13 Reasons Why You Should Visit Japan in Autumn

Last Updated on 07/10/2023 by secretmoona

If you love nature, you definitely don’t want to miss the stunning views that Autumn in Japan has to offer. Are you planning a trip to Japan but unsure of the perfect time to go? Don’t let the high costs during cherry blossom season discourage you. Consider visiting Japan in October or November to witness the breathtaking Japanese fall colours. These two months are the prime time to visit and experience the beauty of Japan in the fall.

Autumn leaves

Things to know before you travel to Japan in Autumn

  • Although it offers some of the best places to see the autumn leaves, Kyoto can be particularly busy and crowded towards the end of November when the leaves are at their peak
  • Temples and shrines in the cities and towns often have beautiful gardens which are sometimes free to visit
  • Japan in autumn can be cool in some areas, so be prepared to wear some layers
  • Bring your camera to capture the beauty of the country
  • For the best experience of autumn in Japan, check the Japan Fall Foliage Forecast

Why Visit Japan in Autumn?

When people think of the best time to visit Japan, the pink cherry blossoms in spring are what usually come to mind. However, I believe the country is more beautiful in autumn, especially in October and November. In fall, the colours of the leaves change from green to wonderful shades of yellow, orange and red. The beauty of Japanese landscapes becomes more apparent, be it in a garden or natural park. More importantly, visiting Japan in October is outside of the peak season, making it a cheaper and less crowded time of the year with pleasant weather.

While spring is beautiful to see, here are 13 reasons why you should visit Japan in Autumn.

Autumn in Japan – Leaves Forecast 2023

During the months of September to November, Japan experiences its autumn season, which is characterized by the changing of the leaves. The most vibrant foliage can be seen towards the end of November, with two waves of colours occurring. Firstly, yellow leaves from ginkgo trees in late October, followed by red leaves from Japanese maple in early November. The peak time for viewing the autumn foliage varies by region, depending on the elevation and weather, sometimes lasting until late November or early December. Based on predictions, Tokyo’s best autumn foliage can be seen towards the end of November or early December, while Osaka’s peak time is around December 4th. To help travellers plan their trip, below is a forecast that informs of the best places and times to view the autumn leaves across different regions in 2023. It allows travellers to choose their travel dates based on when and where they can enjoy the scenic beauty of fall foliage.

Yellow foliage forecast map - autumn in Japan
Photo: Japan Meteorological Corporation
Red Autumn foliage forecast map - Autumn in Japan
Photo: Japan Meteorological Corporation

Autumn in Japan – Best Things to To

Autumn in Japan is a stunningly gorgeous place to visit, famous for its colourful foliage, delightful climate, and numerous cultural and outdoor activities. This season is typically enjoyed by both tourists and locals, spanning from September to November. To get a taste of what this magical time has to offer, here are some of the top things to do in Japan.

Momiji in Japan – the heart of Autumn leaves viewing

Autumn colours on three tree with building at the back.

Lots of people are familiar with “hanami” cherry blossom viewing in spring, also known as “sakura” (cherry blossom), but fewer are aware of the country’s love for admiring autumn leaves. 

Red bridge in Nikko with colourful trees in background

Momijigari”, which literally means “autumn leaf hunting” or “maple leaf hunting,” is a long-standing tradition in Japan where people admire the vibrant colours of leaves turning red, brown, yellow, and orange during the autumn. Although not as famous as cherry blossom viewing, fall foliage viewing is becoming more and more popular with foreign tourists. Just like hanami, momijigari is best enjoyed when the temperature drops, which makes Autumn the perfect time to visit Japan.

You can enjoy momijigari in different ways; from parks to historic sites and gardens, there are many spots for autumn leaf hunting. The pleasant climate and unobstructed view of the sky provide the perfect setting for a relaxed walk, a refreshing hike, a delightful picnic in any of the beautiful gardens, a bike ride, or an exciting camping adventure, all of which offer the ultimate Japanese autumn foliage experience.

Tokyo alone has many gardens where you can admire the autumn leaves in a relaxed and Zen atmosphere. To make the visit even more magical, some gardens open in the evening and have a light-up show during the autumn season. 

13 reasons to visit Japan in autumn - beautiful autumn colours
13 reasons to visit Japan in autumn - Japanese gardens

=> For more information, check out the autumn foliage forecast for 2022 here.

If you are only visiting Tokyo as part of your trip, consider taking a day trip to Kamakura, a coastal town less than an hour from Tokyo or Nikko, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Both towns will be sure to offer great memories. 

Related post: Nezu Museum garden: a Hidden Garden in Tokyo

Autumn is Best to Visit Japanese Gardens

Along with historic sites and parks, Japanese gardens are other popular spots for autumn leaf hunting. Many of these gardens located within cities offer not only a relaxed and Zen atmosphere but also a beautiful setting to enjoy the colourful autumn colours. As a bonus, some of them open until late in the evening for light-up events during the season.  If you are in Tokyo, be sure to visit one of the most beautiful gardens in Japan, Rikugien Garden. Not only is the garden spectacular, but it also offers evening illuminations from mid-November to December.

