Autumn Leaves


Autum Leaves Map Guide

Japan Map Kagoshima Miyazaki Oita Kumamoto Nagasaki Saga Fukuoka Kochi Ehime Kagawa Tokushima Yamaguchi Hiroshima Okayama Shimane Tottori Wakayama Nara Hyogo Osaka Kyoto Shiga Mie Aichi Shizuoka Gifu Nagano Yamanashi Fukui Ishikawa Toyama Nigata Kanagawa Tokyo Chiba Saitama Gunma Tochigi Ibaraki Fukushima Yamagata Akita Miyagi Iwate Aomori Hokkaido

Enjoy the beautiful autumn colors

The viewing of autumn leaves, or koyo in Japanese, is one of the popular activities during the autumn in Japan. Leaves turn to yellow, orange or red, giving a mystic atmosphere to some places such as mountains, gorge, valley, lakes, parks and gardens. The colorful leaves draw large numbers of travelers to momiji-gari (autumn leaf viewing).

The autumn leaves actually happens at a different time. Starting in late September, the koyo front slowly moves southwards from the island of Hokkaido until it reaches Kagoshima towards the end of late December.

About 70% of the whole area around Japan has autumn leaves, among them Tohoku and Kyoto are the most popular areas for autumn leaf viewing in Japan.


Things to do in autumn in Japan

Momoji-gari (autumn leaf viewing)

As summer fades to autumn, the trees prepare for the winter months. The difference between afternoon and evening temperature arises and the trees change color from green to red and yellow. When the trees start changing the color, people in Japan start planning the momiji-gari.

Momiji-gari has a long history, having been enjoyed by noble families in the Heian Period (794-1185). Beginning in the Edo Period (1603-1868), momiji-gari spread to the general population, and as transportation networks grew with the modern age, people began traveling great distances to take in the colored leaves. Their beauty has been expressed in poems and songs throughout Japanese history.

The trees in the most northern parts of Japan and at the highest altitude are generally the first to turn orange and red. During the early phase of the season, the colors are mostly found in the mountains where entire slopes turn orange, yellow and red, and provide some of the most amazing seasonal sceneries. Hiking is the most rewarding way to see the colorful leaves in the mountains, but many spots can also be conveniently reached by train, bus or ropeway.

In the second phase of the autumn leaf season, the colors descend into cities, where they can be viewed in parks and gardens. Among the highlights are the autumn colors in the temples gardens of Kyoto where they beautifully complement with the buildings' elegant architecture. Almost surreal is the sight of the trees during evening illuminations, which are held at selected gardens and temples.

Hokkaido and Tohoku are the most popular for autumn leaves viewing. Being the northern-most island, Hokkaido welcomes the first autumn leaves in Japan every year. Spectacular scenery and colors can be seen throughout the island from mid September to November. In Hokkaido, the Daisetesuzan National Park is the first place to have autumn colors every year. The mix of colors, between yellow and red in the middle of mountains or along rivers and lakes offers some particularly nice spots.

Kyoto and Nara, which were Japan's ancient capitals, the colorful leaves match their historical architectures and attract many visitors. Old temples and shrines are good places to visit during autumn leaves viewing season. November is the best season of the year for viewing the vibrant crimson autumn leaves in Kyoto. Just as in spring when the cherry blossoms bloom, this season is also when the largest number of tourists visit Kyoto.

Many autumn festivals are held throughout the country to give thanks for the harvest. You might be able to see some Shinto rituals held at various shrines. Also, it's fun to visit many food vendors which sell local speciality food, crafts, charms, and other regional items in such festivals.

Autumn Dishes

People also enjoy autumn dishes in Japan. Japan is no different from other countries with certain dishes and ingredients strongly associated with fall. Autumn is also called “shun no shokuzai” which can be literally translated to “season of food”. A deep awareness of seasonality is a defining part of Japanese culture, a marker of elegance and sophistication that runs across many spheres of life.

The autumn dishes that Japanese people will think of first is sanma, a fish so seasonal its Japanese name literally translates to “Autumn knife fish.” Then there’s the matsutake mushroom. This kind of mushroom is difficult to find, so it’s extremely expensive. This passion for these deeply scented mushrooms could be compared to the European enthusiasm for truffles. People appreciate matsutake chiefly for its unique aromatic fragrance. Savory rice with matsutake mushrooms is a popular choice, but the most glorious matsutake dish is dobin mushi, which is lightly flavored clear broth with matsutake mushrooms and vegetables. In Japan, sophisticated cuisine is always light and delicate, making dobin mushi the quintessence of autumnal Japanese high cuisine. Traditionally, it is cooked and served in a teapot. Autumn is also a time to see ginko nuts on the plate at Japanese restaurants. People will surely find one or two of them in the dobin mushi. A few ginko nuts on a plate are enough to evoke an autumn landscape, full of ginko trees turned completely yellow.

In terms of fruits, the most popular in autumn would be kaki, which is known as persimmon in the West. The brownish-orange color of kaki is the official color of autumn in Japan. Peeled and cut into segments, kaki is the perfect afternoon snack this time of year and also delicious after a meal.

Rice with mushrooms, deep-fried tofu with mushroom sauce, mushroom soup, kabocha amani, steamed rice with chestnuts (Kuri Gohan), simmered meat and tofu (Niku Dofu) are also the recommended autumn dishes.

Hot Springs

People can enjoy hot springs all season but in some hot springs, visitors can enjoy soaking at open-air hot springs while watching autumn leaves in fall.

It is known that soaking in a hot mineral spring is a form of hydrothermal therapy, used to improve health and treat disease and injury since ancient times. Taking bath in hot springs can promote blood circulation, relieve pain, reduce stress and improve breathing.

It is a good time for people to take bath to relax mind and body in autumn in Japan.



Note: The best dates to view autumn leaves provided here is based on the average of the past several years. The best viewing dates could be affected by the temperatue, rain, wind and etc..