An Explosion Of Colors – Exploring Japan In Autumn (momijigari)

momijigari is the Japanese custom of visiting parks, forests, or natural areas where the foliage has turned crimson and shades of orange in the fall season. The Japanese tradition of momijigari goes back centuries and each fall as the maple, cherry and many other deciduous trees begin to change people begin their exploration of these beautiful areas.

There are many reasons to celebrate and enjoy the changing seasons in Japan but the practice is more about experiencing this annual ending of summer and transitioning into winter more than anything else.

Kiyomizudera-Temple Kyoto-in-autumn

People view maple trees in locations all across Japan. The most common way to view these vibrant trees is by hiking into the forested areas of the Japanese mountains like Mount Takao to observe the various trees along the way.

The leaves change at different rates in Japan. Checking a foliage forecast before visiting different areas can assist you in determining the best time to explore these areas. No matter what, the many green spaces across Japan make experiencing momijigari magical.

Japan Autumn Leaves Forecast

RegionBegin Color ChangePeak ColorsLeaf DropFull Leaf Drop
HokkaidoEarly OctoberMid OctoberEarly NovemberLate November
TohokuEarly to Mid OctoberLate OctoberLate November Early December
KantoMid to Late OctoberMid NovemberLate November Early December
ChubuMid October Mid November Late NovemberEarly December
KansaiLate OctoberMid-NovemberLate NovemberEarly December
ShikokuLate October Mid November Late November Early December
ChugokuEarly November Late November Early DecemberMid December
KyushuMid November Late November Early December Mid December
Fall Foliage Forcast Across The Regions Of Japan

Autumn in Japan

Autumn is one of the most beautiful seasons in Japan because of the vibrant colors. The colorful vegetation makes visiting any shrine, temple, or natural landscape feel unreal and magical. During autumn, your eyes are drawn to maple trees because of the intense variety of colors.

Daigoji temple in the autumn

Maple trees are the most eye-catching tree in Japan during autumn because of their bright red and orange leaves. November is one of the optimum times for leaf viewing in Japan. Between late October and early December, the leaves change colors to yellow, orange, and red.

The rate these leaves change color vary, which is why checking your foliage forecast for precise blooming information can be helpful.

What is momijigari?

Momijigari is the Japanese tradition of viewing leaves during fall that dates back to the Heian period. Buddhists believe viewing maple leaves at full bloom is a reminder of life and longevity.

This dedicated practice of momijigari focuses primarily on the popular maple tree, which blooms bright red across nearly every part of Japan.

Arashiyama in autumn season along the river in Kyoto

The bright red leaves of the maple tree draw attention during momijigari. The time that momijigari begins varies on the blooming forecast. Based on the region, leaves may begin to change in early October.

The most common time to view fall foliage is in mid-November. Between mid-November and late December, the leaves in Japan are bright and colorful. There are many places and ways that you and your loved ones can choose to participate in leaf viewing.

Places to Celebrate Momijigari in Japan

There are many places to celebrate momijigari in Japan. Generally, the objective of the celebration is to feel a connection with nature, life, and the spiritual. As you celebrate this traditional Japanese event, you should find a place where you feel truly connected with nature.

Yoyogi Park (Tokyo)

Yoyogi Park is perfect for viewing leaves because of its many large and mature maple trees. Their changing colors during fall make any park with these trees a popular choice for picnics and casual strolls.

This park is great for viewing the gorgeous fall landscaping because of how accessible it is. The long stone pathway around the park is comfortable to walk along.

There are also many benches, tables, and waste disposal bins around the park where you may take a seat and observe the scenery and watch the people visiting.

Yoyogi Park Virtual Walk

Yoyogi Park beautiful autumn foliage in Tokyo

Yoyogi Park Official Website

The reliable stone path is great for bringing strollers, riding bikes, and walking pets. The accessibility of this Yoyogi park means that the whole family can explore the park to celebrate the changing season.

The only exception to this rule is dogs, which you must walk inside a fenced area to ensure they do not escape onto the busy Tokyo streets nearby.

Yoyogi Park In Tokyo

You can find several points of interest and landmark stamps throughout the park as you observe the trees.

These give a glimpse of this park’s long, historical past, which involves the army, the Olympics, and much more. As you take in nature, it can be interesting to learn new things about Japan as well.

Eikando Temple (Kyoto)

Eikando Temple is a great place to visit while in Kyoto during autumn to view the incredible displays of color and view the changing of the season. There is a two-story Tahoto-style pagoda located on the popular Philosopher’s Walk in a forest of gorgeous trees along with other temple structures.

Eikando Temple Official Website

Eikando Temple 360 Virtual Tour

The red temple is at the base of a hillside between thick patches of bright red maple trees. The way Eikando Temple blends with the trees during autumn makes viewing the leaves here a surreal experience. Plus, from the top of this popular temple area, you have a full view of Kyoto below.

