Autumn Season in Japan: 15 Best Things to Do & Places to Visit

Autumn Season in Japan: 15 Things to Do & Places to Visit

This is your sign to visit Japan this fall!

Besides pink cherry blossoms during springtime, the stunning golden colours of fall foliage are another reason why many choose to travel to the Land of the Rising Sun. Nevertheless, the captivating scenery is not the sole attraction of come autumn season in Japan. Whether it’s your first time visiting or planning yet another trip to this country, we’ve come up with a list of things you must know while travelling during autumn in Japan.

From picnicking while appreciating the beauty of the changing leaves to enjoying a big pot of shabu-shabu amidst the chilly weather, here are the best things to do and places to visit in Japan during autumn!

Also read: 12 Traditional Airbnbs in Japan for a Unique Travel Experience

Best time to visit Japan in the fall

According to the latest data from the Japan Meteorological Corporation, the autumn leaves in Japan in 2023 will begin slightly later than normal. For the best autumn viewing experience, try scheduling your trip between the beginning of November to mid-December. Click here for a more detailed forecast for fall foliage in Japan in 2023.

This season is also when temperatures start to drop at around 11°C to 20°C. So, be sure to pack some autumn-/winter-friendly outfits to keep you warm!

Fun things to do during the autumn season in Japan

1. Picnic at the park

autumn season in japan

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In Japan, there’s a tradition called momijigari, also known as “autumn leaves hunting.” It simply means to admire the beauty of fall foliage. Many would take this opportunity to invite friends and family to go for a picnic at the park, while looking at the gorgeous red maple trees or yellow ginkgo trees, and the falling leaves that turn the ground into a golden carpet. (Keep reading for some of the best parks to have your autumn picnic). 

Therefore, if you happen to travel during autumn season in Japan, consider going on a fall foliage picnic! You can even bring along your favourite Japanese food in a bento box for a more local experience. For travellers who prefer a less action-packed trip, this is also a great chance to immerse yourself in the tranquillity and the beauty of nature. 

2. Watch the Grand Sumo Tournament

How about watching the Japanese traditional wrestling competition live? The Autumn Basho (Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament) is held in the month of September. According to the Basho schedule, the Autumn Basho for the upcoming years (2023 to 2025) will be held at the same venue: Ryogoku Kokugikan National Sumo Arena in Tokyo. If you happen to be in Japan’s capital during fall, why not include watching the Grand Sumo Tournament in your itinerary for a memorable trip?

Also read: 10 Affordable Airbnbs in Tokyo for Budget Travellers

3. Attend autumn festivals

There are a lot of local festivals to participate in during autumn season in Japan. One of the most prominent ones is Tsukimi (or Otsukimi), which means “moon-viewing.” This festival honours the autumn moon and celebrates the season’s harvest. Families gather together, decorate a place using Japanese pampas grass, and enjoy food like white rice dumplings and chestnuts. It’s held all across Japan; famous landmarks like Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Tower, and Ise Shrine have also hosted outdoor Tsukimi events in the past. 

Apart from Tsukimi, there are many other outdoor festivals in the fall that travellers can take part in. For instance, the annual Nihonmatsu Lantern Festival in Fukushima: where hundreds of lanterns light up the streets, and you get to drink alcohol with the locals, eat delicious street food, and take pretty pictures!

4. Savour delicious hot dishes in Japan

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Just the thought of relishing hot food during autumn season in Japan already sounds so appealing. After all, the colder months are when the hot food gives you extra warmth. There are so many mouth-watering hot delicacies in Japan, like the famous sukiyaki and shabu-shabu hotpots, sizzling yakiniku (grilled meat), and baked sweet potatoes! Foodies know that savouring hot food is undoubtedly a must-do when you spend autumn in Japan.

5. Indulge in a relaxing onsen bath

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Regardless of the season, taking a soothing hot spring bath in Japan will always sound like a good idea. The Japanese term for hot spring is “onsen,” and it’s usually available in suburban and rural places, often within natural settings. The temperature in Japan can drop to as low as 11°C in autumn, especially in the month of November. Therefore, it goes without saying that a rejuvenating onsen session is just like a reward. 

What’s more, taking an outdoor hot spring bath during autumn allows you to fully soak in the warm and vibrant autumn colours. Who wouldn’t love to relax while admiring the breathtaking fall scenery?

Also read: 12 Hot Spring Towns in Japan to Relax & Unwind on Vacation

Popular places to visit in Japan to see autumn foliage

1. Jozankei Onsen, Hokkaido

Jozankei Onsen in Hokkaido is one of the most visited places in Japan during fall. Nestled in Shikotsu-Toya National Park, this onsen resort town is renowned for its hot spring and spa that features an amazing nature view. Encircled by mountains and the 72-kilometre-long Toyohira River that flows through the town, here’s where you can admire the stunning autumn leaves in red, orange, yellow, brown, and green colours juxtaposed with the blue water. 

Aside from relishing the comforting onsen, visitors can also stroll around Futami-Jozan Road and Futami Park. What’s more, cross the Futamituribashi Bridge which overlooks the sheer cliffs and colourful wild plants for another gorgeous view. While you have to pay to enjoy the hot spring, this scenic viewpoint is free! You can also stay for a night in Jozankei Onsen if you can’t get enough of the vista. 

2. Naruko Gorge, Miyagi

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Located in Miyagi Prefecture in the Tohoku Region, Naruko Gorge is a forested ravine renowned for its vivid autumn hues. Spanning around two kilometres, visitors can cherish an unobstructed view of the colourful fall foliage and the Ofukazawa Bridge at the observatory deck, next to Narukokyo Resthouse. Alternatively, you can also walk to the Ofukazawa Bridge via the Ofukazawa Walking Trail. It takes approximately 45 minutes to reach, and you’ll be greeted with yet another awe-inspiring view.

