Budget Travel Guide: 7 Japan Experiences You Can ONLY Have in Autumn

Budget Travel Guide: 7 Japan Experiences You Can ONLY Have in Autumn

Autumn is right around the corner, and there's no better time to start planning a trip!

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If you think that Japan’s only about cherry blossoms during spring, or magical snow during winter, think again. There’s really so much more to this fascinating country, especially during… AUTUMN! Just think: golden maple leaves pirouetting down an invisible spiral of breeze and the setting sun illuminating the shaggy autumnal decrepitation of ancient Japanese temples. Just shut up and take our money already!

But worry not about your wallets, our friends, we’ll point you to the light – here are seven affordable and magical Japanese experiences you can ONLY experience in autumn! Plus, enjoy further discount with the promo code “TZKLOOK5” to get an additional US$5 (~S$6.50) off. Now, you’re all set to go!

1. Marvel at spectacular autumn views on the Sagano Romantic Train

Highlights:

✔ Set out on a 25-minute train ride to enjoy the natural beauty of Western Kyoto

✔ Travel beyond Arashiyama and escape the hustle and bustle of the city

Autumn is the only season when you can experience the picturesque Hozugawa River in its full glory! Hop onboard the Sagano Romantic Train and let this old-fashioned railway bring you on a scenic ride through the majestic mountains. Experience the lovely fall colours of forested Arashiyama and rural Kameoka – these sights will be sure to steal your breath away!

This popular train ride attracts hordes of visitors during autumn, so make sure you book your tickets in advance to beat the queue! And for such a novel experience, S$21 is a small price to pay. It’s like having front-row seats to your very own autumn extravaganza! In addition, you will receive a free restaurant coupon worth ¥500‎ (~S$6) when you pick up your ticket at the Kansai Airport counter – a.k.a. more savings and a good PERK-me-up indeed. Don’t forget to use the promo code “TZKLOOK5” to get an extra US$5 (~S$6.50) off while you’re at it!

Price: S$21

Pickup Train Station: Saga Torokko Station or Kameoka Torokko Station

Opening Hours: 9am – 4.30pm

Klook Pro-Tip: For the best views, sit on the right during the Arashiyama to Kameoka leg of the Sagano Romantic Train, and on the left from Kameoka to Arashiyama.

Image credit: (left) Serge; (right) Marufish

Arashiyama station is just a short 20-minute train ride from Kyoto, making it a great day trip option. Here’s a quick itinerary: Visit the Sagano Bamboo Forest Path near Arashiyama Station before getting on the Sagano Romantic Train. The train will stop you at Kameoka, where you can choose to do a return journey, or embark on a tranquil 2-hour Hozugawa boat ride back to Arashiyama. Once you’re back in Arashiyama, make your way to Togetsukyo Bridge and the Saga-Arashiyama Area shopping street before you make your way back to Kyoto. For a fuss-free experience, opt for this Arashiyama Bamboo Forest Half Day tour, or hop onto a rickshaw for a novel exploration of the area.

2. Pick Kyoho Grapes in Kofu

Image credit: Kofu City Tourism

Highlights:

✔ Enjoy all-you-can-eat grape picking

✔ Convenient access to vineyard via JR Kofu station

Rejoice fruit lovers! Autumn is the best time to pick the most exotic and delicious Japanese fruits, and especially the gem of all fruits – the famous Kyoho Grapes. These big, juicy beauties are unlike the ordinary grapes you’ll find in your supermarkets. Apart from their larger-than-usual size, a bite into these grapes will immediately bring about a rush of sweetness with refreshing acidity; very much like the taste of wine itself!

Only available between July to November each year, one can find these exclusive fruits in Kofu City, Yamanashi Prefecture. With over 1,300 years of history in grape production, Kyoho vineyards can be found all over the city! One packet of these little babies normally costs about S$6-8 in supermarkets; however, for just a little bit more, you can have the experience of picking your own fruit and eating ALL YOU CAN within the specified duration! You’ll definitely get your money’s worth.

Price: S$6-12 (depending on the type of Kyoho Grape you wish to pick & the duration of each session)

Nearest Train Station: JR Kofu Station

Klook Pro-tip: If you’re lucky enough to visit on a day with clear skies, enjoy a view of Mt. Fuji while you feast on your fresh and delicious hand-picked grapes!

Not sure how to get to Kofu City? Fret not! Klook has a myriad of JR Passes to choose from, including a week’s long unlimited travel around the whole of Japan. With this mighty train-pass in your hand, leave all your transportation woes behind and savour on these yummylicious grapes – worry-free!

3. Feast your eyes on stunning illuminations in Rikugien

Image credit: Kakidai

Highlights:

✔ Enjoy Tokyo’s beautiful autumn scenery

✔ Stroll in a Edo Period garden

Who says you have to wait till Christmas to see gorgeous lights? Right in the heart of Tokyo, the awe-inspiring Rikugien lights up each tranquil night with a dazzling array of lights, and only during autumn! As the sun sets, watch the garden come to life with a plethora of coloured lights shining over each flower and every shrub. It’s almost like you’ve stepped into the enchanting elven town of Rivendell!  

Image credit: Kakidai

Fashioned after famous scenic sights from ancient wakas (Japanese poems), Rikugien literally means “six poems garden”. Built by a shogun in 1702 as a homestead garden, this charming patio has over 400 carefully arranged maple trees, stone bridges and ponds. This is the best place to experience Tokyo’s beautiful autumn foliage!

Besides, did we mention that entrance to the illumination costs just S$3.50? For a splendid night out that doesn’t cost very much, buy some discounted food items from the supermarket after 7pm and head to the park for a picnic dinner.

Price: S$3.50

Address: 6-16-3 Honkomagome, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-002

Nearest Train Station: JR Komagome Station

Opening Hours: 9am – 9pm (last entry 4.30pm)

Illumination Period: 22 November 2017 to 9 December 2017

Klook Pro-tip: Find yourself passing by several teahouses as you follow the nature trail around the gardens, through forests and across open lawns. If you’re in the mood, have some tea while you relax and take in the beautiful scenery!

P.S. We’ve got just the right thing to make your travel to Tokyo even more hassle-free – a private airport transfer from Narita Airport to your accommodations! This option is especially great for family and large groups, where you can choose between a 7- or 10-seater vehicle. This turns out to be extremely cost-effective and value-for-money as well; why spend that time figuring out how to get to your accommodation, struggling with your luggages or buying individual tickets for every member of your party, when you can get there all at once in a fuss-free manner and in no time at all? Touch base with your family and friends back home with the in-vehicle free WiFi and, in the event of a flight delay, your driver will even wait for up to 90 minutes – at no additional charge.

4. Experience an outdoor onsen surrounded by autumn foliage in Honshu

Highlights:

✔  Enjoy an outdoor bath under the beautiful autumn landscape

✔  Taste local Aomori dishes offered by the hotel’s restaurants

Searching for a quiet place away from the crowds to enjoy the alluring autumn? Well, there is no better way to do so than at a true blue traditional Japanese onsen! Ah, doesn’t this gorgeous outdoor bath at Aomoriya simply enthrall? With a spacious bath and colourful hues of autumn reflecting off the clear waters, the atmosphere in this onsen is simply terrific!

Since you can only encounter such an amazing onsen bath in autumn, this is one experience absolutely worth paying for (albeit being slightly pricey)! Hidden deep in the northernmost prefecture of Honshu, this ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) cum hot-spring is where you want to be this coming autumn.

Price: From $160/night

Address: 56 Furumagiyama Misawa-shi, Aomori-ken 033-8688,

Nearest Train Station: Aoimori Line Misawa Station

Klook Pro-tip: Explore the hotel’s park in a small wooden caravan during the morning tour that is offered daily. For a full immersive experience, you’ll also be given the opportunity to grill your own mochi and have it with a cup of a tea afterwards!

If you like unique experiences, this Mount Fuji and Hakone day trip from Tokyo will be right up your alley – take a tranquil cruise through the waters of Lake Ashi, embark on a 50-minute ropeway trek up Mt. Komagatake, feast your eyes on the sight of Mt. Fuji and more with this day trip, all of which will definitely make for a unique day trip! The best part? You’ll be able to enjoy spacious coach transportation with free in-vehicle WiFi, and be picked up right from your hotel’s doorstep.

Alternatively, if you prefer things a little more D.I.Y., opt for the Hakone Day Pass that gives you unlimited travel on eight transportation options including a sightseeing cruise on a pirate ship! Choose from two- to three-day sightseeing passes, and spend as long as you please exploring the region.

5. Relish in Autumn Salmon in Hokkaido

Highlights:

✔  Feast on freshly fished salmon during the autumn season

✔  Taste traditional foods that are exclusively found in Hokkaido

It’s no secret that Hokkaido is famed for its fresh and delectable seafood, but do you know which season has the BEST seafood? That’s right, it’s none other than autumn! This is because when the fishes fatten up to prepare for the upcoming winter, we also get chunkier and fattier fish meat!

Image credit: Sapporo Tourism

In particular, salmon can often be found swimming upriver in downtown Sapporo to spawn. That’s when we get the freshest ikura (salmon roe) for our sushis and rice-bowls! There are also a variety of traditional Hokkaido dishes made from autumn salmon, including aramaki-zake (preserved autumn salmon) and Ishikari-nabe (salmon hot pot). Indeed, you’ll only be able to taste such delectable dishes during autumn when autumn salmon is available! Why settle for a mediocre Japanese meal when you can dine on the freshest and finest?

Klook Pro-tip: While autumn scenery can be enjoyed in other parts of Japan, Hokkaido offers you an opportunity to spot salmon swimming upstream to spawn in autumn!

A popular way to get around Hokkaido would be a self-drive option. Choose to rent a car, and explore at your own leisure. This car rental comes with a FREE portable WiFi device, allowing you to navigate with ease and stay connected (read: upload tons of pictures on Instagram) on the go. Alternatively, if you’re without a license and prefer not to go through the hassle of driving, it’s really simple to get around Hokkaido by train as well! This 7-Day JR Hokkaido Rail Pass is all you need to make your trip rail-ly easy; enjoy mail delivery of your exchange order in Taiwan, West Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines and South Korea, or a central pick-up in Singapore and Hong Kong.

6. Have a picnic in the magnificent Ueno Park

Image credit: Yoshikazu Takada

Highlights:

✔  Witness the different colours the trees of Ueno Park has to offer during autumn – at one glance

✔  Have a picnic amidst the beautiful autumn landscape

We know that Tokyo’s Ueno Park is outstanding all year round, but the enormous public park’s beauty is even more stunning in autumn. A splendid combination of green, yellow and red leaves from over 8,800 trees, there’s nothing quite as spectacular as the autumn landscapes in Ueno Park. Grab some Japanese snacks, a couple of friends and a tatami (straw mat) and head to Ueno Park for a quiet afternoon of fellowship and intimacy with Mother Nature.

Price: Free

Address: Ueno-Koen Ikenohata 3-chome, Taito Ward, Tokyo 110-0007

Nearest Train Station: JR Ueno Station

Opening Hours: 5am – 11pm

And yes, admission is FREE!

Klook Pro-tip: While you’re at Ueno Park, do also check out Ueno Zoo. A mid-sized zoo of 35 acres, Ueno Zoo is Japan’s oldest zoo and is also home to over 200 animals!

One thing you should know about Tokyo is that its subway system is notoriously hard to navigate. Different lines are owned by different companies, resulting in you having to buy multiple point-to-point tickets. Doesn’t it sound like a complete hassle? Save yourself the headache with this Tokyo Subway ticket that’s valid for 24, 48 or 72 hours (depending on which you pick), that will bring you right to Ueno Park! This ticket will give you unlimited access to all Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway lines, and offers convenient pickups at Narita or Haneda airports, Harajuku in Tokyo, Osaka or Nagoya. Simply book online with Klook, present your mobile voucher and you’ll be travelling around Tokyo like a pro in no time!

In addition, if you’re looking to get from Narita Airport to central Tokyo really quickly (think: a spiffy 41 minutes), the Tokyo Skyliner is the way to go.

And last but not least…

7. Enjoy breathtaking views of autumn foliage… everywhere!

Arashiyama Hills | Image credit: Walter Lim

Cherry blossoms aren’t the only well-known attraction in Japan; autumn foliage is equally prominent! Particularly in the historical city of Kyoto, the brilliant hues of golden and red are even more so striking. As such, there is a myriad of foliage viewing spots where one can revel in the ravishing elegance of the caramel momiji (autumn leaves) and the remarkable copper landscapes.

Daigoji | Image credit: minoir

An ideal autumn foliage viewing spot is Daigoji in Kyoto, a designated World Heritage Site and a temple dedicated to the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism. Located off the beaten track, the peaceful Daigoji sits at the foot of a mountain southeast of Kyoto City. Unassuming and tranquil, visitors can enjoy true autumn serenity at its lakeside pavilion.

Take the chance to conduct your own photo shoot here – blissfully uninterrupted. Tons of stunning pictures for just S$9.70? Yes please! Upload your pictures on the go with this 4G WiFi Device, which connects up to five devices at once. Collect and return your device at, get this, any of Japan’s major airports – super handy for travellers flying in and out of different airports.

Price: S$9.70 (Combined ticket that grants access to three main areas of the temple)

Address: 22 Higashioji-cho, Daigo, Fushimi-ku,Kyoto 601-1325

Nearest Train Station: JR Daigo Station

Opening Hours: 9am – 5pm

Shinnyo-do | Image credit: Norio Nakayama

However, if you prefer something that’s FREE, a good alternative is Shinnyo-do, a captivating temple in Kyoto that contains huge maple trees and gingko trees that turn bright red and yellow during autumn. The best part? It’s lesser known than the larger, neighbouring temples, so you can spend time appreciating the graceful autumn without having to deal with crowds of tourists.

Price: Free

Address: 82 Jodoji Shinnyo-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8414

Nearest Train Station: Keihan Ōtō Line Marutamachi Station

Opening Hours: 9am – 4pm

Klook Pro-tip: In Kyoto, the peak of fall foliage tends to be in mid-November and lasts till mid-December. Remember to schedule your trip accordingly so that you wouldn’t miss out on Kyoto’s amazing autumn!

Want to up your Instagram game? Why not rent a kimono and dress up as a traditional Japanese in your photos? With over 500 stylish kimono designs to choose from, this is your photoshoot-dream come true. Capture your best portraits with your favourite autumn foliage as the backdrop – this will surely be a superbly good lookin’ photo! Otherwise, there’s tons to do in Kyoto: take a tour of the geisha district, go for a morning bento cooking class or an afternoon izakaya cooking course, or even try your hand at a sushi class experience.

There’s just so much to love about Japan, we can’t seem to tick it off our bucket list even after umpteen visits! To ensure that your wallets are intact after each trip, Klook has specially curated top attractions and travel assistance so that travellers can explore Japan hassle-free. We guarantee that you’ll be getting the best for your buck whenever you book with Klook!

START PLANNING YOUR AUTUMN HOLIDAY NOW!

With unparalleled dedication to improve each and every traveller’s experience, Klook has even digitalised everything: confirmations are sent to your emails so you don’t have to worry about losing your papers and bookings! Lastly, remember to use the promo code “TZKLOOKA5” to get an additional US$5 (~S$6.50) off all bookings with Klook. Have a lovely autumn holiday in Japan!


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About Author

Sim Yi Zhen
Sim Yi Zhen

Adventurer and athlete, Yi Zhen has a penchant for planning travel itineraries that are off the beaten path. She also daydreams about travelling to Liverpool for the 2019 Netball World Cup.

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