18 Best Autumn Foliage Spots in Japan’s Chubu Region (2023 Edition)
As the searing heat of summer fades, the lush greenery of the landscapes in the Chubu region of Japan gradually bursts into a vibrant explosion of red, orange, and gold. At the heart of Japan’s main island of Honshu, the central Chubu region is rich with stunning temples, cultural festivities, and outdoor adventures that beckon visitors from near and far. Will you see the famous Nagoya Castle in the fall? Or what about riding the train in Kurobe along the gorge? And who could go wrong with the “gassho-zukuri” farmhouses set amongst the rice fields of Shirakawa-go? Come and learn what makes Chubu in autumn truly special with 18 of the best foliage spots in Japan’s Chubu region!
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What and Where Is Japan’s Chubu Region?
One of Japan's eight major geographical regions, the Chubu region is comprised of nine prefectures: Aichi, Niigata, Toyama, Fukui, Gifu, Ishikawa, Nagano, Shizuoka, and Yamanashi. Straddled between the western Kansai region and the eastern Kanto region, the central Chubu region serves as a vital transportation and economic hub, connecting eastern and western Japan.
Well-known cities in the Chubu region include Nagoya in Aichi Prefecture, Takayama and Shirokawa-go in Gifu Prefecture, Niigata in Niigata Prefecture, and Atami in Shizuoka Prefecture, each with its own merits and flair. The Japanese Alps make for world-famous hiking, and the temperate weather of the fall season invites the perfect chance to go camping amongst the region's lush nature.
When Can You See Fall Colors in Japan?
2023 was a hot year in Japan with record-breaking heat and a sweltering summer. The effect that this weather has on the fall foliage is that it will prolong the changing of the leaves, pushing back the peak season by several weeks.
For example, typically, autumn in Nagoya is felt in full force in the middle of November, although the autumn foliage peak may reach the city later this year. That being said, daytime temperatures around Chubu typically range from around 10°C to 18°C (50°F to 64°F) during this time. However, as you move deeper into December, temperatures may gradually drop.
We did our research to put together the foliage forecast maps above, but as the changing leaves are at the mercy of the weather, these are ultimately just estimates and we recommend checking the status of the leaves prior to visiting.
Where to See the Autumn Foliage in Japan’s Chubu Region
Nagoya Castle (Aichi)
Constructed in 1612 by the famed shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, this historic castle played a pivotal role in Japan's unification during the Edo period (1603 – 1867) and is the iconic symbol of the Chubu region’s largest city of Nagoya. Its architectural grandeur is characterized by the two-story, two-tiered main keep, adorned with magnificent golden “shachihoko” (mythical fish) ornaments that serve both as symbols of protection and exquisite decoration.
The castle's beauty is further accentuated by the surrounding Ninomaru-en and Hommaru-en Gardens, offering visitors a tranquil escape, especially during the fall foliage seasons when the bright reds of the leaves bring out the contrasting greens of the castle.
・Stay Near Nagoya Castle: hotel androoms Nagoya Sakae
Only a 15-minute walk from Nagoya Castle and located just down the road from the Nagoya TV Tower, hotel androoms Nagoya Sakae is a fun and fresh stay where guests can feel the spirit of Nagoya as an integral part of the urban landscape. The hotel prides itself on its delicious cafe featuring fresh bread baked in-house and the nearby park across from the hotel makes for a relaxing atmosphere.
Tokugawaen Garden (Aichi)
Tokugawaen Garden is a captivating haven where history and nature converge in harmonious splendor. Once the family garden of the Owari branch of the Tokugawa clan, it carries a rich heritage dating back to the Edo period. Encircled by a serene pond adorned with koi fish, the garden features meticulously designed landscapes, a traditional teahouse, and vibrant seasonal flora that comes alive during the fall months. The garden's teahouse offers a glimpse into traditional tea ceremonies and provides a serene setting amongst one of Japan’s most bustling cities.
