In mid-September the summer heat is still at full strength in Kanto and Kansai. However in Hokkaido, koyo (autumn foliage) season begins. Let’s go take a look at the beautifully colored mountains and streets lined with colorful trees!
Autumn in Hokkaido: About Hokkaido’s Fall Foliage
Fall colors in Hokkaido start from Mount Asahi in the Daisetsuzan Volcanic Group and move south. A unique feature of the mountains in Hokkaido is various broad leaf trees and conifers are mixed together, such as maple (kaede), Japanese rowan (nanakamado), black locust (niseakashia), Ezo spruce (Ezo matsu, and Sakhalin fir (todo matsu).
For this reason there are three colors of red, yellow and green which come together and create something special. Also you don’t have to go to the mountains or forest to enjoy the fall colors: you can find streets lined with trees like Japanese rowan, which turns red, and gingko (icho) and poplar, which turn yellow. Also the gingko in Hokkaido changes color around mid to late October, which is around 1 month before Tokyo.
Spot #1: Daisetsuzan Volcanic Group Mount Asahi
Best time to visit Mount Asahi in autumn:
Reach Daisetsuzan Mount Asahi Sugatami Station via the Asahidake Ropeway!
From Asahidake Onsen Sanroku Station at an altitude of 1,000m it takes 10 minutes riding the ropeway to reach Sugatami Station at 1,600m. From Sugatami Station it takes about an hour walk to reach the First Observation Point, Fourth Observation Point, Sugatami Observation Point and Fifth Observation Point. From here you can view Hokkaido’s tallest Mountain Mount Asahi (reaching 2,291m) and the reflection of Mount Asahi on Sugatami Pond. It is said that this is the first place in Japan where autumn’s colors start and the best viewing season is from mid to late September. Japanese rowan and Erma’s birch (dakekanba) fill the mountain side with red and yellow.
Hours: 6:30 AM ~ 5:30 PM (varies on the season)
Closed: November 11 ~ December 10
Price: Roundtrip 2,900 yen (Plans to change. 1,800 yen from October 21 ~ November 10)
Access: About a 2 hours and 30 minute drive from Sapporo City to Asahidake Onsen. 1 hour and 25 minutes via express train from JR Sapporo Station, get off at Asahikawa Station and take the shuttle bus Ideyu-Go for an hour and 30 minutes and get off at Asahidake.
Two waterfalls flowing from the colorful cliffs of Sounkyo
Sounkyo is a hot spring area that is located in Kawakami Town which is east of Asahikawa. Along the Ishikari River there is a cliffside of about 24km in the valley. There are also around a dozen hotels in the area. In autumn the cliffs of Sounkyo and Mount Kuro turn red and yellow. A famous spot to view the colors are at Ginga Falls and Ryusei Falls, a pair of waterfalls which is about a 5 minute drive on National Route 39 from Sounkyo Onsen. (The pair of waterfalls have poetic names in Japanese: ginga meaning “galaxy” and ryusei meaning “meteor”.) After climbing for 20 minutes from the parking lot, you will reach the Sobakudai observation deck where you can see both waterfalls and the colorful leaves sprawled across the cliff.
Access: About 3 hours and 45 minute drive from Sapporo. 1 hour and 25 minutes by express train from JR Sapporo Station, get off at Asahikawa Station and a 1 hour and 55 minute by bus to Sounkyo.
Artistic Sight: Autumn Leaves of Jigokudani Surround the Crater Site with Steam Rising
Jigokudani (Hell Valley) are areas in which volcanic activity is particularly pronounced, in the form of massive steam vents, bubbling open-air hot springs, or sulfur-coated hills. This particular hot springs area was created by the crater explosion due to Mount Hiyori’s volcanic activity. Jigokudani with a diameter of 450m has steam rising and the desolate scenery looks like hell. There are wooden paths along Jigokudani and you can view the gorgeous autumn scenery of Japanese rowan, Japanese sumac, and Erman’s birch.
