While many people think of Spring as the best time to visit Japan, thanks to the famous cherry blossom viewing, Fall can be an equally popular time to travel to the Land of the Rising Sun. With great weather, changing leaves, and many activities to celebrate the season, I recommend planning a trip to Japan in Autumn to get a different perspective and experience to some wonderful and cozy seasonal activities.
October and November are some of my favorite months in Japan. It’s peak time to see the changing autumn leaves, eat seasonal produce and food specialties, and avoid the intense humidity of summer and typhoon season (which runs from May to October, peaking in September).
But during Fall, there are so many things to do that are special during this time of year. You can’t experience these events or products any other time of year, so if you find yourself visiting Japan in autumn our list of things to do in Japan in Fall is just what you need.
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Fall Season in Japan
So, to start off, when is Fall in Japan? Japanese Fall in Japan is generally mid-September through November, sometimes in December, depending on the region you visit.
In September, temperatures in Tokyo are an average of 80 degrees, with highs of 85 and lows of 75. In October temps are an average of 65 degrees with highs of 72, so much cooler than in September.
In November, average temps are around 55 degrees with highs of 62. This is a great time to experience the outdoors in Japan.
Even though it’s fall, during the first half of the season there are mostly hot days that can still feel very humid and sticky, while the second half has plenty of cool days with clear weather.
Read Also: Packing List for Fall in Japan
Japan Autumn Leaves Forecast for 2023
The most vibrant autumn foliage in Tokyo can be seen around November 25. In Kyoto, autumn colors can be seen around November 27, while Osaka’s trees should peak on November 24. The official Japan Autumn leaves Forecast 2023 can be found through the Japan Meteorological Corporation. In Japan, maples, wax trees, rowan, burning bush, and Japanese sumac turn red; the linden-leaved maple leaves, ginkgo trees, Japanese elms, and poplars turn golden and yellow; and birches, chestnuts, oaks, and beeches shed leaves in shades of brown.
What To Do in Japan in Fall
Autumn Foliage Viewing
Japan’s autumn season is a magical time when nature paints its landscapes with vibrant hues of red, orange, and yellow. The country becomes a haven for nature lovers and photography enthusiasts alike as they embark on a journey to witness the autumn foliage. From ancient temples and serene gardens to picturesque mountainsides, Japan offers an array of stunning locations to experience this natural spectacle.
While foliage can be viewed almost anywhere in Japan, some of the best places include:
Tokyo: If you want to see fall foliage but can’t travel far from Tokyo, you’re in luck. You can find foliage spots right in Tokyo and in other areas of Tokyo Prefecture. The best location in the city is Meiji Jingu Gaienmae. The ginkgo tree-lined road runs from the park entrance on Aoyama-dori to the Meiji Jingu Gaien to create a tunnel of beautiful golden trees and a carpet of ginkgo to crunch under your feet.
You can also visit Rikugien Garden for great views of gold and red trees surrounding the pond and central island. Located just a short train ride away is Mt. Takao. You can hike to the top or take the chair lift or cable car. The view from the top gives you a distant view of Tokyo and a great vantage point for lush fall foliage.
Check out these tours of Tokyo.
Kyoto: A Serene Paradise Kyoto, renowned for its rich cultural heritage, transforms into an enchanting paradise during the autumn months. The city’s countless shrines and temples are surrounded by captivating maple trees that create a tapestry of colors against their historic architecture.
Check out these tours of Kyoto to help maximize your time in Kyoto.
Nikko: A World Heritage Site Located just a few hours from Tokyo, Nikko National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its stunning natural beauty year-round. During fall, it showcases breathtaking vistas with Japanese maple trees adorning the area around Toshogu Shrine, Lake Chuzenji, and Senjogahara Marshland.
Check out these tours around Nikko.
Hokkaido: Nature’s Wonderland Hokkaido in northern Japan offers an entirely different perspective on autumn foliage due to its cooler climate compared to other regions in the country. One popular destination known for its splendid fall foliage is Daisetsuzan National Park.
Located in central Hokkaido, it boasts vast forests and majestic mountains that become adorned with hues of gold, crimson, and burnt orange as summer transitions into fall. Visitors can explore the park’s well-maintained hiking trails while surrounded by breathtaking scenery.
Check out these tours of Sapporo and Hokkaido
Visit Fall Festivals
To really get the most out of the fall foliage and atmosphere, visit one of the many fall festivals in the country where you can witness vibrant parades, traditional performances, and fireworks displays. Top festivals include:
Takayama Autumn Festival– The Autumn Takayama Festival, or Hachiman Matsuri, is an annual event at the beginning of October to celebrate the good harvest in autumn at the Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine in Gifu Prefecture. The festival parade features matsuri-yatai festival floats that are paraded around the north side of Yasugawa Street. Check out Takayama tours, here.
