Autumn Leaves in Japanese Garden
Activity,  Recommendation

Autumn Foliage in Japan – Best Way to Welcome 2019’s Fall

Did you miss the cherry blossoms in Japan this year? If you did, then maybe you should book your ticket for autumn foliage in Japan before 2019 ends!

Japan is always famous for its picture-perfect seasons, as the summer finished the temperature starts to drop down and the leaves start to change colors, in this season many places will be covered in red, orange, yellow and brown.

In Japan, maple leaves and moon symbolize fall, since many things die in winter, autumn to Japanese is the time to express their feelings before the winter come, to sing the praises of their emotion.

Autumn Foliage in Japan and All Colors Turned Red

Autumn foliage in Japanese

Koyo ( 紅葉 ) literally means red leaves, another pronunciation is Momiji, when people are talking about this particular activity “go and see Koyo“, they are using the word “momijigari ( 紅葉狩り )”, Gari ( 狩り ) means “hunting”.

So, when autumn, go “hunting autumn leaves” is a traditional activity and culture in Japan.

Culture of “Hunting Autumn Leaves”

Gari ( 狩り )” originally means “hunting the beast”. While people going into forests, mountains to hunt the beast, the nobility during Heian Period ( 平安時代 ) going to looking for beautiful flowers and special plants, the way they were looking for flowers just like hunters looking for the beast.

The other saying is when the hunters going for a beast in autumn, at the same time the nobility would go and see the beautiful foliage changing colors, they don’t hunt the beast, instead, they hunt the autumn leaves.

As time goes by, now people still keep the old saying when in autumn, it becomes a unique tradition, no matter the locals or visitors will all do this special activity “go and hunt autumn foliage”.

Why go to Japan just to see the autumn foliage?

Autumn Foliage at River Side in Japan

There are various deciduous tresses grow everywhere all over Japan, and around 70% of the land is the forest, you can imagine there is a big range of color changed when autumn comes.

The temperature in autumn can change dramatically from hot to cold, which is also the reason to present such beautiful scenery.

When is the best timing to go?

Typically, the best timing for viewing is from mid-September through early December, the color will start to change from the north island of Japan like Hokkaido ( 北海道 ) then all the way south down, usually you can start to see the red leaves in Tokyo ( 東京 ) and Kyoto ( 京都 ) where are very popular for tourist around mid-October.

Where is the best place to enjoy autumn colors?

There are tons of choices to enjoy the autumn foliage and every region will all give you more than enough options to go, here we list some locations where the transportation is convenient so that would be easier for visitors.

These 6 spots below are popular and wouldn’t disappoint you.

Fuji Five Lakes

Autumn foliage at Fuji Five Lakes, Japan

As Mt. Fuji is a symbol of Japan, you will most likely to enjoy the picture-perfect view both red colors around the lake and the reflection of Mt. Fuji on the lake.

You can also take a boat tour which is a good way to view the different angle of Mt. Fuji and this area is not only good for autumn leaves and also to see the color change of the mountain.

  • Estimate viewing time: Late October to mid-November
  • Transportation: From Tokyo on the JR Chuo line, take the Fujikyu Railway from Otsuki station to Kawagujiko station.

Onuma Quasi-National Park, Hokkaido ( 大沼国定公園, 北海道 )

You can see the autumn leaves as soon as you get off the bus or train!

People also like to do some cycling here as it is one of the best ways to view this place. A boat ride is also recommended, enjoy the view from the lake and feel yourself in a big Japanese garden.

  • Estimate viewing time: Mid October to Early November
  • Transportation: From JR Hakodate station, take Ltd. Exp. Hokuto/Super Hokuto train or a local train to JR Onuma Koen
  • Website: Onuma Koen

Jozankei, Hokkaido ( 定山渓, 北海道 )

Autumn Foliage in Jozankei, Hokkaido

Jozankei is one of the most beautiful spots to enjoy the autumn colors, the secret of its beauty is the location, created by nature, it is also well known for its hot spring, the river in the valley, when autumn comes, the mountain will be covered in different colors.

You can also take a boat ride to see both autumn leaves and waterfall, at the same time there are temples and shrines around which demonstrate Japanese style scenery.

  • Estimate viewing time: Early October to mid-October
  • Transportation: Take MTR bus from JR Sapporo station to Jozankei, get off at Jozankei Yoro Machi station, and 10 minutes walking towards the bridge.
  • Website: Jozankei Onsen

Okochi Sanso Garden, Kyoto ( 大河内山荘庭園, 京都 )

This is a courtyard that created by a film actor during Showa era, he spent 30 years to build this garden piece by piece with his own hands.

