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.
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.
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 .
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.
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.
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.
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.