Enjoy the cool weather, beautiful leaves, steaming hot springs, and the natural beauty of northern Japan, all at once!
Here in the northern Japanese region of Tohoku, with summer now a distant memory, it’s been the perfect time to dive deep into autumn. And with the cool weather all around, we’re suddenly in the midst of koyo season (紅葉), when the leaves turn red and Japan’s forests are a riot of color.
So I decided to visit one of the Sendai area’s most beautiful natural landmarks, the great falls of Akiu, and explore the area before taking a dip in Akiu’s famous onsen (温泉, hot springs).Akiu is located around 50 minutes from Sendai, and it’s most easily accessible by car, so I recommend you pick up a rental car and add Akiu to your Tohoku road trip schedule! If you’re not traveling with a driver, though, you can take a bus from Sendai Station and get off at the Akiuotaki bus stop.
Why do I recommend driving when there’s a bus? That’s because <warning!> the bus runs as little as just once a day on weekends and public holidays, quite difficult for travelers to use.
While it’s a little off the beaten path and difficult to get to, once you arrive, the waterfall will take your breath away!
If you’d like to take your time and admire the scenery for a little longer, there are quite a few restaurants and places to stay near the falls.
I particularly liked Ki no Ie Coffee Shop, where you can look out onto the gorgeous fall foliage and catch glimpses of the famous waterfall. It gets a bit busy in the fall, with lots of people in the area to enjoy the scenery, but if you drop in on a weekday you can take your time and enjoy a simple meal as well.
Rairaikyo Gorge is also a must-see, with the water rushing away below!
While the koyo season shifts around every year depending on the weather, the Akiu area is usually at its most beautiful from mid- to late October every year. So start planning next year’s Tohoku road trip ASAP, and don’t forget to add Akiu to the itinerary, for relaxing onsen and stunning waterfalls!
Get a better look at the Sendai area in my video below! It was filmed in summer, but features some great autumn destinations as well.