[2021 Edition] 30 Best Spots in Japan for Spectacular Fall Foliage

Depending on the region, the leaves of maple, cherry, ginkgo, beech, and more will change color in Japan from early October all the way to late December. For a list of sure-fire spots to witness this marvel, we've curated the definitive guide to the best Japanese fall foliage viewing in 2021. If you need a touch of red and yellow in your life, look no further!

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Fall Foliage in Japan

The act of viewing autumn leaves is called "momiji-gari" in Japanese. You can find places all over Japan famous for their beautiful autumn foliage, including easily-accessible places like city parks to more remote locations like mountain peaks and deep forests.

The above picture is a forecast map for Japan's fall foliage in 2021. If you're interested in trying momiji-gari, you need to acquire a good, accurate fall foliage forecast map. We've done our research, but please keep in mind that the dates are ultimately estimates. Check official websites or search online for the latest information.

Kanto

1. Hitachi Seaside Park (Ibaraki)

Instead of maple trees, the Hitachi Seaside Park flaunts a field of thousands of burning red kochia bushes, offering a unique sight totally different from what you’d expect of fall foliage. There are also fields of orange and red cosmos flowers to enjoy along the way.

2. Kodomo no Kuni (Kanagawa)

Located just 30 km from central Tokyo, Kodomo no Kuni is a great place for families to enjoy a fun-filled day. The expansive park contains a stellar variety of attractions, such as a petting zoo, mini railway, sports facilities, camping and picnic sites, and, of course, dozens of places to see stunning autumn foliage.

3. Nasu Kogen (Tochigi)

Located approximately 2.5 hrs from Tokyo, Nasu Kogen offers a quick city escape amongst the vast expanse of nature. Take a ride on the ropeway gondola for amazing views of the surroundings.

Hokkaido

4. Jozankei Onsen (Hokkaido)

Jozankei Onsen is considered by many to be the best place to witness fall foliage in Hokkaido. During the peak season (October 1st - 21st), there are volunteer-led bus tours that visit all the best spots, making getting around a breeze. There are also plenty of scenic walks to enjoy alongside several top-class onsen hot springs to warm up in later.

5. Lake Toya (Hokkaido)

Autumn boat tours are a fantastic way to discover lesser-known, inaccessible fall scenery while sitting back and zoning out! Lake Toya offers sightseeing boat tours around its central island, which is renowned for flaunting beautiful autumn colors forming a delightful contrast with the blue lake and sky.

6. Mt. Moiwa (Hokkaido)

Mt. Moiwa, located right next to Sapporo, is fitted with a ropeway offering jaw-dropping panoramas of the cityscape merged with the beauty of nature. Visit during the day for autumn foliage and stay until after sunset for one of the best night views in Japan.

Kansai

7. Zuihoji Park (Hyogo)

Zuihoji Park is a momiji (Japanese maple) grove celebrated as one of the best places in Hyogo Prefecture to view autumn foliage. There is also a park cafe that only opens during the fall foliage season (late October - late November), allowing visitors to relish traditional Japanese sweets alongside the views.

8. Shisendo (Kyoto)

Shisendo was formerly the private residence of Edo period scholar Ishikawa Jozan, who spent 31 years here in isolation after constructing it in 1641. Nowadays, Shisendo is visited for its perfectly framed view contrasting fiery red maple trees and bright green mossy stones during autumn.

9. Biwako Valley (Shiga)

Ascending at 7m/second, the Biwako Valley Ropeway is the fastest in all of Japan, making the 1.8 km journey from the shores of Lake Biwa up Mt. Horai in around 5 mins. Along the way, you’ll be treated to stunning views of Lake Biwa and the surrounding landscape. The top of the mountain has plenty of attractions too, such as a cafe, viewing platform, and even activities like zip lining!

