There’s something very special about autumn in Japan. There’s no place quite like this where you can view the spectacular fall foliage as part of a more elaborate setting with ancient temples and shrines, historic forest pathways, futuristic architecture and the imposing Mt. Fuji sharing scenic space. Visit Japan when the season starts spreading its magic around September, right up to December, first starting in the north and slowly travelling south.
Kyoto is one of the most beautiful places in Japan for koyo viewing. It is full of temples and shrines, each surrounded by an exquisite garden boasting trees that blaze in glorious autumnal shades. The Ginkaku-ji, Nanzen-ji and Tofuku-ji temples have bright red maples, while red maples and yellow ginkgo trees adorn the Shinyodo Temple grounds. Take a stroll through forests that look like they’ve been set on fire, to reach the Kurama-dera Temple. Or, catch a dazzling light show at the Koudai Temple, amid its fall foliage.
While the old capital houses many lesser-known koyo viewing sites, there’s nothing lesser known about the Kiyomizu Temple, which perhaps provides the best fall experience. Perched on a hill, the view from a height is simply incredible. A sea of red foliage greets your excited eyes as you look around in every direction from the top. Its grounds are worth exploring too, for the same reason.
Tokyo, the gleaming metropolis adds a whole new dimension to autumn beauty with its dazzling lights and glass and concrete architecture that add a smart, geometric backdrop to the trees and their changing colours. Walk through the city’s downtown area to witness rows of ginkgo trees reflecting their yellow brilliance from late November to early December.
For a more laid back koyo viewing, picnic at the Showa Kinen Park in Tokyo. An avenue lined with golden ginkgo trees will first welcome you, beyond which you’ll also be treated to trees that flame red.
Mount Fuji, Japan’s iconic snow-capped volcano rises majestically over Japan’s cities, and this alluring sight is enhanced when viewed through abundant, colourful fall foliage. Excellent views may be enjoyed from the northern shores of Lake Kawaguchiko. The “Momiji Tunnel”, a maple-tree lined road, is a favourite spot for photographing nature in its glorious shades.
Fujiyoshida in Yamanashi Prefecture is like a gateway to Mt Fuji from Tokyo. Travel to the Arakura Sengen Shrine, where the Chureito Pagoda can be viewed in a picturesque frame with Mt. Fuji in the background and colourful koyo in the foreground.
However, even before you get to the Pagoda, you’ll need to traverse the 400 steps leading up to it. The daunting task is only just made easier by the stupendous views from various heights, of the mixed reds, yellows and greens of the changing fall colours, and of course, the unmistakable volcano.
These are just a few splendid locations for koyo viewing, and Japan is blessed with many more. Travel, explore, and discover each one!