Japan is a country characterized by four distinct seasons. Winter, spring, summer, autumn (also collectively known in Japanese as shunkashūtō): every time you’ll step foot in Japan, you will find a wide array of seasonal activities, foods, and obviously gadgets to be enjoyed, tasted, or purchased only for a limited time and celebrating a season. For instance, sakura flowers – with their pale pink colour – and cherry blossoms are the most iconic images of the Japanese spring, considered by many as the best time to visit the country.
Sakura flowers are definitely one of the best expressions of the enchanting Japanese nature, but some people prefer the warmer colours of autumn. Japanese autumn is definitely able to charm everyone. Furthermore, the mild temperatures and the few rainy days occurring between October and early December definitely crown autumn as one of the best moments to visit the country.
Admiring the red foliage is a popular activity, which has been known in Japan for centuries as kōyō. The word is written with the same kanji used for “maple leaves” and the Japanese maple, Momiji. With its deep red leaves, the Japanese maple is one of the trees decorating the beauty of autumn, along with the deep yellow of gingko trees, or the dark orange of Nanakamado, the Japanese rowen. The kōyō can be experienced in different venues, both in cities as in the countryside. Here you will find a selection of the best spots to enjoy the kōyō this year.
The kōyō front starts from mid-September in the Hokkaido areas and carries through the first half of December in the South. Autumn in Hokkaido arrives quite suddenly, the temperatures drop and green leaves quickly give space to deeper, earthy tones. Hokkaido is known also for being full of natural parks, so it is a perfect place to lose oneself in the contemplation of the colours of nature. One of the best places to go for some hiking and enjoy the red leaves is the Shiretoko Peninsula, in the north-eastern part of Hokkaido, designed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2005. The Shiretoko National Park with its forests is the house of many wild animals such as bears, deers, and foxes. The area also comprises several lakes, and the view is just amazing.
The central area of Japan is hit by the foliage from the second half of October. If you are in Japan during this period, do not miss the small town of Hachimantai in the Iwate prefecture, well known as a kōyō spot and as a starting point for many hiking trails, or Lake Towada, which also showcases a wonderful view framed within red, orange and yellow trees.
Nikko is another town in central Japan that tourists should never fail to visit while in the country. Nikko is famous for the Toshogu Shrine, the memorial site of the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. Being the shrine nestled within a deep forest, the colours of autumn offer the best scenario to being captivated by this wonderful architectural masterpiece. Nikko is also famous for its hot springs, a perfect place to relax and recover after a day out in the nature.
Several big Japanese cities offer great spots to enjoy the foliage as well. In Tokyo, big parks such as Shinjuku Gyoen or Yoyogi Koen are still people’s favourites to enjoy a stroll amidst the autumnal leaves. If you want to admire golden tones and yellow trees, then you cannot miss The University of Tokyo campus in Bunkyo, which internal paths are surrounded by majestic ginkgo trees. Also Mount Takao and Mount Mitake can be easily reached from Tokyo for a one-day trip for an immersive experience. In Kyoto, you can instead hike up and enjoy the most famous view of the city and its surrounding valley from the Kiyomizudera. The district of Arashiyama, especially near the Tenryuji temple, also looks extremely beautiful when leaves turn their colours.
So, have you already booked your autumn trip to Japan?