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Autumn is one the most fascinating seasons anywhere in the world. Temperatures slowly drop, and nature starts changing color. Japanese people love to spend time looking for the most striking shades of leaf, doing what is called momigari (literally, “red-leaf hunting”).
Leaves start changing color in September and they can be admired as late as December, with the peak color-season in November. Because of its many parks, Tokyo is one of the best cities in Japan to admire the autumn foliage.
Check out our short article below to learn more about autumn in Japan and which are the best autumn leaf viewpoints in Tokyo!
Autumn in Japan is colored with the red and the orange of the Momiji maple tree, which starts changing color in September. The fantastic colors reach Tokyo by mid-November. It is way easier to spot these autumn colors than the cherry blossoms, and the coloring lasts for about a month.
All the national parks and the Japanese Alps blaze with autumnal colors. You can walk, cycle or take a cable car to enjoy. If you have to cover great distances, we strongly recommend you take a train. It will be amazing to see the leaves changing color outside your window.
In autumn, you can enjoy Tsukimi, the moon-viewing festival. People from all over the country gather in temples, parks and on the riverside to admire the harvest moon, considered by Japanese people to be the most beautiful moon of the year.
Autumn is the season of “hearty appetites”, as a famous Japanese saying goes. During this period, seafood is at its best, and the sanma (autumn fish) is a seasonal delicacy. It is sweet and fatty, and is often smoked over a barbecue. Vegetables are also in season. Maybe the most famous is daikon, a long vegetable you will find in many salads.
Fresh chestnuts (kuri, in Japanese) area typical autumnal food. They have been regarded as a delicacy since ancient times. They are usually roasted, or mashed and used as a filling for sweets. You can also find candied chestnut compote in savory dishes.
Tokyo certainly doesn’t lack good places from which to admire the autumn leaves. In the heart of the city you will find plenty of parks packed with maples and gingkoes, and endowed with canals and paths where you can just stroll around and relax.
Or, if you like a wilder experience, head to the mountains near Tokyo, Mount Takao or Mount Mitake: they are ideal for escaping the city and admiring the autumn leaves in natural surroundings.
Heading to Rikugien means visiting one of the best spots from which to admire the autumn leaves. It is a traditional Japanese garden offering some of its best views from the top of a hill, and along a canal lined with maple trees, that runs near the Tsutsuji no Chaya teahouse.
It is the perfect place for a nice walk, to relax body and mind. It was restored in 1878 and, both for autumn foliage and forspring blossoms, the garden is decorated with lights. There is a small entrance fee, just 300 yen.
This is another Japanese landscape garden with some amazing views in the heart of the city. Its main pond is surrounded by armies of maple trees that become beautifully red during autumn, especially in late November. In addition, there are another three ponds, each worth a visit.
Located just a few meters from Harajuku Station in central Tokyo, this western-style park is a must-visit for admiring the autumn leaves. It is one of the biggest parks in the city and there is an important Meiji Shrine nearby, the Meiji Jingu Shrine.
There are over one hundred acres of trees, trails, water features and flowers, and it is the perfect place for strolling around and admiring the colors of autumn. Head to the south part of the park for maximum foliage.
For a regal experience, visit the royal palace. Inside the East Gardens you will find a sub-garden called Nimomiya, filled with Japanese maple and a few ginkgoes surrounding the numerous ponds.
This sub-garden was built within the second circle of defense of the former Edo Castle. It is a spacious and quiet park, blending history and nature for a unique experience.
Near Tachikawa Station in western Tokyo you will find this huge municipal park formed by several gardens and recreational areas connected by bicycle and walking paths that stretch for more than 11 kilometers. Autumn colors are beautifully exhibited by ginkgo trees at the entrance and numerous maples throughout the park.
There is also a small museum dedicated to Emperor Hirohito of the Showa Era (1926¬-1989).
If you want to get out of the bustling capital, head to Mount Takao. The weather there is chillier, and the leaves turn red earlier. Be sure not to miss the autumn leaves festival there, if you are in Tokyo at the time.
You just need to hop on a train to reach the mountain, famous for its hiking trails and home to a huge variety of natural scenic spots and a Buddhist temple, Yakuoin Yukiji. Believe me, it is totally worth it to escape the city and venture around nature without so many people around.
Mount Mikake is inside the Chichibu Tama Kai National Park and is 1,000 meters tall. It is a popular hiking destination, and it is extremely easy to get there from central Tokyo. On the mountain you will be able to enjoy autumn colors about a week earlier than in the city.
Once there, you can also visit the Musashi-Mitake Shrine, or Nanayo Falls; or just go to a village and eat something.
As mentioned above, autumn leaves can be enjoyed from early September through late December. If you don’t want to miss them, check out the latest Japan fall foliage forecast.
Even if there are not as many tourists as during March, Japan is still crowded in autumn. We strongly recommend booking your accommodation in advance (especially if you are planning to stay in a ryokan). This will allow you to save some money and a lot of trouble.
In autumn Japan sees a lot of rain, so pack accordingly. Bring an umbrella and a rain coat. Temperatures hover at around 25 C (72 F).
Autumn colors are lovely and, along with the unique Japanese surroundings, they create magical views. Don’t hesitate any longer. Start planning your next autumnal trip to Japan: our knowledgeable team will take care of everything, making sure you get the best out of your Japanese experience.
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