In Japan autumn is a wonderful time to see the country’s attractions – as national parks and traditional Japanese gardens take on brilliant hues of gold and reds till late December.
The Japanese are a nation of nature lovers and the progress of the autumn leaves is monitored throughout the autumn season from late September to late December. The traditional gardens of Kyoto are widely known as the best places to go and see autumn scenes, these are also the busiest and most photographed places to be in Japan throughout November and December. In Japan autumn is a special time.
To really make the most of leaf peeping, and enjoy the trees unspoilt by crowds, it is recommended to head out of the cities and off the beaten track. As we say goodbye to the leaf-peeping opportunities in the British Isles, we look at 10 of the best places to see the autumn leaves in Japan.
In the North of Japan, Daisetsuzan is the largest national park in Hokkaido and the first place to see autumn colours from late September. Travel lovers come to the park all year round to see wildlife and to enjoy the many hiking trails across the volcanic wilderness. Ginsendai Trail is the only trail that leads to the peak of Mount Akadake, aptly named ‘red peak’ mountain, the first place in the park to see the leaves change, signalling the start of the season.
Onuma Park, Hokkaido
Designated as a ‘quasi-national park’, Onuma Park is easily explored on foot and makes a great day trip from the city of Hakodate, with travel time an hour by train. Known for its picturesque, island dotted lakes, the park is home to stratovolcano, Mount Komagatake, which glows with auburn from the end of October. This beautiful park is filled with maple trees, ginkgo, Japanese larch, and autumnal grasses.
Mitaki Temple, Hiroshima, Honshu
Dating back to 809, Mitaki Temple in Hiroshima takes its name from three waterfalls found on the grounds, and boasts a striking pagoda; moss covered stone steps, and countless red-bibbed jizo statues complimenting the autumn colours. Travel here from late November to see the autumn leaves at their best.
Naruko Gorge, Miyagi Prefecture, Honshu
It is said the hotter the summer the redder the maple leaves. The hot, humid summers of Miyagi Prefecture on Honshu Island, and the many maple trees are to thank for the autumnal scenes along Naruko Gorge, a 2km long ravine with scenic hiking trails within easy reach of Sendai city. Nearby Mt Kurikoma is an easy place to see the Japanese autumnal grasses, known as ‘kusamomiji’, offering colours well into December.
Known as one of Japan’s ‘three most beautiful landscape gardens’, Kenrokuen used to be the outer garden of Kanazawa Castle and was constructed by the ruling Maeda family over a period of nearly two centuries. Travellers should go to the Oyashirazu path which offers a view of the crimson and bronze maple leaves reflecting in the central lake.
Miyajima, Hiroshima, Honshu
Perhaps most famous for the iconic ‘floating shrine’, the symbol of Miyajima, Hiroshima, is the maple leaf. Momijidani ‘valley of the maple leaves’ park is covered with reds and oranges and creamy ‘Momiji’ steamed buns are served, alongside deep-fried crimson maple leaves, for travel lovers to snack on. The secret to beating the crowds is to spend the night on the island, as the last ferry takes day-trippers home just before sunset, leaving the island to be enjoyed in surprising solitude.
Tobe, Ehime, Shikoku Island, West Japan
Tobe on Shikoku Island is famous for hidden valleys and secret vine bridges. Timing a visit to Ehime with the autumn display of maple, ginkgo, rowan and larch will also allow visitors to take advantage of the Tobe-yaki blue and white style pottery. Over 60 potteries sell their products at bargain prices, so you can pick up the perfect authentic souvenir.
Ioki Caves, Kochi, Shikoku Island, West Japan
While visiting Shikoku Island, travellers can see Ioki Caves in Kochi, and walk through the shallow waters to find a hidden forest on the other side of a waterfall. These moss filled caves and forest areas are best in autumn from late October onwards.
Yusentei Park, Fukuoka, Kyushu, South Japan
Autumn arrives in the balmy southern island of Kyushu from mid-November. Yusentei Park is a Japanese garden, constructed around the former villa of Kuroda Tsugutake, the 6th lord of Fukuoka. The park, the first Japanese garden in Fukuoka to be built around a lake is named after a poem by Kuze Michinatsu. You can enjoy a green tea and Japanese dessert while enjoying views from the famous teahouse.
Senbon Ichou, Kagoshima, Kyushu, South Japan
Senbon Ichou, meaning 1000 ginkgo trees, is an area true to its name, as there are over 1000 ginkgo trees in an area of just 4.6 hectares, all thanks to a couple who have been planting ginkgos on the land for over 35 years. Travellers out to see Japan autumn colors can enjoy this autumnal wonderland in Kagoshioma from mid-November. There is also a lookout point where visitors can catch a glimpse of ever-smoking volcano, Sakurajima, in the distance.
Find out more about Japan autumn magic at See Japan.