Experience Japan in Autumn – The Ultimate Guide

Experience Japan in Autumn – The Ultimate Guide

Japan in autumn is a breathtaking display of nature’s artistry. The crimson maples, golden ginkgos, and fiery oranges – create a mesmerizing panorama everywhere you look.

Fall is a time to explore the beauty of Japan.

Experience Japan in Autumn - Iwatake
Source: Events Hakuba

The crisp, fresh autumn air, rich cultural heritage, and traditional festivals and events are a must for any Japan traveler. From the Japanese Northern Alps to the temples of Kyoto, autumn’s unrivaled beauty cast a spell of wonder.

This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know to plan your perfect autumn trip to Japan – from what to pack to the best places to visit and must-see festivals.

What to Pack

Deciding what to pack for a trip, especially in the fall, can be challenging. The weather can change on a dime,, and you must be prepared for anything.


Think of layers when packing. Bring a mix of short and long-sleeved shirts, lightweight pants, and a light sweater or jacket for cooler evenings. A waterproof coat or umbrella is also essential, as occasional rain is common in autumn.


Comfortable walking shoes are a must on any trip to Japan. The best autumn leave spots require walking. Whether hiking up a mountain or trekking from the train, good shoes keep your feet comfy and happy.


Here are some of our recommended travel accessories

  • Travel Adapter: Japan uses Type A and Type B plugs, so ensure you have the correct adapter for your devices.
  • Portable Charger: Charging your phone and camera is crucial for capturing those beautiful autumn moments.
  • Reusable Water Bottle: Staying hydrated is essential during your travels; a reusable bottle helps reduce plastic waste.
  • Camera: Bring a good camera or smartphone with a high-quality camera to capture the stunning fall foliage.
  • Daypack: A small, comfortable backpack for carrying essentials while seeing the sights.
  • Sunglasses and Hat: Protect yourself from the sun during your daytime excursions.

Weather Overview

The fall season in Japan typically runs from September to November, with mid-October being the peak for autumn colors. The Japan Meteorological Corporation provides a helpful interactive map for tracking the changing colors throughout the country.


Early September can still feel like summer, especially in Honshu and Kyushu, where temperatures range from 20℃ to 29℃. Hokkaido is cooler, with temperatures between 14℃ and 22℃. Be wary of potential Typhoons. Typhoon season is usually from mid-May to mid-October.


By early October, the temperature starts to drop across Japan. Honshu and Kyushu have temperatures ranging from 15℃ to 23℃, while Hokkaido is much cooler, with temperatures between 6℃ and 14℃. The autumn foliage begins in northern Hokkaido and gradually moves south.


Mid-November is the peak month for fall foliage in Japan. Honshu and Kyushu have average temperatures of 8℃ to 16℃, while Hokkaido has temperatures between -1℃ and 6℃. The autumn colors are at their height in early November in Tokyo and Kyoto and gradually move south until late November.

Best Places to Visit


Experience Japan in Autumn - Tokyo
Source: Canva

Kyoto is renowned for its breathtaking autumn foliage. Arashiyama, Kiyomizudera Temple, and Daitoku-Ji combine spectacular fall colors and a once-in-a-lifetime Japanese cultural experience. The shrines and temples of Kyoto, adorned by the golden and crimson hues of autumn leaves, make it a must-visit destination during the fall season. The Unesco World Heritage site of Kiyomizudera is especially popular during this time, as the temple’s wooden stage offers a stunning view of the city surrounded by colorful trees.


Experience Japan in Autumn - Nikko
Source: Canva

Nikko is another favorite destination. The combination of natural beauty and cultural heritage is one for the bucket list. Edo-Mura, a traditional Japanese theme park, will transport you back to the Edo period. Immerse yourself in traditional Japanese culture. Experience wearing a kimono amidst breathtaking autumn foliage and witness the rich heritage of Japan come to life. The peak time for autumn leaves in Nikko is early November.


Experience Japan in Autumn - Hokkaido
Source: Canva

Hokkaido’s expansive landscapes and beautiful mountain ranges offer a unique Japanese autumn experience. Hokkaido’s Daisetsuzan National Park and Shikotsu-Toya are a must-visit for outdoor lovers. The autumn foliage here starts earlier than in the rest of Japan.


Experience Japan in Autumn - Tokyo
Source: Canva

Even in the bustling city of Tokyo, you can find pockets of autumn beauty.  Within a train ride from central Tokyo, you can see the stunning Mt. Takao and enjoy the hiking trails with the spectacular autumn leaves. Also, don’t miss out on Rikugien Garden and Yoyogi Park for a peaceful autumn stroll. The peak time for autumn leaves in Tokyo is November to early December.


Experience Japan in Autumn - Nagano
Source: Events Hakuba | Mike Humphrey

Nagano is another excellent destination for combining autumn foliage viewing with outdoor activities. Karuizawa, Hakuba, and Kamikochi are popular spots for Japan autumn leaf viewing. Kamikochi, in particular, is known for its picturesque views of the Kappa Bridge and Mt. Hotaka. The peak time for autumn leaves in Nagano is late October to early November.

