Experience the beauty of autumn in Japan

Stroll through old streets while reveling in autumn colors: Hida Takayama

Hida Takayama is located in Gifu Prefecture in the Chubu region that is in the center of Japan. Its urban district, which is divided into north and south sections by a national road that runs through its center from east to west, is lined by old houses and stores. There are old buildings standing side by side, and each of them is characterized by its grid like wooden window frames. As you walk down the street you may feel as if you have traveled back to the Edo or Meiji era. Each area has a promenade nearby that leads to a spot that is ablaze with beautiful fall colors.

In the past, countless merchants lived in the southern side of the town, and they were prosperous since there was a castle nearby. At present, there are old-fashioned Japanese shops that sell a variety of traditional sweets, or small products made from cloth with traditional Japanese patterns where you can find great souvenirs there. In the far distance you can see mountains covered with the colors of autumn, allowing you to enjoy the combination of scenic mountains and traditional buildings at the same time. Not far away is a 4 km path called “Higashiyama Walking Couse”. If you walk along the path, you will arrive at the Higashiyama Temple Area, which has some temples of different Buddhist sects, and the Shiroyama Park where there used to be a castle. It’s a great place to view the beautiful autumn leaves. The “Kitayama Walking Course” can also be found in the northern part of the old building area, and you can enjoy walking around the area for about an hour. The path goes through the vast “Kitayama Park” area where you can enjoy a walk surrounded by the red and yellow leaves of acer, ginkgo, and cherry trees.

Peak Season:  Mid-October to Mid-November

Access to Hida Takayama and its old towns
Take the Tokaido Shinkansen from JR Tokyo Station to Nagoya Station (about 1 hour and 50 minutes). Take the Takayama Honsen to Takayama Station (about 2 hours and 20 minutes). It’s a ten-minute walk from the station to the old towns.

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Old towns
Kamiichino-machi, Kaminino-machi, Kamisanno-machi, Katahara-machi, Shinmei-machi 4 Chome, Takayama City, Gifu Prefecture
Shimoichino-machi, Shimonino-machi, Shimosanno-machi, Hachiman-machi, Oshin-machi 1 Chome, Oshin-machi 2 Chome, Oshin-machi 3 Chome, Oshin-machi 4 Chome, Takayama City, Gifu Prefecture
Tel 0577-32-3333 (Takayama Municipal Office Tourism Division)

Shiroyama Park
Shiroyama-machi, Takayama City, Gifu Prefecture
Tel 0577-32-3333 (Takayama Municipal Office Tourism Division)

Higashiyama Temple Area
Tenshoji-machi, etc., Takayama City, Gifu Prefecture
Tel 0577-32-3333 (Takayama Municipal Office Tourism Division)

Kitayama Park
Sanfukuji-machi, etc., Takayama City, Gifu Prefecture
Tel 0577-32-3333 (Takayama municipal Office Tourism Division)

Relax in a hot spring while soaking in the autumn colors: Nyuto-onsenkyo

Nyuto-onsenkyo is a hot springs area located at the foot of Mt. Nyuto in Akita Prefecture at the north of Japan. The area is dotted with 7 hot springs, and each of them differs from the other in the various colors and textures of the hot spring water. You can take an open-air hot spring bath whilst enjoying a great outdoor landscape. Accommodations are available at each of the 7 locations. If you purchase a “Hot Spring Stamp Book” (1,500 yen) at one lodging, you can visit the other hot springs using the “Yumegurigo” bus (reservation needed) as much as you want. Even if you don’t stay at the facilities, you can enjoy bathing in the hot springs for 400 to 700 yen.

In Nyuto-onsenkyo, old-growth broad-leaf trees all around, and at the end of the autumn season the mountains are covered with autumn leaves. If you visit there at the right time, you can experience an open-air hot spring surrounded by a landscape of bright red and gold colors. The “Hot Spring Kuroyu”, one of the 7 hot springs, is located at the highest elevation, so you can see the changing colors there earlier than at the other locations. In addition, “Hot Spring Taenoyu” is located along a river, giving you a spectacular panoramic view of the autumn leaves.

Peak Season: Mid October to Late October

Access to Nyuto-onsenkyo
Take the Akita Shinkansen from JR Tokyo Station to Tazawako Station (about 3 hours). Take a fixed route bus to “Nyuto-onsenkyo” (about 50 minutes).

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Hike among the autumn leaves: Kamakura

Kamakura is located in Kanagawa Prefecture, which is next to Tokyo, and is famous for its historic sites like the Great Buddha. It is also a popular hiking spot. There are some fixed trekking courses, and the “Ten-en Hiking Course” is recommended for those who would like to see the many colored leaves in autumn. This course takes you around the northern ridge of Kamakura which is dotted with beautiful vistas.

You can access Kencho-ji Temple by a 15-minute walk from JR Kita-Kamakura Station. From there, you pass through the temple and walk up the path along where the ridge continues until you arrive at the Shojoken Observation Deck where you can view the town of Kamakura below and also view the sea that stretches out in front of the town. If you keep going, you will find a small road that leads to Kakuon-ji Temple where maple leaves have turned a fiery red. After you enjoy the autumn leaves on the grounds of the temple, you can go back to the main road to continue on your way to a spot called “Ten-en”. It is located at the top of the mountain. You can take a rest there at the “Ten-en Rest House” and enjoy some tea or snacks while viewing the vast landscape in front of you. There is a fork in the road there, and if you take the smaller road, you will see “Shishimai” which is one of the most famous places for autumn leaves in Kamakura. Tall acer trees and ginkgo trees are all around forming tunnels of red and yellow, and if you look down at your feet and will see a beautiful carpet of fallen leaves spread over the ground. Here, you can enjoy a brilliant landscape surrounded on all sides by trees.

