Whether you call it autumn leaves, fall foliage, or changing of the leaves, there’s something special about the bright colors of autumn in Japan. There are thousands of places to witness the changing colors, but we’ve picked out a few places and offered some ideas that will make your autumn in Japan pictures stand out from all the others.
There’s no doubt that shrines and temples are meticulous about their gardens and strategically plant trees and bushes make sure they show their best sides any season of the year. Hasedera Temple in Kamakura is well known for being one of the most beautiful temples to snap pictures of all year round. During autumn in Japan, however, the place really comes to life in a bright display of red, orange and yellow hues. In honor of the trees’ splendorous show, the temple area is illuminated from sunset to 6pm.
Myogi Shrine in Tomioka City, Gunma Prefecture, lies up a slightly perilous path on Mount Myogi but is well worth the hike. The shrine’s location in the middle of the mountain, as well as its elaborate design and gold-plated eaves, has made it a popular setting for samurai movies. It also has a smaller shrine dedicated to the long-nosed Tengu, who guard the mountain paths nearby. Needless to say, this shrine’s secluded location, coupled with brilliant red fall trees, makes it a place worth photographing during autumn in Japan.
Illuminations aren’t just for winter. The vibrant reds take on a new luster when lit up against the dark night, creating a romantic atmosphere. Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo is located smack bang in the middle of the city and has a stunning Japanese garden that is lit up at night. Not only are the vast gardens wonderful to walk around, but you can also get a great view of the trees from most of the hotel’s restaurants. To see the stunning illuminated trees at night, stop by between sunset and 10pm.
Nagatoro in Saitama has a number of popular fall foliage spots, the waterfalls and river being just a couple of them. However, the illuminated trees in Tsukinoishi Momiji Park are particularly spectacular. Pop by between November 1 and 23, from 5 to 9pm.
Bridges add an interesting angle to your photos when you’re shooting from them, and a great focal point when taking pictures of them. Shibukawa City in Gunma Prefecture is famous for its onsen town, where people can leisurely stroll between outdoor public baths past this beautiful bridge to snap a few photos during autumn in Japan. Kajika Bridge is known for the scenery of beautiful autumn leaves and is also believed to possess some sort of spiritual power.
This bridge spans a narrow gorge on the east in Ibaraki and is a popular photo spot for rural tourists. The 60-meter long bridge is suspended above a small stream, offering sweeping views of Hananuki Valley below. The trees create a vibrant canopy of reds as you walk across, and if you time it right, the bridge itself will be completely covered with a carpet of red and orange leaves.
Whether you want the view from a train or of one as it travels through the shades of red, orange and yellow, these choo-choo trains give great views. Mount Takao is popular with hikers year-round, but autumn in Japan is when it really comes to life. The mountain’s cable car is a great way to catch the brightly colored leaves up close as you make your way up. Even better, find a spot with a view of the cable car itself to add an extra dimension to your photos.
Saitama’s Chichibu Railway boasts the closest running steam locomotive to the Tokyo metropolitan area. It’s a full sensory experience with the sharp smell of smoke, the chugging sound of the engine, and the jet black of the locomotive standing in stark contrast to the golden yellow leaves of gingko trees. Although the train normally only runs on weekends, the schedule extends to weekdays during summer and the autumn foliage season. Riding the train offers gorgeous views of the Arakawa River, the Chichibu mountain range in full foliage glory, and harvested rice paddies. Note that the train only makes one return journey on the days it runs!
What could be better than taking in the view of some remarkably fine fall foliage while you soothe your aching bones in the hot waters of an onsen? While it’s not recommended you take any photos of communal baths, renting a private bath and taking pictures of the view from there should be a-okay. Or, for those tired from trekking around looking for perfect spots, it’s a great place to relax and simply enjoy the view in front of you.
Located conveniently less than an hour and a half from Shinjuku, Hakone Yuryo is a hot spring resort tucked away in the Kanagawa mountains. Perfect for a quick stop on a day trip or a moment of respite on a longer trip, it has everything a traveler needs to relax: food, massage, and, of course, onsen. Not only are there large communal baths featuring pottery baths and saunas, there are also 19 private open-air baths available for rental for those who prefer a bit of privacy.
Just a stone’s throw away from UNESCO World Heritage site Nikko Futaran Shrine, Okunoin Hotel Tokugawa is blessed with mineral-rich water veins from the nearby mountain, Nantaisan. The hotel prides itself on its view from its baths, which offers a broad array of colors from season to season. The lounge area is a perfect place to relax after your bath, where you can sip on barley tea made with mineral water pumped up from 70 meters below the hotel grounds. For those who wish to have a sip of something stronger, sesaragi sets (sake served in a floating wooden tub that can be placed in the bath) are also available.