Towering over the town of Yuzawa in Niigata Prefecture is the splendid Mt. Naeba. Best known for its ski resort, the fun doesn’t end when the snow melts, as the Naeba Dragondola is a remarkable aerial lift that offers an exhilarating and scenic journey through the breathtaking landscapes of the Japanese Alps. One of the longest gondolas in Japan, the Dragondola spans a remarkable distance of 5.2 kilometers, providing visitors with an immersive experience that includes panoramic views of verdant mountains and serene valleys. Whether it's the vibrant hues of spring, the lush greenery of summer, the winter wonderland of snow-covered landscapes, or the fiery foliage of fall, the Naeba Dragondola promises an unforgettable journey, making it a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike.
・Stay in Naeba
For a dreamy mountain getaway, look no further than Naeba Prince Hotel. Right next to the ski slope, treat yourself to a splendidly spacious room with breathtaking views of the mountains. If you’re visiting during the fall season, then this is where you want to be as the fresh mountain air and relaxing atmosphere will transport you eons away from the stress of your daily life and immerse you in the beautiful Japanese countryside.
Shimami Ryokuchi Park (Niigata)
Shimami Ryokuchi Park is especially enchanting in the fall, as the changing season transforms this urban oasis into a breathtaking tapestry of autumnal hues. Ginkgo trees are particularly vibrant and erupt in vibrant shades of gold, creating a picturesque scene that invites visitors to immerse themselves in the beauty of nature.
The crisp air carries the scent of fallen leaves, enhancing the sensory experience. This time of year is perfect for leisurely walks amidst the fall splendor, admiring the golden canopy, and capturing the park's picturesque landscapes through the lens of a camera. Quite popular with dog lovers, Shimami Ryokuchi Park in autumn is a captivating destination that celebrates the season's beauty and offers a serene escape into the heart of Niigata's vibrant fall foliage.
Kurobe Gorge (Toyama)
Breathtaking does not even begin to explain the beauty of Kurobe Gorge in the fall. Carved deep into the rugged Northern Japanese Alps, Kurobe Gorge is one of Japan’s largest V-shaped gorges and is a visual spectacle, to say the least. Perhaps one of the best ways to enjoy this marvel of nature is on the Kurobe Gorge Railway, which runs parallel to the perilous ravine as you are treated to scenes that couldn’t even be found in story books. In the evening, retiring to one of the many ryokans and seeping in the onsen baths brings respite and relaxation after what is to be one of the most memorable days of your life.
Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route (Toyama)
Known as the “Roof of Japan,” the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is a breathtaking mountain pass that traverses through the Northern Japan Alps. This remarkable route takes visitors on a spectacular through the deep alpine wonders of Toyama and although it is most famous for the towering snow walls that open in the spring, the fall colors are nothing to balk at either. As autumn descends, the Tateyama Ropeway carries you over mountains cloaked in brilliant hues of red, orange, and yellow foliage where travelers can savor this natural masterpiece from above.
・Stay Near the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
The closest inn to the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, Senjuso is a charming local ryokan that prides itself on its hospitality and warmth. The hot springs are said to foster beauty and are a natural blessing, courtesy of Mt. Tateyama itself. After a long day of adventuring, nothing hits quite like local sake is paired serendipitously with heartwarming food prepared from locally sourced seasonal ingredients.
Karikomi Ike Pond (Fukui)
In the age of digitally remastered images, it's hard to tell what is real or not, but trust us when we say that despite its otherworldly appearance, Karikomi Ike Pond in Ono, Fukui is as real as it gets.
An epitome of the region's rustic charm, Karikomi Ike Pond is nestled in a tranquil forested landscape and serves as a pristine mirror of the changing seasons. The blazing colors are beautifully reflected on the lake's surface, creating a stunning and serene spectacle, and travelers can immerse themselves in this seasonal wonder through leisurely hikes, making Karikomi Ike Pond a must-visit destination for those seeking an authentic encounter with Japan's stunning autumn landscapes. Still don’t believe that it’s real? Looks like you’ll have to make the trip out to find out for yourself!
