Autumn Foliage 2020

Where and when are the best places to see those crimson leaves?

By Serena Ogawa    - 3 min read

Autumn is many peoples’ favorite season in Japan. And for good reason—the cooler temperatures are a welcome respite after Japan’s humid and hot summers and, of course, the colored leaves offer viewers and nature lovers beautiful scenery that can only be enjoyed during this short season.

With tons of maple or ginkgo trees changing color and becoming magnificent from late September to early December, this season is one of the best times to be in Japan. So, if you’re aching to get your fall fix of foliage, we’ve got the lowdown on the treetops.

Here’s a visual autumn forecast map to help you pick out the time and place for a retreat or day trip:

(Photo: Japan Travel)

Fall foliage planning

This year's hotter-than-average temperatures mean later leaves nationwide. If you're a well-versed leaf lover then you can expect those gorgeous crimsons and golds around the same time or a little later than usual. For the rest of us, that means fall leaves will reach peak perfection for sightseeing in a wave across the country.

So, get your camera ready and put on your favorite cozy sweater—here are your starting dates, after the leaves begin to change they'll hang around for a little more than half a month.:

  • Mid-Oct: Hakodate, Sapporo

  • Late Oct: Aomori, Akita, Nikko

  • Early Nov: Sendai, Niigata, Yamagata

  • Mid–Nov: Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, Fukuoka

Mind you that these are estimates based on annual averages. The leaves' schedule can be delayed or quickened due to temperature, rain, wind, and other elemental changes.

However, unlike Japan’s short sakura blossom season, the autumn leaves tend to hang around much longer; that makes planning your trip to see the leaves—or even chase them across the country—much easier…you may even avoid some crowds if you’re lucky! Kyoto is an annual hotspot for autumn leaves.

Autumn leaves up in Aomori Prefecture
Autumn leaves up in Aomori Prefecture (Photo: Aomori Travel)

Autumn foliage: Day or night?

A popular event at any time of the year is illuminations. Before the Christmas lights are strung why not see the autumn leaves lit up? Whether you decide to go day or night, there are some fabulous places to see the autumn leaves. Visiting any of these places at night to see the leaves illuminated creates a different feeling and experience than that during the daytime. For maximum appreciation, be sure to visit twice!

Kyoto

Kodai-ji Autumn Illumination

Kodai-ji Autumn Illumination

Oct 23rd - Dec 13th

Formally known as Kodaijusho-zenji Temple and located in the Higashiyama Mountains of eastern Kyoto, Kodai-ji Temple was established..

6 ¥600
Murin-an in Autumn 8

Murin-an in Autumn

Murin-an, one of Kyoto's quiet and often-overlooked gardens, offers a lesser-visited alternative to nearby foliage spots in..

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Learn more about autumn in Kyoto.

Tokyo

Jingu Gaien Ginkgo Festival

Jingu Gaien Ginkgo Festival

Mid Nov - Early Dec

The annual Jingu Gaien Ginkgo Festival is a chance to appreciate autumn color in all its glory. The event also hosts a number of..

8 Free
Okutama's Autumn Colors 11

Okutama's Autumn Colors

Impressive throughout anytime of the year, Tokyo's rural district of Okutama really comes to life during the colorful autumn..

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Autumn in Ueno Park 11

Autumn in Ueno Park

Ueno Park in Tokyo takes on a whole new life every autumn, as the peaceful green of the leaves turns to a jamboree of vibrant reds,..

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Serena Ogawa

Serena Ogawa @serena.ogawa

Travel Editor for Japan Travel by day, novel-writing cat lady by night.