Tohoku

10. JR Tadami Line (Fukushima)

Another great way to experience the fall colors of Japan is via train! One of the most scenic lines in the country is the JR Tadami line in Fukushima and Niigata Prefecture, which boasts incredible scenery all year round. The pinnacle of this beauty is in autumn, which is celebrated by the launching of the "Rapid Tadami Koyo Mankitsu-go Train," a thrilling journey specifically designed to showcase fall foliage operating for just two days in October.

11. Hirosaki Park (Aomori)

Hirosaki Park is a gorgeous park centered around Hirosaki Castle, which was originally built in 1611 and reconstructed in 1810, making it one of the few remaining original Edo period castles in Japan. In the fall, you can enjoy the grand castle alongside the vast parkland filled with the vivid foliage of maple trees and more. At night the entire area is lit up, making it equally worthwhile visiting after dark too.

12. Genbikei Gorge (Iwate)

Genbikei Gorge in Iwate Prefecture boasts a unique riverbed landscape packed with dynamic rock formations and gleaming emerald green water. During autumn, the tapestry trees lining the gorge exude beautiful colors, forming dynamic contrasts between the foliage, water, and rocks.

Koshinetsu

13. Kumoba Pond (Nagano)

Kumoba Pond sits within the beloved resort town of Karuizawa, Nagano, and flaunts intense fall foliage reflected perfectly on the pond’s mirror-like surface. Being reasonably close to Karuizawa Station, you can easily go shopping or check out the town’s other attractions along the way.

14. Mt. Hakkai (Niigata)

For adventurers who prefer to hike for their beautiful views, the 1,778-meter-high Mt. Hakkai (Hakkaisan) in Niigata Prefecture is the place to go! Mt. Hakkai has long been considered a "sacred mountain," and is one of the Three Mountains of Echigo, the original name of Niigata Prefecture. If you don't want to hike all the way to the top, the mountain is also furnished with a ropeway gondola for a journey in peak comfort!

15. Komoro Kaikoen Castle Ruins Park (Nagano)

Komoro Kaikoen Castle Ruins Park combines elegant autumn foliage with fascinating historic ruins such as walls, statues, and walkways. If it lines up with your itinerary, definitely aim to visit between October 20th - November 18th, as the daily “Momiji Matsuri” fall foliage festival takes place.

Tokai

16. Shirakawa-go (Gifu)

Shirakawa-go is a UNESCO World Heritage site famous for its township of traditional thatched-roof triangle-shaped houses. The mountains here start to change color in late October, amplifying the beauty of the already spectacular scenery. This is a great place to absorb the essence of traditional Japan while winding down and relaxing.

17. Chausuyama (Aichi)

Chausuyama is not only the tallest mountain in Aichi Prefecture but also the first place in the region to start changing colors in fall. On the mountaintop is Chausuyama Kogen Ski Resort, which boasts several attractions including a night-time illumination of the fall trees.

18. Mt. Gozaisho (Mie)

From the comfort of a ropeway gondola, you can take in the colors of autumn extending from the peak of Mt. Gozaisho (Gozaisho-dake) all the way down to the hot springs at the mountain base. The side of the mountain is covered in several species of trees with differently colored foliage, weaving together a spectacular, multicolored landscape.

Hokuriku

19. Murodo Plateau (Toyama)

The Murodo Plateau (Murodo-daira) is a spacious, high-altitude landscape easily accessible for both casual tourists and climbing enthusiasts. The plateau hosts a number of magnificent natural sights, such as several ponds and jaw-dropping mountains. The entire area turns into a rich tapestry of reds, yellows, and browns in autumn, making the scenery even more vivid.

20. Shomyo Falls (Toyama)

With an elevation of 350 m, Shomyo Falls (Shomyo-daki) is the highest waterfall in Japan and one of Toyama Prefecture’s most famous icons. The waterfall is particularly beautiful during the fall foliage season, making it a staple of most momiji-gari itineraries!

21. Hakusan Shirakawa-go White Road (Ishikawa)

This 33 km scenic road connects the sacred mountain of Mt. Haku (Hakusan) with the popular Shirakawa-go area. In addition to enjoying the scenic drive from inside a car, you can also step out and thoroughly absorb the scenery from the viewing platform on Mt. Haku.

