Last Updated: Aug 31, 2023

A Guide to Koyo in Japan

Where to See the Autumn Leaves

Donny Kimball
13 min readSep 30, 2017

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A river runs through Tokyo’s area of Okutama, an excellent spot for koyo

Japan is famous for its four distinct and beautiful seasons. From the cherry blossoms in spring to the lively festivals of summer, there’s something awesome waiting regardless of when you visit. With fall just around the corner though, it’s time to start getting ready for the vibrant leaves of autumn. As temperatures starts to dip and the trees begin to change, the entire country turns into a dazzling canvas of brilliant yellow and orange hues. It’s truly a sight to behold!

Since antiquity, the locals have been enjoying the magnificent colors that characterize autumn. As you might imagine, Japan has no shortage of places to enjoy these breathtaking natural vistas. The beauty of the vivid leaves is even further accented when paired with traditional Japanese architecture. Many regions peak in November but some areas can start changing as early as September or as late as December.

The Japanese word for the changing autumn leaves is “koyo.” We’ll be using this term throughout this article so make a mental note before moving on. It’s a lot easier than repeating “the changing leaves of autumn” over and over again. Regardless of the terminology though, it would require an endless number of pages to compile a full list of all the spots. To streamline things, we’ll instead be focusing only on some easy-to-get-to recommendations for foreign travelers.

General Tips for Koyo in Japan

A woman in a kimono holds a DSLR camera for shooting koyo

Cherry blossoms definitely get all the hype but autumn is by far my favorite time of year. Before diving into the specifics though, let’s first take some time to go over some best koyo practices. Keeping these tips in mind when planning an outing will help you get the most out of your leaf-viewing time.

  • Avoid weekend excursions to popular tourist areas. The likes of Kyoto, Nikko, and Nara can typically be crowded as is and Koyo season often marks a dramatic increase in visitors. For these areas, weekday visits are more advisable.
  • Dress in layers. While the…

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Donny Kimball

I'm a travel writer and freelance digital marketer who blogs about the sides of Japan that you can't find in the mainstream media. https://donnykimball.com/