Autumn Festivals

In addition to visiting these beautiful locations, make sure to check out some of Japan’s autumn festivals. These festivals celebrate everything from food to cultural traditions and are a great way to experience Japanese culture.

Otsukimi (Tsukimi)

  • Dates: Mid-September to late October
  • Location: Nationwide.

This moon-viewing festival celebrates the harvest moon, considered the most beautiful moon of the year. It involves decorating homes, eating white rice cakes, and gathering with friends and family.

Takayama Autumn Festival

  • Dates: Early October
  • Location: Takayama, Gifu Prefecture.

Known as the Hachiman Festival, it features tall decorated floats and marionette dolls that perform during the festival.

Nihonmatsu Lantern Festival

  • Dates: First Saturday, Sunday, and Monday of October
  • Location: Nihonmatsu, Fukushima Prefecture.

One of Japan’s top lantern festivals, it features seven floats representing different parts of the city, each decorated with lanterns and accompanied by music.

Jidai Matsuri

  • Dates: Mid-October
  • Location: Kyoto, from the Imperial Palace to Heian Shrine.

This “Festival of the Ages” features a large parade with participants dressed in historical costumes from various periods of Japanese history.

Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri

  • Dates: Mid-September
  • Location: Kishiwada, Osaka Prefecture

This high-energy festival involves teams pulling large, intricately carved wooden floats through the streets at high speeds.

Nagasaki Kunchi Festival

  • Dates: Early October
  • Location: Nagasaki, Nagasaki Prefecture.

Celebrating the autumn harvest, this festival features colorful floats and performances influenced by Dutch and Chinese traditions.

Activities and Experiences

Seasonal Cuisine

Autumn is a time to enjoy seasonal Japanese dishes. Popular autumn foods include roasted sweet potatoes (yakiimo), chestnuts, and wagashi (Japanese sweets). Some regions also have unique dishes for the harvest season, such as chestnut rice (kuri gohan) and matsutake mushroom soup. Many restaurants offer limited-time menus featuring these seasonal ingredients, so it’s an excellent opportunity to try new flavors and traditional dishes.

Sumo Grand Tournament

  • When: Mid-September
  • Location: Ryogoku Kokugikan, Tokyo

The tournament is known for its intense atmosphere, especially during the day’s final matches. Spectators often engage in traditional activities like cushion-throwing and cheering.

Matches occur throughout the day, with lower division matches starting in the morning and top division matches in the late afternoon. The busiest times are weekends and the final days of the tournament.

Travel Tips

  • Book Early: Autumn is a busy travel season in Japan, so book your accommodations well in advance.
  • Stay in a Ryokan: Consider staying in a traditional Ryokan for a unique experience.
  • Photography: Bring a good camera to capture stunning fall scenery; early mornings and late afternoons provide the best photo lighting.
  • Pack Smart: Bring layers, as temperatures can vary. Don’t forget comfortable walking shoes for exploring.
  • Language Prep: Learn basic Japanese phrases to enhance your experience; carry a translation app or phrasebook.
  • Rail Pass: If you plan to travel a lot, purchasing a Japan Rail Pass may be cost-effective for unlimited train travel.
  • Experience the Autumn Colours: Enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking or cycling to fully experience the beautiful autumn foliage.
  • Try New Flavors: Don’t be afraid to try new foods and flavors during your trip, especially seasonal dishes only available during this time.
  • Attend Festivals: Check local event calendars and attend traditional harvest festivals or celebrations to immerse yourself in Japanese culture.


Autumn in Japan is a magical experience filled with natural beauty, cultural richness, and seasonal delights. Use this guide to make the most of your trip. Book early, pack wisely, and immerse yourself in the vibrant culture of Japan.


What can travelers expect when visiting Japan in autumn?

Crimson autumn leaves and perfect weather characterize autumn in Japan. From mid-September to early December, the maple trees turn vivid red, making it a beautiful season for outdoor activities and sightseeing.

Is Japan autumn the best time to visit?

The best time to visit Japan in autumn is mid-September to early December. The exact timing may vary depending on the region, but this period offers the best fall foliage and pleasant temperatures.

What are the highlights of visiting Japan in autumn?

Highlights of visiting Japan in autumn include stunning fall foliage, numerous cultural festivals, delicious seasonal foods, and various outdoor activities. Popular destinations such as Kyoto, Nikko, Hokkaido, and Hakuba offer some of the best autumn experiences.

Which is better, Japan’s cherry blossoms or fall leaves?

Both cherry blossoms and fall leaves offer unique and beautiful experiences in Japan. Cherry blossoms symbolize the arrival of spring, while autumn leaves showcase the vibrant fall colors. It ultimately depends on personal preference and what type of experience you are looking for. Both seasons have their charm and should not be missed. So, it is difficult to say which one is better as both offer unforgettable experiences in Japan.