The cherry blossoms or sakura during spring may be the sweetheart of Japanese culture, but the red leaf of autumn in Japan is its magic. During fall in certain areas of Japan, the color of leaves dramatically changes into sizzling red as if flames grow on trees. This fiery look is interrupted by yellow, brown, and orange leaves and those that remain in the shades of green. The scene amazingly looks intense and calming at the same time.
Koyo and momiji both refer to the changing autumn colors. Momiji is considered synonymous to the maple tree or kaede. Visitors can experience the koyo season in Japan usually in mid-September in Hokkaido to the north, extending to the southern end of the Japanese archipelago in about 50 days. They can appreciate the red leaves for 20 to 25 days, but the exact viewing times vary from year to year.
Koyo in Japanese Culture
In Japanese Culture, koyo is used as a metaphor: “hands like tiny maple leaves” refers to the small hands of a baby and “scatter autumn leaves” means red-faced in embarrassment. Meanwhile, “maple leaves and a deer” is used to express the notion of a good pairing. Maple leaves and deer are often featured as subjects of artworks, like paintings.
Anticipate the colors of koyo in the North of Japan between mid-October and late November, in the East during the late November, and in the west from late November. Aside from hunting red leaves or momigari, tourists can enjoy trekking, hiking, picnics, and even camping during fall.
Best Places to See Autumn Leaves in Japan
Find out if you can see the magnificent autumn leaves in your destination. To travel from one place to another in Japan conveniently, don’t forget to book your Japan Rail Pass in advance.
Here is a list of the best autumn leaf viewing spots in Japan with their prefecture and estimated period of best viewing:
The second-largest main island in Japan and the largest and northernmost prefecture. You can travel across the Kanto, Tohoku and Southern Hokkaido regions using the JR East-South Hokkaido Pass.
Daisetsuzan National Park (Hokkaido)
Located in the North-East of Japan and known for hot springs, rail biking, and the Yamadera Risshakuji Temple
Kanto – Koushin Region
Located on Honshu’s west coast and known for being the most developed region in Japan.
Mount Nasu-dake (Tochigi)
Oze National Park (Gunma)
Tokyo (Tokyo) – the best koyo spots in Tokyo include Meguro River, Rikugi-en Garden, and the Icho Namiki Avenue
Lies in Honshū’s west coast and surrounded by the magnificent Japan Alps
At the center of Honshū and characterized by coastal lowlands and inland peaks
Japan Alps (Gifu)
Mount Fuji (Shizuoka) – you may explore the surrounding sights with your Mount Fuji Day Pass
Rests in the southern-central region of Honshū, encompassing Osaka Plain.
Osaka (Osaka) – You may see the stunning views of koyo with an Osaka Maple Viewing Day Tour.
In the western part of Honshū and consists of the Sanyo Region along the Seto Inland Sea coast and the Sanin Region along the Sea of Japan coast
Southwest of Honshū and Japan’s fourth-largest island
Also lies southwest of Honshū and Japan’s third-largest island
If you will travel to Japan and trace these places for maple leaves, bring your Japan Unlimited 4G Portable Wi-Fi for easy, unlimited Internet access.