[2021 Edition] 8 Spots to Enjoy Spectacular Autumn Foliage in Kyoto

Filled with lush forest, temple grounds, and parkland, Kyoto boasts a profusion of breathtaking autumn colors transforming the retro streets of the ancient capital into a spectacle of vivid reds, yellows, and browns. Known as “momiji-gari,” discovering and enjoying autumn foliage is the national autumn pastime of Kyoto locals and people all across Japan! You too can easily join in the seasonal excitement with our 8 recommended Kyoto autumn sightseeing spots!

Kyoto

Things to Do

When Is the Best Time to See Autumn Leaves in Kyoto?

While it depends on the area and year, the best time to see autumn leaves in Kyoto City generally falls between mid-November to early December. Before making any plans, be sure to check the latest forecast.

1. Arashiyama

The leafy neighborhood of Arashiyama sits on the western outskirts of Kyoto City and is renowned as one of Japan’s most scenic attractions. Brimming with history and tradition, Arashiyama’s vast forest, parkland, and streetscape becomes framed by a spellbinding tapestry of dynamic autumn foliage come autumn. We recommend appreciating this beauty on the Sagano Sight-Seeing Tram, at the Togetsukyo Bridge, or on a walk to the Monkey Park Iwatayama.

2. Takao

The tranquil, mountainous Takao area in the suburbs of Kyoto is known for the legendary temples of Kozanji, a World Heritage Site, Jingoji and its grand stone stairway, and Saimyoji and its iconic vermillion bridge. All three temples have been celebrated as prime spots for autumn colors since ancient times. Jingoji Temple, the most popular of the three, offers one of the best views in the area with its elegant Hall of the Five Great Deities surrounded by fiery foliage, which is lit up at night to further enhance its captivating beauty.

3. Kurumazaki Shrine/Geino Shrine

Kurumazaki Shrine and its inner shrine of Geino is famous for its visits by people working in the entertainment industry (known as “geinojin” in Japanese). Its reputation is seen in its eye-catching vermillion “tamagaki” fence, which surrounds the shrine and features the names of hundreds of Japanese celebrities who have visited and prayed for a successful career. Kurumazaki Shrine is also loved for its spectacular autumn scenery, with hundreds of tourists flocking to the shrine to take in the colors during the peak fall foliage period. Being only a 10 min walk from Saga-Arashiyama Station, it can be easily enjoyed together alongside the other sights of Arashiyama.

4. Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Kiyomizu-dera Temple, one of Kyoto's most iconic sights, allows visitors the unique opportunity to take in the surrounding autumn colors from above, forming an entirely different experience to most other spots. From mid-November to early December, a special autumn night viewing event is held where the leaves are illuminated in a magical display. Being just a 15-minute walk from Kiyomizu-Gojo Station through charming, picturesque Kyoto streetscape, a visit to Kiyomizu-dera during autumn is the ultimate encounter with Japanese beauty.

5. Jikishian Temple

Jikishian Temple is a lesser-known hidden gem destination boasting gorgeous fall colors from its collection of majestic maple trees. Being somewhat off the beaten path, the temple grounds remain relatively quiet compared with most places of such beauty, allowing one to thoroughly absorb the palette of colors without the crowds. The temple is a roughly 30 min walk from Arashiyama and there are no train lines nearby, making it a little difficult to get to.

6. Enkoji Temple

Enkoji is a Zen Buddhist temple in northern Kyoto City famous for its marvelous autumn magic. The temple offers a number of ways to appreciate its beauty, such as wandering the pond and courtyard, climbing the hill, or relaxing in the traditional tatami room to absorb the display of natural art.

7. Philosopher's Walk

The Philosopher's Walk is a scenic path running alongside a shallow irrigation channel lined with gorgeous cherry trees. These trees burst with radiant red foliage during mid-November, adorning the path with an autumn glow making for lovely strolls amongst the brisk air. The walk is roughly 2 km and connects Ginkakuji Temple and Nanzen-ji Temple. With lots to see and enjoy along the way, including the equally famous fall colors of Honen-in Temple, the Philosopher's Walk is best relished slowly and thoroughly!

8. Momiji Garden (Kitano Tenmangu Shrine)

During the Azuchi–Momoyama period (1568-1600), ruler Toyotomi Hideyoshi built an embankment around Kyoto to prevent flooding, the remains of which can be found today throughout the Kyoto outskirts. One section has been transformed into Momiji Garden, which sits on the grounds of Kitano Tenmangu Shrine and hosts an impressive collection of roughly 350 maple trees and more. Along with wandering the park itself, you can also take in a stunning panorama of the entire scene from the nearby lookout. A night-time illumination event is held between November and December (check website for exact dates).

Become Enchanted by the Autumn Scenery of Kyoto!

The sensational autumn colors of Kyoto serve to amplify the charm of its countless historic buildings, temples, shrines, and streetscapes. Whether you’re longing for a hike in the wilderness or a wander through a temple, the autumn scenery you’ve been dreaming about is guaranteed to be in Kyoto!

Top image: PIXTA

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

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