizu-dera Honbo Garden (Best from November 25-December 5): Situated in Fukuoka City, Kiyomizu-dera Garden boasts a serene atmosphere and stunning autumn colors. The garden's tranquil ponds, traditional temple buildings, and lush foliage combine to create a peaceful and picturesque setting. (See tours and hotels in Fukuoka.)

Forecast Source: Japan Meteorological Corporation

When to start planning your autumn trip to Japan

Those wishing to enjoy momijigari in Japan are encouraged to start planning their autumn travel at least 4 months in advance.

As with cherry blossom season in the springhotels in Tokyo and Kyoto can fill up quickly for the fall foliage season, so it's ideal to book a stay as soon as your travel dates are set.

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.


Via Live Japan

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