Kurama Fire Festival– The Karuma no Hi Matsuri, located in Kyoto, is the most famous fire-based festival in the area. Based on the journey of the god Yuki Daimyōjin to Yuki Shrine on the slopes of Mount Kurama in 940 after a series of disasters in the capital. Held toward the end of October, you can witness torch bearers at the steps of Sanmon Gate and select men make their way up the mountain to bring down two portable shrines that are then paraded around the city to show the men’s strength. Find Kyoto Tours Here.
Sapporo Autumn Fest– The Sapporo Autumn Fest is one of the big four events held in Sapporo for each season of the year. Held in Odori Park each September, the festival showcases the best food from around Hokkaido among the changing leaves. See Sapporo Tours Here.
Nihonmatsu Lantern Festival– The Nihonmatsu Lantern Festival is held each year at the beginning of October in Fukushima Prefecture. The festival floats light up the streets of Nihonmatsu to create an exciting and magical experience. Choose from festival food stalls and join the festivities of one of Japan’s most famous lantern festivals.
Jidai Matsuri– Jidai Matsuri, the festival of ages, is one of Kyoto’s biggest festivals. Jidai Matsuri Festival’s procession represents the major historical events in reverse chronological order from the Meiji Restoration (early 19th century) to the Heian period (8th century). If you’re interested in Japanese history, this is a must-visit parade in Japan.
Go on a Hike
Hiking in fall can be an extremely pleasant experience. Whether or not you go to view the autumn foliage, fall in Japan offers cool, crisp air that is thankfully less humid than in summer, and an amazing way to escape the hustle and bustle of the cities.
One of our favorite hikes to see fall foliage is Mt. Takao. Its tree-covered mountains have plenty of hiking trails, shops and restaurants at the top, and views out over the Kanto Plain and onto the city of Tokyo. Mt. Takao is a quick day trip from Tokyo and an excellent way to get out of the city for a few hours.
You can also find great hikes at Mount Odake and Mitake, Nikko National Park, Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park, and Ibaraki Falls. Depending on when you’re in Japan, you may still be able to hike Mt. Fuji. But the season is solely dependent on the weather and snowfall.
The Harvest Moon Festival, Tsukimi, is held every autumn across Japan and continues to be a popular celebration for locals and tourists alike. While Tsukimi translates as “looking at the moon” there is more to the tradition than simply gazing up at the sky. Much like the tradition of hanami for flower gazing during cherry blossom season, the Harvest Moon Festival is celebrated with traditional decorations, key evens, and seasonal food.
Traditionally, tsukimi was celebrated with music and poetry while appreciating the beauty of the moon while later, rice offerings were made to express gratitude for a good harvest. Today, it’s common for people to invite friends or family over for moon-viewing parties where they gather on a balcony or near a window that is decorated with rice dumplings called tsukimi-dango, seasonal offerings like edimame, chestnuts, pumpkins, taro bulbs, and pampas grass.
Temples, shrines, gardens, castles, and outdoor locations across the country also host events with traditional dancing, music, and poetry recitals.
The country’s most famous tsukimi events include:
- Tokyo Tower
- Sankeian Gardens
- Ise Shrine
- Tokyo Skytree
- Himeji Castle
Soak in an Onsen
Onsens, usually called hot springs in English, are an essential Japanese pastime and are a must-do any time of the year especially in the colder seasons like fall and winter.
Hot springs offer visitors a soak in hot natural waters that help to soothe sore muscles and are said to speed up recovery and relieve stress.
Onsens can be found in most Japanese cities, including Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, as well as small cities in virtually every corner of Japan. Some of the best places to experience onsen with beautiful autumn views are:
- Kurikoma Sansō– Akita
- Yamanakako Onsen Benifuji no Yu– Yamanashi
- Takaragawa Onsen Osenkaku-Gunma
- Sainokawara Rotenburo-Gunma
- Renge Onsen Lodge– Niigata
- Maguse Onsen-Nagano
- Hotel Iya Onsen-Tokushima
However, there are some caveats to onsens in Japan. Because tattoos are associated with the yakuza and organized crime, they are universally disliked. Most onsens, gyms, beaches, and pools have rules prohibiting all tattoos. Some allow tattoos as long as they’re not visible, with some offering skin-colored patches that can be used for areas not covered by a standard bathing suit. However, it’s a good idea to check the individual onsen’s policies before arriving because they are very strict about them and will rarely make exceptions.
Read Also: Bookish Essentials for Fall
View Pom Pom Plants at Hitachi Seaside Park
In Japan, autumn doesn’t just mean beautiful ginkgo or maple trees but also vibrant kochia plants that make the Miharashi Hill in Hitcahi Seaside Park a unique and exciting experience.
Located in Ibaraki Prefecture, about two hours away from Tokyo, the seaside park overlooks the Pacific and is famous for its year-round flower gardens.
In Autumn, the spherical kochia pants turn a vibrant red. In September, you can view over 2 million orange cosmos plants, while the pink variety can be seen in October.
