Each season in Japan offers an ever changing sea of colours and autumn is no different, with an array of yellow, red and brown enveloping the streets. Searching for the best autumn leaves (kouyou) has turned into a popular tourist activity with many flocking to various urban and rural areas to capture that Instagram perfect shot.
Autumn colours start appearing from mid-September in the northern regions, where temperatures start falling first, before gradually making their way to central and southern Japan, peaking towards the second half of November. Here are some of our top picks for autumn leaf spotting:
1. Odori Park
Smack bang in the middle of Sapporo City is Odori Park, lined with trees that turn bright shades of yellow and red. The western end of the park offers some spectacular colours in the second half of October and is best suited to those wishing to remain in the city.
2. Hokkaido University
Vast, open and spacious, the grounds of Hokkaido University offer many beautiful autumn leaf viewing spots. One particularly famous spot is the walkway at the Kita-Jusanjo Kitago Dori entrance (北12西4), just one block from the Kitajunijo subway station. This street turns a magnificent yellow colour and also offers night viewing on selected days.
3. Mt. Moiwa
Mt Moiwa offers one of the most popular hiking trails in Sapporo, with the shortest requiring approximately an hour one way to reach the top of the mountain. On the hike up and down, the mountain is full of trees that turn bright yellow and orange. It is best hiked on a clear day as the mountain top also offers panoramic views of the city and mountains in the Hokkaido region.
4. Former Hokkaido Government Office
Located right in the city centre, the Former Hokkaido Government Office’s gardens offer beautiful autumn colours against the backdrop of the city skyline and also a pond.
Hokkaido (ex. Sapporo)
1. Daisetsuzan National Park
One of the first places to see autumn colours in the whole of Japan, colours will start appearing in the higher altitudes from as early as mid-September but will peak in early October. There are a range of beginner and advanced hiking trails to explore in Daisetsuzan which can be done in a day trip.
2. Onuma Park
Situated towards the southern end of Hokkaido, Onuma Park is only a short 20km north of Hakodate city. Autumn colours start appearing in the second half of October and are best enjoyed with a leisurely stroll around the lake or by renting a bicycle.
1. Icho Namiki (Ginkgo Avenue)
One of the more conveniently located autumn leaf spotting locales, Icho Namiki is located a short walk from the famous Meiji Shrine and Harajuku district. The wide avenue is lined with large gingko trees that are best visited in the second half of November. The trees are even lit up at night, offering photo opportunities at any time of the day.
2. Rikugien Garden
Often considered one of the most beautiful parks in Tokyo, the 21 acre park features 88 scenes from famous poems. The park includes a central pond and a network of walking trails which can take about an hour to complete. The maple leaves here are best viewed from late November into early December, with evening illuminations also on display during the autumn season.
3. Koishikawa Korakuen
This traditional landscape garden is one of Tokyo’s oldest gardens situated right next to Tokyo Dome. Trees, ponds, stones, bamboo and rice fields are used to replicated Japanese and Chinese scenery, offering unmatched beauty right next to the urban dome.
Kyoto is widely regarded as having the most beautiful autumn colour viewing spots with Tofukuji Temple leading the pack. Peaking in mid to late November, the valley of lush maple trees offer a beautiful sea of yellow and red, albeit with a large crowd of tourists never far behind.
Unlike most of the other viewing spots, Arashiyama is an entire district, spanning various temples and mountains, and is best known for their famous bamboo groves. The forested mountains offer a scenic backdrop against the many small temples with autumn trees scattered throughout.
The Eikando temple is famous for its autumn colours, with the Tahoto Pagoda and Hojo Pond attracting the most visitors. It is best visited in the second half of November when illuminations are also offered in the evening.