13 reasons to visit Japan in autumn: night garden viewing

Related post: A Visit to Sankeien Garden in Yokohama

13 reasons to visit Japan in autumn : contrasting landscape

Experience a Japanese Hot Spring “Onsen”

It would be a waste to visit Japan without trying an onsen. Onsens are enjoyed all year round but are more appreciated between October and March, as you can soak in the hot water while the temperature drops down. Onsens can be found everywhere, including in Tokyo, but it’s best to head to onsen towns instead. Hakone, Nikko and Fuji Five Lakes are hot springs towns which offer amazing views of the autumn leaves. 

Related post: Staying in a Traditional Ryokan in Kinugawa Onsen

Enjoy Early Winter/Christmas Illuminations

13 reasons to visit Japan in Autumn - winter illuminations

Another big event starts at the end of November: winter illuminations. These types of events are held all over the country during the winter season. Tokyo obviously has a large number of spots, each as stunning as the next. You can see some of Tokyo’s events in the following places (all free): Roppongi Hills Christmas, Yebisu Garden Place Winter Illumination, Marunouchi Illumination or Midtown Christmas.

13 reasons to visit Japan in Autumn - Christmas illuminations

Experience cuteness with Shichi-Go-San

Shichi-Go-San, which literally means “Seven-Five-Three”, is a traditional Shinto ceremony held in shrines to celebrate the growth and well-being of young boys and girls. Around November 15 (or the nearest weekend), Japanese parents take their children aged 3, 5 and 7 to their shrines to express their gratitude. It’s a cute festival where the young kids get to wear traditional clothes for the first time. Girls wear kid-sized kimonos, and boys hakama or sometimes Western-style clothes. It’s a beautiful moment with the whole family celebrating the milestones. If you are in Tokyo during that time, head to Meiji Shrine to experience this festival without being too invasive. 

Enjoy Japanese Autumn Food 

Autumn in Japan - kaki fruit

Japanese food follows the seasons. You can enjoy seasonal fruits, vegetables and dishes. Here are some of the foods you can sample in autumn:

  • Oden – a soy-flavoured dashi soup with choices of ingredients such as daikon (radish), boiled eggs, fish cakes, konnyaku, meat-stuffed tofu skin etc…
  • Nabe – although more of a winter dish, this hotpot dish is very welcomed in autumn, as well as shabu-shabu, sukiyaki and chankonabe (favoured by Sumo wrestlers)
  • Sanma – the Pacific saury is a popular autumn dish called “sanma no shioyaki” (sanma grilled with salt).
  • Kaki – the Japanese persimmons which look like tomatoes are sweet and juicy. They can be eaten raw, dried or as a jam.
  • Chestnuts or kurin in Japanese are deliciously roasted (yaki-kuri) or cooked together with rice (kuri gohan).
  • Roasted sweet potatoes (yakiimo) are the most popular autumn food. They are sold everywhere, from convenience stores to specialised sweet potato shops and festival food stalls.
13 reasons to visit Japan in autumn: grilled sanma fish

There are also several food festivals held around the country, such as the Tokyo Wagyu Show or Tokyo Ramen Festa. You will also see lots of maple-shaped cakes and maple-flavoured food or even get to eat the maple leaves as tempura.

Visit Traditional Temples and Shrines

Embark on a journey to unravel the hidden gems of Japan’s rich cultural heritage this autumn. Immerse yourself in the serene and tranquil atmosphere of temples and shrines, such as the renowned Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji) located in Kyoto and the iconic Fushimi Inari Taisha. The breathtaking sight of the vibrant and colourful autumn foliage surrounding these architectural marvels is sure to leave you captivated. Don’t miss out on this picturesque experience that promises to be a feast for the senses.

Enjoy Autumn Festivals – Tori no Ichi Festival

13 reasons to visit Japan in autumn: autumn festival
13 reasons to visit Japan in autumn: Rooster festival

Tori No Ichi is a traditional festival held in shrines and temples since the Edo era. It is held in November for three days on the days of the rooster (a Chinese zodiac sign) to wish for wealth and good luck in business. It’s interesting to see as you watch crowds forming in front of stalls selling “kumade”, a colourfully decorated rake. The most interesting is the chanting and the hand-clapping every time a rake is sold. As a tourist, you don’t have to take part in buying the rakes, but they make a cool souvenir. Food being a big part of Japanese festivals, there will be plenty of opportunities to sample some delicious food.

Autumn in Japan won’t be as expensive as you think 

Although autumn is getting a more and busier season, flight fares and accommodations are still reasonable. Lots of cheap flights and better accommodation options are available for travellers. But in order to book the cheapest fare, be sure to book your flight and hotel at the earliest opportunity.

Go for a walk or hike

13 reasons to visit Japan in autumn: Kinugawa River

The temperature in Japan varies between cool and chilly in the northern prefectures. The cool weather makes autumn an ideal time to hike. If you like some adventure on your trip, then you should consider climbing some of Japan’s mountains and admiring the beautiful autumn colours along the way. To see some of the most spectacular sceneries, head to Kyoto, Hakone, Mt Takao or Hokkaido. Plus, by going hiking or walking on a trail, you will be able to see some great “koyo”.

