Best Places in Central and Southern Japan to Experience Kōyō

October 18, 2011 by

Free Things to Do, Local Recommendations, News & Alerts, Travel Tips

Kiyomizudera in Kyoto is a great place to see koyo
- photo courtesy of Oilstreet via Wikimedia Commons

As the last of the summer heat begin to wane, Japan’s foliage undergoes its dramatic seasonal transformation. Through late November, a carpet of color spreads from the northern island of Hokkaido to the lower elevations of central and southern Japan.

Some trees around Kyoto remain colorful into early December. Here is a list of some of the best places to see kōyō (colorful  leaves) towards the end of fall.


From mid to late November the area around the Tofukuji Temple is ablaze with some of Kyoto’s most spectacular foliage. It’s elbow room only on the Tsutenkyo Bridge, which has views worth fighting for.

On the outskirts of Kyoto, this forested, mountainous district becomes a glorious tapestry colors as the weather cools.

No stop in Kyoto is complete without visiting this gorgeous temple. Views from its balcony invite quiet contemplation (despite the crowds!) at any time of year, but in fall, they are quite simply breathtaking.

In Kyoto’s western mountains, this temple and its surrounding buildings enjoy expansive views over the city. Many of the trees here are revered – in particular, a 600 year-old pine tree.

Western Japan

Tateyama Kurobe Alpen Route
Less crowded than the Kyoto viewing spots, this route (through the Northern Japanese Alps) experiences color changes throughout most of the kōyō season depending on elevation.

Mino Park
This wooded valley north of Osaka has a pretty waterfall and temple. As with all but remote kōyō viewing spots, you should try to visit during the week to avoid the biggest crowds.

- Emma McMahon

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