As summer transitions to winter, Japan begins to cool down, offering temperate weather perfect for outdoor excursions and city outings. On top of that, from mid-November to early December, the trees turn vivid hues of red, orange, and yellow as the leaves begin to fall. It's this combination of cool weather and striking sights that make fall one of the most popular seasons for traveling to Japan.
Most of Honshu and Kyushu rest around a pleasant 16 degrees Celsius in October and November . As you move further up north, temperatures begin to cool down, and for most of the season, the island of Hokkaido is cold enough to require a winter jacket.
As the summer heat wanes and a winter chill begins to set in, Japan's dense forests begin turning hues of vivid orange, yellow, and red. Traditional gardens and parks showcase these autumn colors and attract crowds of visitors eager to see the changing leaves.
If in Tokyo, be sure to head to the Rikugien Gardens , a traditional Japanese garden with striking autumn views.
Consider taking an overnight trip to Lake Kawaguchi at the base of Mt. Fuji. From here you can enjoy views of Mt. Fuji reflected in the serene lake waters, with crimson trees dotting the banks and surrounding mountainsides.
With an abundance of internationally renowned temples and shrines, Kyoto is a perfect destination for autumn leaf viewing. Numerous gardens and temples, such as Kiyomizudera Temple , offer what are arguably the most spectacular views of the season.
In addition to the striking transformation of the maple and ginkgo trees, there are also several varieties of flower that bloom at this time. You'll find chrysanthemum, spider lily, and cosmos flowers colorfully displayed across the country.
The changing colors and temperate weather make autumn an ideal time for traditional festivals and events. Regardless of your location, you're sure to encounter numerous local festivities, each boasting centuries of rich history and traditions.
One of the most famous festivals during this season is the Nagasaki Kunchi Festival . Celebrating the autumn harvest, the festival was founded over 350 years ago. Held in the beginning of October, the festival also features a unique connection with the west, given the presence of Dutch traders off the coast of Nagasaki in the 17th century. You'll witness processions of mikoshi floats, Chinese-influenced dragon dances, and Dutch-inspired rituals.
Later in October, the residents of Kyoto celebrate the Jidai Matsuri , which is known as one of the three great festivals in Japan. The festival commemorates the emperor's return to power during the Meiji Restoration and features a long procession of portable mikoshi shrines, samurai-clad locals, and traditional music performances. The parade ends at Heian-jingu Shrine where festivities continue.
Most other regions and cities also boast their own noteworthy festivals, from the Dai Ginza Maturi in Tokyo to the Nihonmatsu Lantern Festival in Fukushima. These festivals provide a glimpse into Japan's rich history and long-lasting traditions.
The perfect weather and low rainfall make fall a prime time for sporting events and outdoor recreation.
Taking place on the southern island of Kyushu, the Saga International Balloon Fiesta draws hobbyists from all over the world, who come together to launch over 100 balloons into the sky. The multi-colored array of bulbous balloons floating above the countryside is a sight to behold. In addition to a formal competition, there are also kids events, a display of novelty balloons, and an evening balloon display. The event is held annually at the beginning of November.
In mid-November, the Kobe Marathon welcomes approximately 20,000 runners with more than 600,000 supporters. As a small oceanside city, the marathon runs across the town from city hall to Kobe Harbor, with lovely views of the bay and charming city streets.
Take a peaceful stroll accompanied by fall foliage and lights. Several fall illuminations attract thousands of couples and families looking to enjoy a pleasant evening walk.
If you're in Tokyo during in mid-November or early December, be sure to see the evening illumination at Rikugien Gardens . The lights are specifically positioned to provide the most serene views of the red Japanese maples and autumnal trees.
On the southern island of Kyushu, you'll find the Kingdom of Lights , a spectacular display of 10 million lights that illuminates the Dutch-themed Huis Ten Bosch theme park. The festival is held from early November to early May.