The fall foliage season, called koyo or momiji in Japanese, is the second most popular time to visit Japan, right after Cherry blossom in Spring (Sakura). I honestly have to say that I am entirely grateful to have visited Kyoto during this time of year. I was in awe throughout my whole trip. The combination of beautiful colored leaves together with red and brown shrines and temples was purely breathtaking. If visiting Kyoto during fall foliage is not yet on your bucketlist, then this guide to fall foliage in Kyoto is perfect for you. It will be such an amazing experience that you will never forget!
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When is the beginning of fall foliage season?
This will depend from region to region and I highly recommend you do some research beforehand. I was lucky enough to have booked my ticket right during fall season (this was not intended but I am absolutely happy I did). There are countless websites and forecasting sites that will give you a good indication on when you will see the most colorful trees in which region or city.
I’ve already been to Kyoto twice during November which gave me enough time to explore all the different temples and shrines during the wonderful fall foliage season. But I didn’t just explore those from the guide book, but especially those that you would just randomly find while walking through the streets. I have put together a few tips on how you can make the best out of visiting Kyoto during fall foliage season because this season is mostly super popular both among tourists as well as locals and most areas will be packed with people.
Tip 1: Wake up early
There are definitely a few places you want to wake up super early for – one of those being the Fushimi Inari Shrine as well as the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. But other some of the more popular sites for fall foliage will be a little less crowded early in the morning.
For both Arashiyama as well as Fushimi Inari I woke up quarter to 6 in order to get there by around 7:30. However, even that was not early enough as there were already a few people but it was still much better than if I would have arrived at 8:00 or 8:30.
Do also keep in mind that most temples and shrines close around 4 pm so it is always better to start your day early.
Tip 2: Don’t just follow your guide book
One thing I have learnt during my few days in Kyoto is that every temple that is mentioned in a guide book will be super crowded. They are beautiful and I do recommend visiting them! However, once you go someplace else, you will be able to properly take in the beauty and calmness of the place. Everywhere I go, I always try to just walk and see where I end up. The most amazing places are found when you aren’t looking for anything. And that was exactly the case in Kyoto. By just walking a few more steps to the right or left, you will find yourself in a completely different spot far off from all the tourist crowds. And since Kyoto has so much nature and beautiful streets, you’ll be able to enjoy some amazing fall foliage even by just taking a wrong turn or walking along the smaller streets.
Where to see the beautiful foliage
This one is quite easy to answer: Everywhere. Everywhere you go, you will see bright red, orange, green and yellow trees. You’ll find these trees all around Kyoto. However, to make your trip a little easier and help you plan, I do have some suggestions on where you can take view beautiful colored trees during this season.
Address: Japan, 〒616-8385 Kyoto, Ukyo Ward, Sagatenryuji Susukinobabacho, ６８(〒616-8385 京都府京都市右京区嵯峨天龍寺芒ノ馬場町６８)
Opening Hours: everyday from 8:30 until 5 pm
Admission: only garden: 500 Yen (adults), garden & buildings: +300 Yen, Dharma Hall: 500 Yen
Close to the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, you’ll find the Tenryuji Temple. I highly recommend visiting it right when it opens to avoid the bigger crowds. The colorful trees at the edge of the pond make for a wonderful picture background.
Ninna-ji Temple & Garden
Address: 33 Omuroouchi, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-8092, Japan (〒616-8092 京都府京都市右京区御室大内33)
Opening Hours: everyday from 0 am until 4:30 pm (from March to December until 5 pm)
Admission: general area is free (outside of Cherry Blossom season), there is an admission charge for the Goten, Reiho-kan, and Tea room
One park that I liked a lot was the one around the Ninna-ji temple in the north of Kyoto. You’ll be able to visit the park for free but will have to pay if you want to visit the temple or any other site. You’ll find countless bright red trees that are just absolutely beautiful. Since the park isn’t one of the top tourist attraction, you will also be able to just walk around and admire your surroundings without getting in people’s way.
Address: 1 Chome-294 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0862, Japan (〒605-0862 京都府京都市東山区清水１丁目294)
Opening Hours: 6 am until 6 pm
Admission: 400 Yen
Kiyomizu-dera is a temple at the Gion district in Kyoto and very popular amongst tourists. The views from the temple and the surrounding garden are unbelievable. Especially during the fall season, you will be able to take amazing pictures with the orange pagoda in the background. But you will need to take into account the many people visiting the temple. As a tipp: I recommend walking a bit further and not just staying at the temple because you will find a smaller version pagoda with absolutely no people around it and the views leading up to the small pagoda are unbelievable.
Address: 48 Eikandocho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, 606-8445, Japan (〒606-8445 京都市左京区永観堂町48)
Opening Hours: every day from 9 am until 4 pm
Admission: 600 Yen (adult), 400 Yen (children)
A top attraction and place to visit during fall foliage: Eikan-do temple in the north east of Kyoto. It’s a beautiful area with lots of bright red and orange maple trees. The pond with all the colorful trees in the background make for such great photographs. There is a certain path you will need to follow in order to avoid too many crowds and people in one place. There is also lots of personnel guiding people in the right direction.
Plan at least an hour for your visit to Eikan-do.
And if you are visiting during fall foliage, there is usually also an evening admission to view the maple trees during the night – this is also a must do! But I’ll publish another blog post on all the evening light installations during the autumn season in Kyoto.
Address: 15 Chome-778 Honmachi, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0981, Japan (〒605-0981 京都府京都市東山区本町１５丁目778)
Opening Hours: everyday 9 am until 3:30 pm
- Tofukuji Honbo Garden (Hojo): 500 Yen (adults), 300 Yen (children)
- Tsutenkyo/Kaisando: fall foliage season 1000Yen (adults), 300 Yen (children)
- Common admission ticket for Tofukuji Honbo Garden (Hojo), Tsutenkyo Bridge, and Kaisando Hall: fall foliage season: no admission ticket
Tofuku-ji Temple and the Tsutenkyo Bridge are a very popular spot for viewing the fall foliage. You can find many bright orange and red maple trees at this temple. The pictures really don’t do this place justice.
Address: 15 Chome-795 Honmachi, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto 605-0981, Japan (〒605-0981 京都府東山区本町１５丁目795)
Opening Hours: everyday from 10 am until 4 pm
Admission: 1000 Yen
This temple is located close to Tofuku-ji temple and should not be left out. Although the admission fee is a little higher than other temples it is still so beautiful with all the beautifully colored trees and flower arrangements throughout the garden.
Site of Kotokiki Bridge
Address: Sagatenryuji Tsukurimichicho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-8384, Japan (〒616-8384 京都府京都市右京区嵯峨天龍寺造路町)
Opening Hours: 24/7
When taking the bus to Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, you will get off next to the Kotokiki Bridge which grants you with a view of a forest full of colorful trees. And even if it is raining, the view is still pretty spectacular.
I do hope this guide on where to see fall foliage in Kyoto was helpful for you. Make sure to check out my other Japan blog posts by clicking here.
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