Spot #4: Jozankei
Best time to visit Jozankei in autumn:
Late September ~ mid-October
Fall foliage at Jozankei Onsen - Also Known as a Retreat in Sapporo
Jozankei Onsen is located in the southern part of Sapporo City. It is a hot spring area that was established in 1866 by the Buddhist monk Miizumi Jozan. Thanks to convenient access from Sapporo City, it is called Sapporo’s Okuzashiki (a hot spring retreat) and sees many visitors throughout the year. There is a path to enjoy the beautiful valley and especially the view from Jozankei Futami Suspension Bridge, which is a 10 minute walk from the hot spring district, is spectacular. There are also free foot baths, so one can enjoy the beautiful view of the colorful valley and casually explore.
Access: About 50 minutes by care from JR Sapporo Station (there are also busses)
Fall colors at a Recreation Center in Sapporo City
A park located 3km south from JR Sapporo Station and past Susukino. It is one of Japan’s City Parks and also listed in Japan’s Top 100 Historical Parks. From the park entrance there is a path with gingko trees along the side and a large pond that reflects the beautiful fall foliage. The park has a concert hall and also the home to important cultural properties such as Hoheikan and Hassouan. The colorful leaves on the trees around the pond and the city buildings is impressive.
Access: 5-minute subway ride on Namboku Line from Sapporo Station to Nakajima Koen Station.
Spot #6: Hiraoka Jugei Center
Best time to visit Hiraoka Jugei Center in autumn:
A Red Nomura Momiji Tunnel
Hiraoka Jugei Center is a garden in Sapporo City and also called Midoream. In this large garden there is a Japanese style garden, and a western style garden. In the spring 7 different types of cherry trees blossom and in August 700 trees of 8 types of momiji (Japanese maple) turn red. It is famous for the red tunnel created by the Nomura momiji, and has many visitors during the fall foliage season. Also the design garden made by around 3,000 Japanese yew cut in a cone or round shape is impressive.
Operation Hours: Late April ~ early November 8:45 AM ~ 5:15 PM
Closed: Monday (if Monday is a holiday, the next day will be closed)
Access: 20 minutes by bus from JR Sapporo station, get off at Hiraoka 4 jo 2 chome and a minute walk.
Hiraoka Jyugei center平岡樹芸センター
- Address 〒004-0874 北海道札幌市清田区平岡4条3丁目／4jyo 3choume, Hiraoka, Kiyota-ku, Sappro-shi,Hokkaido 004-0874
- Phone Number 011-883-2891
Spot #7: Hokkaido University Icho Namiki (Gingko Avenue)
Best time to visit Hokkaido University Gingko Avenue in autumn:
Late October ~ early November
The Yellow Arch on Hokkaido University Campus
The national university Hokkaido University was originally established in 1876 as Sapporo Agricultural College. The large campus located on the northern side of Sapporo Station has many noteworthy sites such as the poplar tree line avenue, Hokkaido University Museum and the historical building Sapporo Agricultural College Farm No. 2. In autumn around 70 Japanese yew trees along the 380m street on campus will turn yellow. The branches create an arch makes a spectacular view.
Closed: Monday (if Monday is a holiday, the next day will be closed)
Access: 5 minute walk from JR Sapporo Station
Hokkaido Daigaku Icyou Namiki北海道大学イチョウ並木
- Address 〒060-0808北海道札幌市北区北8条西5丁目／Kita 8jyou Nishi 5 chome,Kitaku,Sappro-shi,Hokkaido 060-0808
- Phone Number 011-716-2111
Dynamic Autumn Colors that Cross the Mysterious Shiretoko
At the peak of Shiretoko Odan Road which crosses the world natural heritage site Shiretoko Peninsula is Shiretokotoge (Shiretoko Pass). From here you can see Shiretoko’s highest peak, Mount Rausu, and Kunashir Island, part of the northern territories across the Nemuro Strait. The pass located at an altitude of 738m is covered with Japanese stone pine (haimatsu), while Erma’s birch and Japanese rowan cover the slope in yellow. There is parking area at Shiretoko Pass where you can enjoy the view.
Hours: Anytime (passage is available from late April ~ early November)
Access: 9 hours and 50 minutes by car from Sapporo. 7 hours by the Eagle Liner bus from Sapporo Station Bus Terminal, get off at Utoro Onsen Bus Terminal, 25 minutes by car.
- Address 〒099-4100 北海道斜里郡斜里町国立公園内／Shiretoko Kokuritukouen,Syari-cho,Syari-gun,Hokkaido 099-4100
Shari-cho Tourism Association）
※Unless explicitly mentioned, all prices include tax.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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