Chugoku

22. Korakuen (Okayama)

One of the Three Great Gardens of Japan, Okayama Prefecture’s Korakuen is a spacious, painstakingly manicured garden park boasting natural art around every corner. In autumn, many flock to the park grounds to witness the changing of the colors at the Chishio no Mori maple tree grove, a celebrated spot for fall foliage known throughout all of Japan. Some of the trees here start changing color as early as mid-September!

23. Hiruzen Daisen Skyline (Okayama)

Hiruzen Daisen Skyline is a scenic road connecting the Hiruzen Kogen Highlands in Okayama Prefecture to Daisen Kagamiganaru in Tottori Prefecture. Along the way is the Kimendai Observatory, a must-stop location for those seeking panoramic views of the surrounding nature, which includes a brilliant scene of Mt. Daisen covered in fiery maple and beech trees.

24. Sankei-en (Hiroshima)

Sankei-en garden was built to celebrate the opening of Hiroshima Airport and is designed to replicate the scenery of the Seto Inland Sea and Hiroshima mountains. While most known for summertime Japanese irises, the park also puts on a fantastic display of autumn foliage in October, making it a good choice to add to your fall itinerary.

Shikoku

25. Okubo-ji (Kagawa)

Okubo-ji is the final stop of the 88 temples of the legendary Shikoku Pilgrimage (Shikoku Henro). The Hondo (main hall) and two-storied pagoda are located at the base of Mt. Nyotai (Nyotaisan). There are dozens of maple and ginkgo trees on the temple grounds parading striking fall colors during momiji-gari season. Even if you’re not touring the other 87 temples, be sure to stop by!

26. Mt. Kamegamori (Ehime)

The entire Kamegamori area of Shikoku brims with gorgeous fall foliage from a vast array of trees, including urajiro-momi (a type of fir tree native to Shikoku), Japanese beech, and Mongolian oak. The "UFO Line" is a scenic, high-altitude drive along Mt. Kamegamori offering remarkable views during the fall.

27. Odamiyama Gorge (Ehime)

Located within the Shikoku Karst Natural Park, the lush Odamiyama Gorge (Odamiyama-keikoku) is home to over 20 varieties of maple tree bursting with an alluring array of colors starting in October. You can thoroughly soak in the scenery on the 1.5 km walking trail that follows the gorge.

Kyushu

28. Shinyaba Gorge (Oita)

Shinyaba Gorge (Shinyaba-kei) follows the Yamautsuri River, a tributary of the Yamakuni River entering into the Suo-nada Sea. The most popular site along the gorge is Hitome Hakkei ("one sight, eight views"), from which you can spot 8 different rock formations. There are also multiple viewing platforms and waterfalls showcasing mesmerizing autumn scenery along the way!

29. Nomiyama Kannon-ji (Fukuoka)

Nomiyama Kannonji is a temple of the Koyasan Shingon sect of Buddhism. Along with embracing the temple’s deep spirituality, visitors also flock to the luscious temple grounds during autumn to marvel at the fall magic. Alongside rows of brilliant maple trees, there are also rare kochia bushes, which illuminate the grounds in a riveting crimson.

30. Nita Pass (Nagasaki)

The Nita Pass (Nitatoge) is a mountain pass that connects Mt. Myoken and Mt. Nodake in the Unzen mountain range of Nagasaki Prefecture. There is a ropeway gondola with direct access to the peak of Mt. Myoken and a viewing platform looking out over the entire Unzen area.

Japan: An Autumn Paradise and Photographer’s Dream!

If you're planning to add momiji-gari to your Japan fall itinerary, use this article as a guide to uncover the best of Japanese autumn magic. Momiji-gari is a great opportunity to encounter the underrated natural side of Japan, so definitely make room for it on your next Japan to-do list!

Top image: Guitar photographer / Shutterstock

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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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