Autumn in Japan (from roughly September to December) is known as Aki (秋).
The tradition of Momijigari (autumn leaf ‘hunting’) has had a profound influence on Japanese culture since the Heian period (794-1195). The much-loved practice sees people all across the country head out in search of the most beautiful, deeply-coloured leaves. The draw-factor isn’t limited to locals, and tourists have shown increasing interest in the beauty of this season and its striking red, orange and yellow leaves.
Wondering what you can offer your travellers in this fairy-tale, cosy season in the upcoming year? We’ve selected must-do activities and places in Japan that will complement their stay during this time.
Mount Koya (Koyasan)
In addition to being a religious complex in the mountains, Mount Koya is a feast for the eyes in autumn season, and we can arrange day tours to this other-worldly spot. The large temple complex was first settled into in 819 by a Buddhist monk, and is now known as the world headquarters of the Kōyasan Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism. Travellers can take a train from Osaka to Mount Koya, taking roughly 90 minutes.
As the ‘Japan Alps’, Kamikochi is known for its jaw-dropping alpine scenery and next-level hiking trails. This mountainous region is located in the Chubu Sangaku National Park. It’s easily accessible from Matsumoto for a day trip by bus and well worth the trip. Autumn is a very popular and special time to visit Kamicochi, when the stunning colours of changing leaves contrasts the white snow that begins to cover the top of the surrounding mountains. The park closes to visitors in winter (around mid-November yearly) and will reopen in mid-April of the following year.
Another great place to visit in autumn is Miyajima Island, just an hour away from the city of Hiroshima. Autumn’s deep orange and red colours are accentuated by the island’s romantic, peaceful atmosphere. On a good day, the view of the surrounding Setouchi Sea from the top of Mount Misen is magnificent, and you might spot a friendly deer or two. As a bonus, renovation on its famous Torii gate has been completed, and most of the scaffolding has already been taken down and will be fully removed by December this year.
About 2 hours north of Tokyo lies Nikko National Park, another superb place to see Japan’s famous autumn leaves. While many go as a day trip from Tokyo to see the well-known Toshogu Shrine, we recommend staying a night in Nikko and exploring the area further on the next day. Lake Chuzenji and the Yumoto Onsen area are particularly great landscapes for viewing the leaves. Nikko also has an annual autumn light-up event that your clients can enjoy if they visit around November.
If your clients happen to be families with kids, we recommend incorporating the Edo Wonderland Edomura. The cultural theme park recreates the life of the Edo Period (1603-1868), and is filled with replicas of old shops, a wax museum, samurai and ninja shows, and more.
The Arashiyama area of Kyoto is located on the outskirts of the city. The area is world-renowned for its bamboo grove, which happens to be surrounded by mountains which change to beautiful colors in the autumn season.
Tokyo and Kyoto
The cities themselves offer a few stunning gardens that show off the season at its best. We can incorporate a visit to some of these during city day tours. Kyoto also boasts a beautiful light-up, illumination event around this time of year. Many temples and other outdoor sights have longer opening hours and it’s possible to see the area under a different light.
Want to take your travellers off the beaten path and show them something not every tourist gets to see in Japan? Tohoku or Hokkaido both offer amazing autumn leaf-scenery, but travellers will need a few more days to make the best of visiting these areas.
Tohoku is the country’s northeastern wilderness and offers exceptional rural landscapes, dramatic mountains for hiking and skiing in the winter, and charming historical treasures.
Hokkaido is Japan’s second largest island and one of its least developed (and thus brimming with authentic heritage and tradition) – think hot springs, volcanic lakes and priceless views for your clients.
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