While Japan as a whole doesn’t celebrate Halloween, there are some Western Halloween influences that have sprung up in pop culture. Apparently, Halloween started increasing in popularity thanks to the Halloween events at Tokyo Disneyland in 2000.
While there is no trick-or-treating, there are plenty of Halloween-inspired treats, especially jack-o-lantern-shaped sweets. Usually, convenience stores and chain restaurants also have special treats or menus to celebrate the holiday.
Most Japanese focus their energy on creating elaborate costumes and fun events and parties like zombie runs, flash mobs, or dance parties.
Some of the biggest Halloween events are still at theme parks like Tokyo Disney Resort and Universal Studios. The theme parks come to life with fall decor, characters decked out in Halloween costumes, and, in the case of Universal Studios, feature haunted houses to keep your fill of frights.
Taste Fall Foods
After the intense heat and humidity of Japanese summer, fall is a time to enjoy warm and cozy foods that fill you up and keep you warm as the weather turns. Seasonal foods like chestnuts, sweet potatoes, and mushrooms should definitely be tried this time of year as they’re readily available and even more tasty this time of year.
Japan also has fall dishes that are primarily eaten this time of year and are something you should try while in the country.
Nabe- Nabe is a Japanese hot pot. Vegetables, meats, or seafood are cooked in a dashi broth in an earthenware pot. Vegetables usually include napa cabbage, carrots, daikon radish, leeks, and onions.
Oden- Similar to nabe, oden is an assortment of proteins and vegetables that are simmered in a dashi broth at low heat. Oden usually includes daikon radish, fish cakes, tofu, eggs, kokkyaku or konjac jam. Some oden comes with squid or octopus. While oden may seem very similar to nabe, and is actually a type of nabemono, the ingredients themselves are what make them different.
Nikuman- Nikuman or steamed meat buns are seen all year in Japan. As the weather gets colder, a hot steamy meat bun may be the exact thing you need to warm yourself. Nikuman are typically made with pork, but you can get virtually any variety around Japan. Convenient stores often make pizaman, or steamed pizza buns, or anko, red bean paste inside.
Sukiyaki- Another hot pot dish, sukiyaki, is created with slices of beef and vegetables cooked in a sweet soy broth. Shirataki noodles usually accompany the meat and veggies, while a raw beaten egg is often served on the side as a dip to create a sweet, creamy sauce. It’s a favorite during the colder months but can be found year-round.
Read Also: Japanese Foods to Eat in Spring
Japan Fall Travel Tips
- During fall in Japan, temperature fluctuations are common. It’s typical for the weather to start to be relatively cold only to suddenly hike and be quite hot. Plan on bringing clothes to accommodate for uncertain temperatures. See our Japan fall packing list.
- There are multiple public holidays in the fall that may change the operating hours for many businesses. September has Respect for the Aged Day and Autumn Equinox, October has Sports Day, and November has Culture Day, Shichigosan, and Labor Thanksgiving Day.
And there you have it, our guide to the best things to do during fall in Japan. Hopefully, you’ve learned the best time to visit Japan in autumn, some fun things to do in the fall, and all the tips you need to see everything you want to during this magical time of year.
Being a very popular time of the year to visit Japan, think about planning your trip early. Booking flights and hotels as early as you can set your travel plans will potentially mean a less expensive trip. Also, look into travel insurance both for accidents happening during your trip and for unexpected cancelations. Make sure to check out our posts about fall in Japan for more information.
Are you ready for Japan?
- Book Your Flights– To find the cheapest flights, flexibility is a must. Some great options are Google Flights for the calendars to find the cheapest options, Skiplagged, and Skyscanner. For more options see our resources page. For Japan, check flights for both Tokyo Airports (Haneda and Narita), as well as Osaka (Kansai).
- Find Transportation- Buy your JR Pass for your bullet train and inter-city travel before you leave home. Research a Suica card, the public transportation card you can either buy before or as soon as you arrive.
- Book Your Accommodation– Look at Booking.com, Hotels.com, or Expedia for hotels in Japan. You can also look at AirBnB or VRBO as we’ve had great luck finding inexpensive, large, and clean homes to rent.
- Book Tours and Experiences- Check Klook or Viator for some of the best tours and attractions for a great price for experiences like Tokyo Skytree, TeamLab Borderless, and Universal Osaka. For Tokyo Disney Resort, check my guide here.
- Stay Connected– Order a pocket WIFI for airport pickup if you’re with a family or group, or order a SIM card just for your phone. Check out our guide to staying connected here.
- Buy Travel Insurance- I always recommend World Nomads for insurance. It’s better to protect yourself in case of mishaps. Learn more about World Nomads in this FAQ post.
- Pack Your Bags– Check out my packing lists, or my favorite travel gear to help you remember all of the essentials.
- Learn About Japan– Learn about Japan with guidebooks like Lonely Planet, or, shameless plug, search around my site for more info.
THIS ARTICLE MAY CONTAIN COMPENSATED LINKS. PLEASE READ THE DISCLAIMER FOR MORE INFO