Eikando Temple Pagoda

Viewing Kyoto from this angle creates a unique experience. Visiting the temple is free, and it is open every day of the week, which means you can visit this temple to celebrate momijigari any time during the fall season.

Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens (Tokyo)

Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens is a park in Tokyo, that is full of blossoming plant life. This gorgeous park has a plant for every season and hosts an annual Autumn Leaves Festival every November.

Many beautiful plants come to life in the middle of autumn at Koishikawa Korakuen. One of these is the leopard plant, which blooms bright yellow and orange. These blossoming flowers are especially bright against the base of the tall, orange, and red maple trees.

Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens Official Website

Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens

Virtual Tour Of Koishikawa Korakuen Garden

The entry price is 300 yen for junior high students and older. A half-off discount rate is applied for people of 65 ages or older. English-speaking guides are available free of charge on Saturdays.

Ueno Onshi Park (Tokyo)

Ueno Onshi Park is a large park with nearly 10,000 trees. In autumn, Ueno Onshi Park is the perfect place to casually stroll or take a seat and celebrate the beautiful maple trees. The park has been open for over 140 years, with continuous improvements to maintain and improve its ground design.

Ueno Park Official Website

Ueno Park in Autumn

Ueno Park Virtual Walk

A large paved path surrounds the park that is perfect for walking and viewing the many colorful maple trees. The paved path is large enough for groups and is great for biking individually or in pairs.

It is a great place for viewing the autumn leaves because of the expansive lawn area for sitting. The large park has naturally shaded grass areas and naturally shaded picnic tables. They also have areas in the sun for sitting and observing the trees on cooler days.

Akame 48 Waterfalls (Osaka)

The Akame 48 Waterfalls is one of the most beautiful places for viewing trees in autumn. This waterfall is a small hike down a trail that takes less than one hour at a leisurely pace. If you go to the waterfall in the middle of November, red maple trees will line the trail. 

Akame 48 Waterfalls Official Website

Akame 48 Waterfalls Virtual Tour

Bright red maple trees surround the waterfall small waterfall. Although it is too cold to swim during this time of year, the Akame 48 Waterfalls is still one of the best places for celebrating momijigari.

In addition to the amazing foliage, the Akame 48 Waterfalls are allegedly the birthplace of ninjas. Celebrating momijigari in this place is a true way of acknowledging the power of nature.

Events to Explore in Japan During Fall

Japan has a variety of enjoyable activities, events, and places that you can visit to take in the beautiful fall colors. Traditionally, you would celebrate momijigari under trees or by hiking in the forest. There are other ways to view the trees, though.

 Autumn Colors Enryaku-ji is a Tendai located on Mount Hiei in Otsu

Many festivals take place throughout fall to celebrate the changing of seasons, including Nagasaki Kunchi. This festival celebrates everything about fall, including the autumn colors of Japan during autumn.

Many other festivals take place in the fall, where you can observe the beautiful scenery and experience a piece of Japan’s most important culture. For instance, the yearly celebration called Jidai Matsuri, which is considered Kyoto’s most significant festival.

Jidai Matsuri Festival

The Jidai Matsuri Festival is an ancient festival where a procession of Imperial Soldiers carry the shrines of former Emperor Kammu and Emperor Komei. In this ceremony, their spirits are free to leave the enshrinement to join the four-hour celebration.

Jidai Matsuri Festival Kyoto

The festival takes place in October, with the surrounding area in the midst of blooming. This festival is considered one of Kyoto’s most sacred festivals. It has a lot of spiritual significance, and there are many historical accuracies.

Nagasaki Kunchi

Nagasaki Kunchi is a famous Japanese festival that people have been celebrating for over 350 years. This famous festival celebrates fall harvests, with many people coming to the streets to celebrate the bountiful agricultural harvests.

floats from the Nagasaki Kunchi Festival

This festival takes place between October 7th and October 9th of each year. It is a great time to see the vibrant colors from across Nagasaki all at once as people come together to share and sell their harvest produce. 

On the streets, people partake in lively festivals and “Ja Odori” performances. These performances are renowned celebrations, which show how colorful Japan can be.

MT Lee
My fascination with Japan began several years back at a roadside bonsai stand while on vacation. I became more interested in the where and why's more than the trees themselves. My love of Bonsai led me to further research my interest in the gardens where they originated from and the places and people that surrounded those little trees. My curiosity was well rewarded upon visiting Saitama where the National Bonsai Museum was located and Omiya Village the bonsai mecca for lovers of this ancient art form. Exploring many towns and villages and even making my way to Japan's furthest southern prefecture of Okinawa. I hope to share my love of this wonderful and exotic place with all those who want to know more about Japan.