Japan’s First Colors of Fall – Daisetsuzan, Hokkaido

Here, we introduce three different adventures. Firstly, starting out from Asahikawa Airport to a ropeway which takes you up Mt. Asahidake. Next, once you’ve reached Daisetsuzan, venture further north to the autumn hues of Lake Notoro-ko, with a view of Mt. Shiretoko in the distance. Finally, if you set out for the northeastern district of Daisetsuzan, you’ll find Akan National Park, home of the planet’s second-clearest lake – Lake Mashu.

Route One: From Asahikawa Airport to Mt. Asahidake

Let’s start with the easiest way to see the country’s first colors of autumn at Daisetsuzan’s Mt. Asahikdake. Catch a shuttle bus at Asahikawa Airport approximately one hour to Ropeway Sanroku station.
The trees at the highest elevation on Mt. Asahidake start changing colors at the beginning of September, leaving behind a vivid carpet of reds and yellows down to the foot of the mountain over the following month.
To get the best view of the mountain’s autumn grandeur, take the ropeway from the foot of the mountain up to Sugatami (“full-length mirror”) station at an elevation of 1,600m. As you float suspended in the air for ten minutes, gaze down at the panoramic color palette below you.

Green marsh of the Daisetsuzan Kogen hot springs
Green marsh of the Daisetsuzan Kogen hot springs

From the exit of Sugatami ropeway station, you can embark on a trek around the lake and marshes of Mt. Asahidake’s highlands. There’s also an observation deck. Plenty of rare plant and animal life thrives in the Daisetsuzan region. If you’re lucky you’ll catch a glimpse of an Ezo red fox or the Northern Pika.

Alpine flowers of fall and a Northern Pika
Alpine flowers of fall and a Northern Pika

Daisetsuzan National Park is home to Hokkaido’s highest mountain peak – the 2,291m (2,505 yards) Mt. Asahadake. Nestled in the mountain highlands are the Sounkyo and Daisetsu Kogen hot springs, with countless spots to enjoy the autumn colors. Or you can expand your fall itinerary to include other colorful regions of Hokkaido.

Route Two: Venturing Beyond Daisetsuzan

Coral grass at Lake Notoro-ko
Coral grass at Lake Notoro-ko

Want to be the first in Japan to see the change of the leaves? We recommend you make your way from Daisetsuzan to the wetlands of Lake Notoro-ko, and further beyond to Shiretoko. First, marvel at the vermilion and yellow hues stretching from the slopes of Mt. Akadake to Ginsen-dai. Next, venture to Abashiri Quasi-National Park. There you’ll find a stunning view of Lake Notoro-ko, carpeted with crimson sango coral grass. If you have several days to spend in Hokkaido, head east to the Shiretoko Peninsula, whose lands and waters are registered as a UNESCO world heritage. Fall colors peak in October but the trees of Shiretoko Pass and the Shiretoko Goko (Five) Lakes turn earlier.

Lake Akan in the fall
Lake Akan in the fall

Route Three: Famous Fall Color Stops From Daisetsuzan to East Hokkaido

If you visit Hokkaido in early October, the best fall color and nature sightseeing route takes you from Daisetsuzan, to Lake Akan, to the Kushiro Marsh, and finally to Tokachigawa hot springs.
After seeing the stunning twin waterfalls of Sounkyo Valley in the Daisetsuzan area, travel east to Akan National Park. Lake Akan is famous for its globular green moss ball formations, known as “marimo”. About an hour away, the waters of Lake Mashu rank as the second clearest in the world. Lake Onneto’s color seems to magically transform with time of day and angle. All three lakes are encompassed by autumn tints during this season.