Your Guide to Seeing Japan’s Fall Foliage

Autumn in Japan: Mt. Fuji

When’s the best time to visit Japan? Of course, it’s beautiful all year-round. However, fall in Japan is considered especially stunning. Once the calendar flips to September, a wave of rustling koyo (‘colorful leaves’) starts to sweep the country. This ‘koyo front’—Japan’s autumn equivalent to the cherry blossom season—starts up north in Hokkaido, before moving southward to the Kansai region. If you’re interested in some leaf peeping, here’s a roundup of the top locations in Japan to catch sight of the fall leaves.

Experience the best of fall in Japan by visiting these stunning sights:

Hokkaido: Daisetsuzan National Park

When to Visit: Mid-September to Mid-October

The vast and pristine mountains of Daisetsuzan National Park the first to feel the brush of autumn in Japan. It’s easy to fall off course in this outdoor paradise, with its stunning waterfalls and hidden onsens—which is why we recommend spending at least two days up here.

Autumn in Japan: Daisetsuzan National Park, Shikisai-no-Oka
Autumn in Japan: Shikisai-no-Oka at the Daisetsuzan National Park (image via Shutterstock)

To see the subtle change in season, take the Ginsendai Trail. This scenic, beginner-friendly hike is full of nanakamado bushes and other shrubs that turn into vibrant reds and oranges come September. Get an early start the next morning as you make your way up to Mt. Asahidake. The cool air makes for a pleasant climb, and you’ll be treated to alpine meadows. The standout attraction, however, is the Shikidai-no-Oka—a dazzling, 17-acre hill completely covered in flowers.

Nara Park

When to Visit: Mid October to mid November

The ancient city of Nara is a treasure trove of Japan’s cultural heritage. Visit Nara Park, home to stunning temples and adorable deer that roam the forest. Witness trees surrounding temples in shades of crimson and orange. Be sure to check out Todai-ji Temple (known as, “The Great Eastern Temple”), which served as the head temple of all provincial Buddhist temples.

Nara Park, Fall in Japan
Fall in Nara Park, Japan (Image via @cosimodigioia_, Instagram)

According to legend, the Sika Deer are the gods’ sacred messengers. Greet the much revered animal by bowing, and watch him return the gesture before feeding him shika senbei, or special deer crackers. In the autumn, the younger deer love to dive in the piles of falling red leaves.

Autumn in Nara, Japan: Sika Dee
Autumn in Nara, Japan: Sika Deer (image via Shutterstock)

Pet a sika deer this season when you book with KKday!

Hakone: Mt. Fuji, Lake Kawaguchi, and Oshino Hakkai

When to Visit: Late October to Mid-November

Often called the, ‘Border Between Heaven and Earth,’ Mt. Fuji stands magnificently above Japan, while casting a stunning reflection in Lake Kawaguchi. At the base of the mountain by the lake are lush autumn trees. Admire the massive Mt. Fuji encompassed by vibrant trees in red and orange.

Autumn in Japan: Mt. Fuji
Autumn in Japan: Mt. Fuji (image via Shutterstock)

Not far from the lake is Oshino Hakkai, a quaint little village in the Fuji Five Lake region. Oshino Hakkai sits on a former sixth lake that dried out centuries before. Snow melt from Mt. Fuji feeds the eight ponds here, giving life to unusual fish and vegetation.

Autumn in Japan: Oshino Hakkai Village
Autumn in Japan: Oshino Hakkai Village

Spend the fall in Japan enjoy local delights from villagers here. Sample grilled, roasted sweet potato and toasted rice crackers. Or if you prefer fresh fruit, you can hand-pick succulent grapes at the Misaka Farm—another seasonal treat.

Kyoto: Arashiyama

When to Visit: Late November to Early December

Finally, just shy of winter, catch the last of Japan’s fall foliage in Arashiyama. Travelers come far and wide to bike through the Bamboo Grove Tunnel, a stunning jade-green bamboo forest trail, which is no less stunning in the autumn.

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove (Flickr/David Sanz)

Then head to the Togetsukyo Bridge (“Moon Crossing Bridge”), a romantic landmark stretching over the tranquil Katsura River.  After crossing the bridge, head to the riverside park filled with bright red cherry trees.  

Autumn in Arashiyama, Japan: Togetsukyo Bridge
Autumn in Arashiyama, Japan: Togetsukyo Bridge

Japan’s fall season doesn’t last long so book your autumnal tours now! Have you chosen which region or prefecture to head to? Then map out your leaf-peeping adventure with our detailed guides on Japan’s renowned autumn destinations below: