Autumn leaves can be enjoyed in various ways. During the early phase of the season, the colors are mostly found in the mountains where entire slopes turn orange, yellow and red, and provide some of the most amazing seasonal sceneries. Hiking is the most rewarding way to see the colorful leaves in the mountains, but many spots can also be conveniently reached by train, bus or ropeway.
In the second phase of the autumn leaf season, the colors descend into Japan's cities, where they can be viewed in parks and gardens. Among the highlights are the autumn colors in the templesgardens of Kyoto where they beautifully complement with the buildings' elegant architecture. Almost surreal is the sight of the trees during evening illuminations, which are held at selected gardens and temples.
The mountains of Daisetsuzan National Park are the first place in Japan to see autumn colors each year. Early in the season (mid to late September) spectacular colors can be enjoyed by hiking into the higher elevations around Mount Asahidake, Ginsendai or Kogen Onsen. Later in the season (early to mid October) the colors are good in lower elevations, such as around Sounkyo.
Some of Japan's most spectacular autumn colors are found in the Hachimantai mountains. Good spots include the summit of Mount Hachimantai, Goshogake Onsen with nearby Onuma Pond, Tamagawa Onsen and Nyuto Onsen.
One of Japan's most famous autumn leaf spots is Lake Towadako and its Oirase Stream in Aomori Prefecture. It is possible to follow the stream through the colorful forest for several kilometers along a walking trail.
Located about two hours inland from Sendai, the Naruko Gorge is one of the Tohoku Region's most famous autumn color spots. There are a few walking trails to enjoy the colors from. Most photographed is the view of Ofukazawa Bridge floating among the autumn foliage.
Urabandai is a pond dotted highland north of Mount Bandai popular for its hiking opportunities and attractive scenery. The popular autumn color destination also offers some spectacular sightseeing roads from which to view the autumn foliage.
The ginkgo (icho) is the official tree of Tokyo. The most famous of the many ginkgo lined streets in the city is the Icho Namiki or "Ginkgo Avenue" in the Meiji-jingu Gaien Park, whose trees are pruned in a quite spectacular fashion.
Takaosan, a wooded mountain with temple, is a pleasant place near central Tokyo to enjoy some hiking in an autumnal natural surrounding. The base of the mountain can be reached in just a 50 minute train ride from Shinjuku.
Oze is a national park about 100 kilometers north of Tokyo. It offers beautiful hiking courses through mountainous marshlands and around a pond. Autumn colors start in late September in form of kusamomiji (grass autumn colors) when the grass covered marshlands turn into a beautiful reddish yellow.
The Okunikko region around Lake Chuzenji and Yumoto Onsen is particularly nice for autumn colors during most of October. Colors then descend into the town of Nikko where they can usually be seen into mid November. The autumnal spectacle attracts large crowds, especially on weekends in October.
Tanigawadake is a famous mountain range in Minakami a popular outdoor destination in Gunma Prefecture, where spectacular autumn colors can be enjoyed from hiking trails and a Tanigawadake Ropeway. In the lower elevations around Minakami, autumn colors last into mid November.
Thanks to the great elevation range covered by the Tateyama Kurobe Alpen Route through the Northern Japanese Alps, autumn colors can be enjoyed somewhere along the route from late September all the way into early November.
Korankei is a valley near Nagoya reputed to be one of the best spots for autumn colors in the Chubu Region. Hundreds of maple trees line the river and walking trails around Mount Iimori. Various food stands provide for a pleasant festival atmosphere.
Usually best in the second half of November, Tofukuji Temple displays some of Kyoto's most spectacular autumn foliage. The views of and from the Tsutenkyo Bridge are particularly impressive, and the temple gets very crowded.
With their abundance of autumn colors, the temple grounds of Eikando are another of Kyoto's most popular koyo spots. It is one of several temples that offer special illumination opening hours in the evenings.
Similar to Kiyomizudera on Kyoto's eastern mountains (Higashiyama), Yoshiminedera is a temple on the slopes of Kyoto's western mountains (Nishiyama) with nice views over the city and beautiful autumn colors.
Mino Park is a valley with a temple and waterfall in the forested mountains north of Osaka, accessible from the city center in only 30 minutes by train. It is one of the city's most pleasant autumn color spots, but can become quite busy especially on weekends.
A moderate number of trees around the town of Koyasan provide attractive seasonal colors from around late October to mid November, making Koyasan a good destination for those too early to see the colors in the lower elevations of the Kansai Region.
A moderate amount of autumn colors can be found in and around the small shrine town on Miyajima Island, just outside of Hiroshima. The highest concentration of colorful trees is found in the Momijidani (Maple Valley) behind the town.
The mild climate does not make Kyushu one of Japan's top destinations for autumn colors. Nevertheless, there are some nice spots to see the seasonal colors. Among the best are the Kuju Mountains, which contain the island's highest peaks and offer spectacular hiking in a volcanic landscape.
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