Many people say that spring is the best time to go on a trip to Japan. From a purely sightseeing perspective, I have to agree. Few things can beat the sight of beautiful pink cherry blossoms. However, there are a few key points that make travel during the autumn much more appealing to me. First of all, crowds will be smaller compared to spring, and that even more important now that we have to deal with the looming threat of Covid-19. Besides, traveling during autumn is cheaper in general, and the peak season time lasts longer. Also, the weather is more suitable for sightseeing because of low-humidity and cool air. I really like the vibe of autumn, exploring misty forests full of bright autumn colors. It just perfect for any fan of the outdoors. The highlight of an autumn trip across Japan is definitely the colorful leaves (紅葉, kōyō). The viewing of autumn leaves has been a popular activity in Japan from ancient times and today draws large numbers of tourists to famous Koyo spots across the country, and you can be one of them.
If you decide to go on a trip across Japan in autumn, congratulations! You will love it! But before you embark on this unforgettable trip, there is a small problem? Which of Japan’s many breathtaking autumn spots to visit? Hopefully, I can help you with that. I will show you my 7 great spots for autumn colors in Japan. These are not the 7 best, greatest, and most fun spots, but a mix of famous tourist spots, and less known gems. Because Coronavirus will still affect our travel plans for the next year or two, I won’t completely focus on famous and often crowded areas like Tokyo and Nikko, and more on places less frequented by tourists.
We will start with Daisetsuzan National Park located on Hokkaido island. This area is famous because it is the first part of the country that gets transformed into autumn colors, and in addition to beautiful foliage, it also has volcanoes, lakes, mountains, and hot springs. Truly a paradise for lovers of nature. Despite all these advantages, it not so popular among tourists as one would expect. But this makes it even more attractive in my opinion! If you plan on going to Hokkaido in autumn, the time is mid-September.
Located in the Ibaraki prefecture, this park is great all year long, but especially in spring and autumn. There are many types of flowers there, but the highlight for me is the bright red Kochia bushes shown in the photo. Over 30000 Kochia bushes are planted in June gradually turn their color from green to red from July to October. If you want to see them like this, the best time to visit is October. There are also many more cool things about the Hitachi Seaside Park. There are many hiking and biking trails, and also an amusement park with over 25 attractions!
This location, and the following two, are located in Nagano prefecture. One of my favorite prefectures in Japan, which in autumn becomes even more amazing. I love Nagano because of its beautiful and mighty mountains, vast highlands, and forested valleys dotted with lakes and hot springs. It truly feels like a place from a fantasy story. The Minowa Dam Momiji Lake one of many great places in Nagano prefecture to enjoy autumn colors. Momiji is Japanese for maple, and around the dam, there are thousands of Japanese maples that turn bright red. Truly an unforgettable sight.
This mountainous area located west of the city of Nagano is covered with dense forests that turn into a sea of red, yellow, and orange when autumn arrives. There are many interesting places to see here. From shrines and museums, to great hiking trails that lead you to hidden meadows and ponds. The whole place evokes an almost mystical and spiritual feel as you wander across it. The best time to visit it, like most of Nagano, is in mid to late October.
This mountainous area is famous for its many ski resorts, beautiful nature, and surrounding attractions like the famous Snow Monkey Park or many onsen towns such as Shibu Onsen. Like the rest of Nagano, it becomes even more spectacular in autumn. One of the unique features of this area is the many lakes, ponds, and marshes that were formed by volcanic activity. In total there are over 70 of them! I really enjoyed my visit to the Shiga Kogen area, and if you are like me and want to relax in an onsen and explore peaceful nature while avoiding crowds, I wholeheartedly recommend the Shiga Kogen area.
Going further south we reach the mighty Mount Fuji and the famous Fuji Five Lakes area. Even though this is a popular area, I had to include it because of its legendary status. It is a good bet that the photos you take here will be the highlights of your trip. I mean, what can beat Mount Fuji framed by autumn leaves. Keep in mind that because of Covid-19, you should try to avoid peak tourist times just to be safe. Try to arrive at the popular spots as early as possible. The best time to visit is from late October to mid-November.
On the far south of Honshu we can find another famous spot; Itsukushima, also known as Miyajima, an island close to Hiroshima. This place is great all year long. I fondly remember my visit to this interesting island. You can visit famous buildings like the Five-Storied Pagoda and the Senjōkaku Shrine. Or go on a hike up to the top of the mountain. All there things are even more attractive in autumn. The best time to visit would be from mid-November to late November.
These are my 7 great spots for autumn colors in Japan, I am sure that you will enjoy each one and gain a memory that you will cherish forever.
Do you have any spots that you would like to share with us? Comment below and share your knowledge with other fans of Japan.
P.S. As a bonus, I would like to include Kyoto. Yes this is a famous place and many tourists will be visiting the city, but because of the large amount of truly breathtaking places, I cannot ignore it.
Recently I created a post on my Instagram account @japandailies where I showcased some of Kyoto’s best autumn spots. Click the link below to visit it, and if you like it, please comment and like, it helps me create great content like this. Thanks!