Naruko Gorge is also home to the Japan Kokeshi Museum, which showcases kokeshi. These traditional wooden dolls signify hopes for rich harvests, good luck, and fortune. The admission fee to the museum is ¥400 (~US$2.70 or S$3.60) per adult, and you can even experience painting your own kokeshi at an additional cost!

3. Showa Memorial Park, Tokyo

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Home to the dazzling bright yellow ginkgo trees during the fall, Showa Memorial Park (or Showa Kinen Park) is a must-visit when you’re in Japan’s capital city. It is the largest park in Tokyo, and the entrance fee is ¥450 (~US$3 or S$4.10) per adult. The park also houses many fun things to do, such as cycling, boating, playing croquet, and disc golf. There’s also a Japanese tea house and a cultural centre in the park itself. 

During the foliage season, which normally ranges from mid-October to mid-December, the leaves transform into a glorious mix of colours. The most prominent attraction in the park during the autumn season in Japan is its Gingko Alley. This stretches approximately 300 metres long, with fallen leaves turning the area into a breathtaking yellow carpet.

4. Meiji Jingu Gaien, Tokyo

places to visit in japan during autumn

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Meiji Jingu Gaien is often regarded as one of the best places to visit in Japan during autumn. The area boasts a large stadium and a picture gallery, but the most loved destination during the fall season is definitely the avenue with around 150 ginkgo trees lining perfectly. Once autumn peaks in November, the tree leaves become golden yellow, forming a picturesque scene that will make your jaw drop!

The area also hosts the annual Jingu Gaien Ginkgo Festival around mid-November to early December. It has been held annually since 1997 for people to enjoy the glorious seasonal charm. During the festival, visitors can sit down and savour delicious food and drinks from the vendors, while admiring the beauty of the ginkgo trees. Other than food, there will also be street art performances, as well as evening street illuminations on select days.

5. Oidaira Park, Aichi

In Toyota, Aichi, there’s a park that showcases a palette of beautiful autumn colours. Home to more than 500 maple and ginkgo trees, Oidaira Park is without a doubt one of the best places to see autumn leaves in Japan. Visitors who have been here describe this place as a family-friendly outing spot, as there are restrooms and picnic areas available. It is also less crowded compared to other popular places to see autumn foliage in the country, making it quite a hidden gem.

From the end of October to mid-November, this is where the Toyota City Inabu Maple Leaves Festival is held. During the festival, visitors get to try out local cuisines while admiring the autumn trees until as late as 9pm!

6. Osaka Castle Park, Osaka

places to visit in japan during autumn

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A public park in the heart of the city, Osaka Castle Park has always been popular and a favourite destination for locals and tourists alike. While it is a gorgeous place to visit all year round, its beauty during the autumn season is just unique and remarkable! Whether it’s the Nishinomaru Garden on the west side that features the crimson cherry trees and the mighty Osaka Castle as the background, or the east side of the garden with rows of ginger-coloured ginkgo trees, the captivating sight will surely impress you!

Also read: 15 Airbnbs in Osaka That Are Even Better Than Hotels

7. Settsukyo Park, Osaka

When in Osaka Prefecture, head to Settsukyo Park, another great place to experience autumn in Japan. The Momiji-dani Valley situated on the south side of the park is well-known for its amber-coloured leaves. Many would purposely travel here from downtown Osaka just to catch a glimpse of its autumnal beauty. There are also five walking trails with different levels of difficulty for those who enjoy hiking, as well as an open-air onsen in the park.

8. Eikando Temple, Kyoto

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Regarded as the top destination to see fall foliage in Kyoto, Eikando Temple is a must-visit for travellers looking to spend half a day surrounded by trees in warm autumn hues. The two most popular attractions in the area are the Tahoto Pagoda and Hojo Pond. You can go up to the pagoda for a panoramic view of Kyoto, or visit the zen Hojo Pond located in the garden which looks just as scenic in the evening when illuminated!

Also read: 12 Gorgeous Airbnbs in Kyoto for Every Kind of Traveller

9. Arashiyama, Kyoto

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Whether you have already been to Japan or are still planning your first visit, you’ve probably seen pictures of the notable Bamboo Groove in Arashiyama. Beyond the bamboo forest, this district is home to other incredible (and free!) sightseeing spots, such as the Togetsu-kyo Bridge, Tenryuji Temple, and Iwatayama Monkey Park. You can easily spend a whole day here just exploring the attractions and the unreal autumnal charm. 

Can’t get enough of the autumnal scenery? Take a boat ride along the Hozugawa River or hop on the Sagano Romantic Train for a once-in-a-lifetime experience! It’s definitely worth adding to your list of places to visit in Japan during autumn. 

Also read: 10 Kyoto Historical Sites That Will Take You Back to Ancient Japan 

10. Akizuki Castle Ruins, Fukuoka

The Akizuki Castle is one of the most popular places in Fukuoka to see autumn foliage. The castle was once ruled by the Akizuki family and dates back to the 1200s. Now, what remains are the ruins of the castle; including the black gate (kuromon), stone walls, small shrines, a torii, and renovated sections of the initial gatehouses. Lines of trees paint the entire area a mix of fiery red and brown colours, making it yet another place to peacefully enjoy fall foliage in Japan.

Also read: 19 New Attractions in Japan to Check Out on Your Next Trip

So, there you have it: a list of exciting things to do and places to visit in Japan during the autumn season. Now, it’s time to buy that ticket and experience the country’s vivid autumnal splendour!

About Author

Cecelia Chang
Cecelia Chang

Born in a new village in Selangor, Malaysia, Cecelia loves three things in life: Good food, good views, and good deals. She also enjoys exploring new places and experiencing new things on her travels.