Mikata Goko (Fukui)
The Mikata Five Lakes (Mikata Goko) are a natural wonder comprised of five iconic lakes that exude tranquility and scenic beauty. As autumn closes in, the set of Lakes Mikata, Suigetsu, Suga, Kugushi, and Hiruga becomes a captivating canvas of fall foliage as the surrounding forests transition into a breathtaking array of red, orange, and yellow hues. The clear, reflective waters mirror the rich autumn palette, doubling the visual splendor. The lakes are perfect for leisurely strolls or relaxing boat rides and are the perfect escape from the daily fatigue of big-city life.
The lakes can be overlooked from the nearby Rainbow Line Summit Park on the Rainbow Line toll road, allowing visitors to enjoy captivating scenery while relaxing in the park’s café, foot bath, or on one of several terraces.
This UNESCO World Heritage site cannot be missed during the fall! Renowned for its traditional “gassho-zukuri” thatched roof farmhouses, the rustic charms of this mountain village exude a sense of nostalgia, and the pace of life here exists just as it did centuries ago. Strolling the well-trodden streets, the lively glow of the fall foliage sets the mood to be whisked away in a world described best as fantasy.
Gujo Hachiman Castle (Gifu)
Gujo Hachiman Castle is a historic gem that stands as a symbol of the region's rich heritage and samurai culture. During the autumn season, this iconic castle enjoys a stunning backdrop of fall foliage that only deepens one’s appreciation for off-the-beaten-path travel. The castle has a history that dates back to the 16th century, while the current structure was rebuilt in the former half of the 20th century. Gujo Hachiman Castle in the fall offers an unrivaled blend of history and natural beauty, making it a captivating destination.
・Stay near Gujo Hachiman Castle
The charms of Gujo Hachiman come alive when you stay at Hotel Sekisuien, a historic inn that exudes the spirit of the city. They say that the way to the heart is through the stomach, and at Hotel Sekisuien, after eating carefully selected seasonal delicacies, you’ll be able to feel all the skill, pride, and love that the locals put into their cuisine. Hida Beef is a melt-in-your-mouth regional specialty with a taste so scrumptious no matter how much you eat, you’ll be left wanting more.
Known as a “Little Kyoto,” Kanazawa is famous for its gold leaf artistry, but in the fall, that isn’t the only thing that reigns gold. Kenroku-en is one of Japan's most celebrated and revered gardens and was selected as one of Japan’s three most beautiful gardens. Its name, which translates to "Six Attributes Garden," reflects its artful design inspired by the six essential attributes of a perfect garden. Kenroku-en's captivating allure is best experienced during the fall season when the garden transforms into a blur of autumn colors, and strolling through the garden in the fall reveals a new wonder with each and every step.
Metasequoia Namiki-michi Street (Ishikawa)
Sauntering down Kanazawa’s iconic Metasequoia Namiki-Michi Street feels like a new discovery awaits around each and every bend. This tree-lined street features a captivating canopy of metasequoia trees that create a stunning tunnel of foliage, made exceptionally exquisite in the fall. Walking beneath the canopy of these trees will be a highlight of your trip to Japan for sure, as not only is the sky blockaded by the proud orange foliage, but the fallen leaves create a carpet of marmalade as well.
Momiji Lake (Nagano)
The name “Momiji” actually translates to “maple leaf” in Japanese, and this charming lake in Nagano Prefecture is especially renowned for its mesmerizing display of fall foliage. As the season unfolds, the surrounding maple trees burst into vibrant shades of red that, when mirrored off the calm surface of the lake, perfectly encapsulate the season`s grandeur. Stroll along the lakeshore and delight in the peaceful ambiance, surrounded by the warm hues of the season.
