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GUIDE Japan in November

Brilliant blue skies and vibrant colors

For most of Japan, November brings brisk air, clear skies, and radiant autumn foliage, making it one of the most pleasant months to travel. The weather does gradually become chilly, especially in the mornings and evenings, but a hot spring excursion is a simple remedy for any cold spells you may encounter. Keep an eye out for Christmas lights and illumination events—many of which begin in November.

Know Before You Go

  • November weather ranges from cool to chilly making sweaters a hot commodity
  • Kyoto can be particularly busy at the end of November when the leaves are at their peak
  • Temples and shrines in urban areas often have splendid gardens—ideal for effortless autumn leaf viewing

November weather at its best in Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa

Autumn colors around Japan

The Japanese words momiji and koyo refer to red and yellow leaves, the star attraction of the autumn season. Mountain and lakeside areas are popular destinations, but you can enjoy the colors practically anywhere. Most shrines and temples have attractive grounds with their fair share of maple trees.

In and around Tokyo

With a large number of ginko trees showing their colors from mid-November to early December, the Meiji Jingu Gaien Stadium may be Tokyo's most celebrated spot for autumn leaf viewing. Other easy to reach locations in downtown Tokyo include Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens near Tokyo Dome and Rikugien Gardens in Ikebukuro .

Rigukien Gardens

An easy day trip from Tokyo, Nikko is home to the Nikko Toshogu Shrine —one of Japan's most celebrated and architecturally impressive shrines. The leaves in the grounds are an additional reason to visit should you need one. Another popular side trip from Tokyo is the seaside temple town of Kamakura . If there after dusk towards the end of the month, head to Hasedera Temple to see the red maple leaves illuminated.

Nikko Toshogu Shrine—the leaves shouldn't be your only reason to go

Kyoto and other locations

Autumn leaves come to Kyoto late, with the season starting in mid-November. Choose from temples, shrines, former palaces and scenic riverside locations to enjoy the leaves in the ancient capital. To see the leaves after dark, visit Kiyomizudera Temple for the light up event that runs from mid-November to late December.

Kiyomizudera Temple is one of Kyoto's most popular attractions

If you are timing your visit for early November, consider visiting Koyasan in Wakayama . The popular mountaintop temple town gets its share of autumn color ahead of Kyoto.

Illuminations and other events

Illumination events mark the onset of long dark nights and the upcoming winter season. Many of the biggest and best like the Sagamiko Illumillion in Kanagawa and the Nabana no Sato Winter Illumination in Mie begin in November, or even earlier.

Lights at the Sagamiko Illumillion

If you can make it to Kyushu between November 11 and 31, you may like to see some sumo. The last major tournament of the year takes places at the Fukuoka Kokusai Center . Reserving tickets in advance is always a good idea and you can find information on how to do so here: http://www.sumo.or.jp/EnTicket/

Kyushu also hosts the Karatsu Kunchi , a big festival put on by a small town in Saga Prefecture . Held from November 2 to 4, the highlight is the final day when teams carry giant, colored festival floats through the streets.

Karatsu Kunchi festival floats

Take off the chill

If you feel the cold easily or catch a spell of unseasonally brisk weather, visit one of the country's many hot spring resorts. Atami Onsen is a popular coastal resort in Shizuoka and Arima Onsen is a well-known resort in Hyogo Prefecture —just a short distance from Kyoto.

Arima Onsen

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