Peak Season: Late November to Mid December

Access to Ten-en Hiking Course, Kamakura
Take the Yokosuka Line from JR Tokyo Station to JR Kita-Kamakura Station (about 50 minutes). From the Station to “Kencho-ji Temple” on foot takes about 15 minutes.

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Kencho-ji Temple
Yamanouchi 8, Kamakura City, Kanagawa
Tel 0467-22-0981

Kakuon-ji Temple
Nikaido 421, Kamakura City
Tel 0467-22-1195
Fee of entrance tour: 300 yen. For elementary and junior high school students: 200 yen. Up to Aizendo: Free of Charge.
Time of entrance tour: From 10:00, 11:00, 13:00, 14:00, and 15:00. (For Saturday, Sunday, holidays: From 12:00)
Closed: August, December 20 – January 7

Ten-en Rest House
Juniso 271, Kamakura City, Kanagawa
Tel 0467-47-3295
About 11:00 – 17:00
Irregular Holidays

Changing colors in the center of Tokyo: Rikugien

This is a garden built by a shogun during the Edo Era (1603 – 1868) in 1702 as a homestead garden. Beautiful scenic spots from all over Japan are represented there by arranged trees, ponds, and bridges. 400 maple trees form a forest, so even in the center of the city you can enjoy the profound sense of the season and the autumn leaves. During the period from November 22 to December 9, from after sunset until 9:00 pm there is night viewing of illuminated trees, and the garden is filled with a fantastic atmosphere. In the garden, there are two Matcha Tea Houses where you can enjoy seasonal sweets and green powdered tea set (500 yen) while you gaze at the pond.

After enjoying the illuminated autumn trees, you can take a short 10- to 15-minute train ride on the Yamanote Line from JR Komagome Station to Ikebukuro or Shinjuku where you can enjoy dinner. And it is also a good idea to take the Tokyo Metro Namboku Line from Komagome Station to the fourth station called “Iidabashi Station”. From there, you can see a series of traditional buildings around the spot called Kagurazaka. You can also walk through small streets while enjoying the landscape. This town is also famous for sophisticated Japanese restaurants offering gourmet foods, so it is a perfect spot to enjoy a meal, especially after a walk in the garden.

Peak Season: Late November to Early December

Access to Rikugien
Take JR/Tokyo Metro Namboku Line to “Komagome Station.” It’s about a seven-minute walk from the station.

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Rikugien
6 Chome, Honkomagome, Bunkyo-ku
Tel 03-3941-2222
9:00 – 17:00 (Final entrance allowed – 16:30)
During illumination period – 21:00 (Final entrance allowed – 20:30)
Matcha Tea Houses: “Fukiage Tea House” (9:00 – 20:30, last order 20:00), “Shinsentei” (Week Days: 12:00 – 20:00, last order 19:30; Weekends and Holidays: 10:30 – 20:00, last order 19:30)
Admission for adults and junior high school students: 300 yen, 65 or older: 150 yen

Slice through the autumn leaves in river raft: Hozu Valley

Hozu Valley is the valley of Hozugawa river, which passes through Kyoto and Kameoka City to the west of Kyoto. Splendid mountains stand along each riverbank, and the landscape is beautiful throughout the year. All the mountains are covered with fiery red and yellow leaves in autumn, so this is a very famous spot for the changing leaves. This spot is also popular for enjoying “Kawakudari” (river boat ride). Guests enjoy the ninety-minute route from Kameoka to Arashiyama. Three boatmen steer a boat that can hold more than ten people. During the ride, you can experience thrilling sections with strong current and deeper sections of the river that are calm. The high mountains along each riverbank turn red in autumn, so you can enjoy the landscape of autumn leaves from the boat.

You will enjoy the autumn leaves in Hozu Valley even more if you take the tram train up to where you board the boat. You can take the Sagano Romantic Train from Torokko Saga Station, which is located near JR Saga Arashiyama Station, and you will arrive at Torokko Kameoka Station within 25 minutes. The Sagano Romantic Train runs the same speed as a bicycle so you can slowly take in the beauty of Hozu Valley. From there, you take a 15-minute bus ride from Torokko Kameoka Station to the place of embarkation.

Peak Season: Late November to Early December

Access to Hozu Valley
Take the JR Sagano Line from JR Kyoto Station to JR Saga Arashiyama Station (about 12 minutes). It’s a short walk to Torokko Saga Station where you can take the Sagano Romantic Train. However, if you go to the place where you can board for the Hozugawa River Boat Ride without taking the Sagano Romantic Train, do not get off at JR Saga Arashiyama Station, but go about 8 minutes further, and get off at the JR Kameoka Station. An eight-minute walk will bring you to the place you can board.

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Hozugawa-kudari (Hozugawa River Boat Ride)
2 Shimo-nakajima, Hozu-cho, Kameoka, Kyoto
Tel 0771-22-5846
March 10 – November 30 
9:00/10:00/11:00/12:00/13:00/14:00/15:30
December 1– March 9
10:00/11:30/13:00/14:30
(Irregular on Saturday, Sunday, and Holidays)
3,900 yen/Adults   2,500 yen/Children (4 years old to elementary school students)
Non-business days:   December 29 – January 4

Only some of the spots are introduced above, so you can find other attractive spots all over Japan for viewing autumn leaves. Please find out about your favorite places or activities!

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