Hakuba Iwatake Mountain Resort (Nagano)
Hakuba Iwatake Mountain Resort, located in the heart of the Japanese Alps, is sought out as a winter hot spot known for its exceptional skiing and snowboarding adventures. But the allure of this mountain resort extends beyond the snowy season and into fall, where Hakuba Iwatake is transformed into a wonderland with the surrounding forests adorning themselves in a festive display of red and yellow foliage. The resort's pristine slopes and hiking trails provide a unique vantage point to take in the rich colors of the season, and the Hakuba Mountain Harbor viewpoint stretches out into the symphony of nature that is Nagano.
・Stay near Hakuba Iwatake Mountain Resort
With waters drawn from Hakuba Himekawa Onsen, the open-air hot spring baths of Schole Hakuba will melt your fatigue away like butter on hot toast. This classy local inn combines the refinement of traditional Japanese aesthetics with the sleek sheer of modern design. In addition to the hot spring, there are plenty of fun facilities, such as a karaoke room and a sauna, so you’ll never be at a loss for a good time.
Atami Baien (Shizuoka)
During the fall season, Atami Baien reveals a different kind of charm that, while known to few, rewards those who make the journey. While sought after for its spring plum blossoms, this captivating garden also has hidden potential in the fall, where visitors can explore the garden's pathways under the dappled sunlight, surrounded by the gentle rustling of leaves. Atami Baien in the fall offers a serene escape, where the colors of the season complement the garden's natural beauty, making it an enchanting destination not to overlook.
・Stay near Atami Baien
Embrace the traditional atmosphere of Atami with Watei Kazekomichi, a traditional ryokan boasting spectacular oceanic views and relaxing baths. Being located right by the sea, a kaiseki dinner comprised of fresh seafood is the highlight of many, if not to be outdone with splendid open-air baths that are dreamy in the fall.
Yume no Tsuribashi Suspension Bridge (Shizuoka)
Suspended high above a gorge, the Yume no Tsuribashi Suspension Bridge offers the unique opportunity to take in the stunning landscapes of the Shizuoka as you tower above an azure river. Translating literally to “Dream Suspension Bridge,” in the autumn season, the gorge's surrounding trees come to life with fiery colors, and the rush of crossing the bridge when mixed with the impact of the beautiful scenery is what makes Yume no Tsuribashi so breathtaking.
Lake Kawaguchiko (Yamanashi)
As one of the Fuji Five Lakes, Lake Kawaguchiko is a popular day trip from Tokyo and makes for a lovely getaway from the big city. A towering view of Mt. Fuji is what attracts visitors from far and wide in particular, and the maple rows bring a flame of romance to the area. Interlopers to the area can enjoy relaxing in cafes and restaurants nearby or set out on a sightseeing cruise across the lake for the full experience.
・Stay near Lake Kawaguchiko
There is nothing more iconically Japanese than the view of Mt. Fuji, which is why Fuji View Hotel is the perfect accommodation option to make your Japan trip complete. Panoramic scenes of Japan’s most sacred mountain are the highlight of the stay, and the food, coupled with the baths, may tempt you never to leave!
Arakura Fuji Sengen Shrine (Yamanashi)
Arakura Fuji Sengen Shrine is a sacred destination offering breathtaking views of the iconic Mount Fuji. During the autumn season, this shrine's grounds look like a scene from a postcard, and visitors can make the climb up to the iconic Chureito Pagoda, which offers a stunning viewpoint for observing the fall foliage and capturing the perfect shot of Mount Fuji amidst the autumn landscapes. For many, this spot is the quintessential image of Japan, and while often popular tourist spots are less impactful than expected, Arakura Fuji Sengen Shrine is the real thing.
Falling Forward With These Autumn Foliage Spots in the Chubu Region
Fall is a time for reflecting and growing, as travel during autumn teaches us that as the leaves fall one by one, our time is limited. The Chubu region is certainly the setting for an adventure of a lifetime, with landscapes that turn ablaze with the vibrant colors of the autumn foliage highlighting the magnificent charms of Japan’s central region.
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.