You can walk through the bamboo forest then see the rivers from Arashi mountain and Kyoto streetscape, and autumn colors appear in the front just like a movie scene.

  • Estimate viewing time: Mid November to Mid December
  • Opening hours: 9am-5pm
  • Entrance fee: ¥1000
  • Transportation: 15 minutes on foot from Arashiyama station on the Randen Arashiyama Line

Golden Pavilion, Kyoto ( 金閣寺, 京都 )

Koyo ( Autumn Foliage ) in Kinkakuji, Kyoto, Japan

One of the must-see places in Japan, the top two floors of this temple are covered in gold leaf and the whole place is golden and red just like a painting in autumn, nothing can be more gorgeous, make sure you have your camera ready if you wish to take some stunning photos.

  • Estimate viewing time: Late November to Early December
  • Opening hours: 9am-5pm
  • Entrance fee: ¥400
  • Transportation: Take the city bus from JR Kyoto station to Kinkakuji-Machi bus stop.

Meijijingu Gaien, Tokyo ( 明治神宮外苑, 東京 )

This is voted the No.1 spot for autumn foliage, there are nearly 150 ginko trees outside forms an avenue, they all turn yellow instead of red when autumn comes and it is quite spectacular, this is one of the reasons why this location is so popular.

Meijijingu Gaien is also in a lot of Japanese movie or dramas and attracts many fans.

  • Estimate viewing time: Mid November to Mid December
  • Transportation: Take JR Chuo/Sobu line to Shinanomachi station or Sendagaya station
  • Website: Meijijingu Gaien

2018 Autumn Foliage Forecast Chart, The 2019 Map Will Be Available in Early October

This is a 2018 autumn foliage forecast map, the 2019 map will be available in early October from:

This Autumn, go to Japan!

Japan is an attractive country and I would never say “Too many times! I’m sick of it!”

If you missed this spring and summer, then this autumn, go to Japan! Here are some tips before you go!

Please feel free to leave your message below and if you would like to know anything about traveling to Japan you are welcome to let us know too!

We are here to share and help!


  • jesse toikkanen

    What a great and good-looking article! These photos are so beautifull I could use my time by watching these again and again. This Fuji Five Lakes looks like a paradise. But after reading the full article, it is pretty simple but very informative in my opinion. Are these photos copyrighted by you or possible to use in my future articles, with a mention about you and/or your great site for sure? However, I will take a further look at your website and other articles out there, I am curious to read and see more!
    -Kind regards Jesse

    • Jamie

      Hi Jesse,

      Thank you for your kind words 🙂
      Japan’s autumn is beautiful and so as other seasons as they all have different features. One of the best views of Fuji Five Lake is that when the weather is good, you can see a clear reflection on the lake( on Lake Kawaguji ).

      And thank you for your feedback too, I post information and recommendations regularly and my main goal is to help people getting to know bit by bit about what you can expect when you traveling in Japan, some article might be simple but I do hope it is informative, and I’ll write more 🙂

      Some of the photos on my website are copyrighted by myself and some of them are royalty-free and some I used are from the photo website where I join the premium member.

      If you could mention about my website and kindly link back that would be much appreciated!

      Also feel free to sign up the newsletter so you wouldn’t miss the new posts if you are interested.


      Thank you for dropped in!

      Kind regards


  • Phomrong Hongsha

    This sounds quite interesting. I have never pondered nor reflected myself to see the best time of enjoying red Autumn leaves or the foliage of Japan.

    Mt. Fuji is famous for emitting volcanoes.

    Do you think that visitors would be safe to enjoy the foliage and touring around during October and November with the Fuji mountain nearby?
    If so, that might be a good choice to relish such beautiful sceneries in Japan.

    Thank you sharing this information.

    • Jamie

      Hi Phomrong,

      Thank you for your message!
      It is quite interesting that in Japan people do find some time just to go and enjoy the autumn foliage, and this is also a very important tradition to them.

      And yes it would be safe to enjoy the foliage and touring around during October and November, the security is very good in Japan and it is passed the typhoon season ( normally there is a lot in summer ) so I’m sure you will enjoy it.

      Hope this post helps!



  • Lee

    Wow Japan is surely a beautiful country with some very interesting traditions! It certainly looks amazing in Autumn! When I can afford it I will certainly be looking to explore Japan and I think you have sold to me the best time of year to go! It looks amazing and love the list of places to go too. Keep up the fantastic reviews!

    • Jamie

      Hi Lee,

      Thank you for your message, I’m glad that you enjoy this post and Japan is definitely a beautiful place to visit, and I will bring out more information regularly, if you have any questions feel free to ask too 🙂



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