See autumn cherry blossoms 

13 reasons to visit Japan in autumn: autumn blossoms
13 reasons to visit Japan in autumn: autumn cherry blossoms

Most people are aware of the spring sakura blossom, but not everyone knows about the cherry blossoms in autumn. There are two types of cherry blossoms that can be enjoyed in Autumn: Shikizakura and Fuyuzakura. Shikizakura means all-season cherry blossoms, therefore, it blooms both in autumn and spring. Fuyuzakura is winter cherry blossoms. Although I visited at the beginning before they fully bloomed, I’m sure it is an amazing sight: seeing the cherry and coloured leaves at the same time.

Visit a Sumo Grand Tournament

If you like martial arts and, more particularly, wrestling, then autumn is a good time for you to travel to Japan. Two of the six Grand Sumo Tournaments are held then. The Tokyo event is held in September, while the November event is held in Fukuoka. These are part of the most important tournaments in the year, so if you are in the area and lucky, you might be able to grab a ticket to see this famous wrestling game.  Tickets can be purchased here.

Autumn in Japan – Enjoy cool-weather 

13 reasons to visit Japan in Autumn: coloured leaves

The weather in autumn is ideal to visit all the places on your itinerary. Summer can be very humid and crowded. However, the weather in autumn is more comfortable, making it ideal for sightseeing. It may rain in September, but October and November are quite all right. The temperatures were pleasant, between 22°C and 25°C when I visited in November last year. Having said that, the temperature can drop quickly in mountainous regions like Nikko.

Autumn in Japan is a time when the country truly comes alive with colour, culture, and culinary delights. It’s an ideal season to immerse yourself in Japan’s rich traditions while enjoying the beauty of nature at its finest. For me, it’s the perfect season to experience the beauty of the country.

Have you been to Japan in autumn? What did you enjoy doing the most?

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Hi there! I'm Mayi. Welcome to my blog SecretMoona! I hope to share with you the hidden secret of places I visit.

37 thoughts on “13 Reasons Why You Should Visit Japan in Autumn

    1. I have yet to do all four seasons in Japan but autumn is in my opinion better and more beautiful to visit than summer. The colourful leaves are stunning!

  1. I loved this post. You are right, I always think of visiting during cherry blossom season, but I would absolutely love visiting during the fall. Your tip to check out the parks within the cities is a great one also as we often just need that escape into nature to refocus!

  2. Seems like the autumn is an ideal time to visit for many reasons! Your pictures are beautiful… the cherry blossoms would be so pretty to see. Winter illuminations looks like it would be spectacular. Thank you for this comprehensive post!

    1. Thanks Jen. All of the these are some of the reason why I love autumn in Japan. Everything is so colourful.

  3. Beautiful pictures. I am planning to visit Japan in autumn next year, and this is really helpful! Not sure where to go yet but foliage will play a big part. Thank you for your wonderful post.

  4. We have been wanting to plan a trip to Japan for so long and somehow always thought of visiting in spring. Your post convinced me that autumn would also be a lovely time to travel to Japan. The glorious colors of the fall foliage add such a charm to the scenery. How interesting to learn about the Momijigari custom. Pinning this post for future reference.

    1. Thanks. It’s hard to decide when to go first since both spring and autumn are stunning. Hope you can experience both seasons.

    1. I have yet to go to Japan during the cherry blossom season but the colourful leaves will be hard to beat!

  5. We always wanted to visit Japan in the spring for cherry blossoms. But we actually did our first trip to Japan in the Autumn. I need to agree with you that this was a great time to visit Japan. We found lots of Autumn colours and it sure did highlight the local architecture. Sadly we missed visiting an onsen on this trip. A great reason to go back!

  6. I mean, I don’t need much to persuade me to visit Japan but seeing it in Autumn and all the wonderful things to do has absolutely made me desperate to visit at this time of year now! Just wow!

  7. It’s so true: we always hear about the spring cherry blossoms but not the momijigari or fall cherry blossoms! I’ve been in the summer a couple times but now I want to go and dip in an onsen 🙂

  8. I had no idea there were cherry blossoms that bloomed in the fall as well, and you’re right – the changing colors of the trees would be pretty! It sounds like an ideal time to visit.

  9. You have convinced me to wait until autumn to visit Japan for the first time. The spring flights are so expensive. I really love to forest bathe so my greatest wish is to hike in Japan’s woods.

  10. It’s been 20 years since I was in Japan and I have always wanted to go back. Fall looks like a perfect time. We were there in July and it was so humid! Your photos are beautiful and have inspired me to consider it for next year. A great post. thanks.

  11. Thanks for sharing this great post! I visited Japan in May and it was beautiful, but I’d love to see it in the fall 🍁 Sounds like it’s not as busy with tourists at this time, which us awesome! I’ll return to your post when I plan another trip to Japan 🇯🇵

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