Some of the best spots for autumn leaves in Hokkaido can be found in its southern area, known as donan. This region is gorgeous, with its abundance of natural scenic locations like Hakodate’s famed Goryōkaku Park as well as the Onuma Quasi-National Park.
From accessible towns to breathtaking cliffs that you can only reach by boat, there are many places where you can enjoy the picturesque fall scenery. According to the Japan Meteorological Corporation's foliage forecast released on September 2, 2021, autumn colors are expected in Hakodate around November 3.
The scenery is even more beautiful when the autumn leaves in Hokkaido begin changing color from mid-October to early November. Read on to find out more about the best fall foliage spots in the area of southern Hokkaido.
- Table of Contents
- 1. Goryōkaku Park: One of the Best Tourist Attractions for Autumn Leaves in Hokkaido
- 2. Kōsetsuen: Where You Can Enjoy Fall Foliage at Night Too!
- 3. Motomachi Park: Western Style Streets and Fall Foliage All Around
- 4. Sasanagare Dam: Don’t Miss the Reflection of Fall Foliage in the Water
- 5. Mt. Esan: A Deep Crimson Carpet in Nature
- 6. Onuma Quasi-National Park: Incredible Scenery
- 7. Iwabe Coast: Enjoy the Scenery from Across the Sea
- 8. Umemura Garden: Surround Yourself with Japanese Aesthetics and Autumn Leaves in Hokkaido
- When is the best time to see autumn leaves in Hokkaido?
1. Goryōkaku Park: One of the Best Tourist Attractions for Autumn Leaves in Hokkaido
Goryōkaku Park is located just around the center of Hakodate City. The park is well-known as a viewing spot for sakura (cherry blossoms) during spring, but come fall, the red autumn leaves create a landscape that is just as beautiful, but in a completely different way.
If you look down from the 107-meter tall Goryōkaku Tower, you will be able to witness the breathtaking view of the red autumn leaves spreading throughout the star-shaped area of the park.
Strolling along the riverbank is another excellent way to enjoy the fall foliage up close. In particular, you will get to see the red foliage of azaleas if you stroll along the riverbank that goes along the Ninohashi bridge within the star-shaped area.
This is also an ideal spot for capturing some commemorative shots as the fall foliage and bridge are reflected in the waters.
Goryōkaku is just a 10-minute walk away from the "Goryōkaku Kōen Iriguchi" bus stop, making it conveniently accessible.
2. Kōsetsuen: Where You Can Enjoy Fall Foliage at Night Too!
In the center of Miharashi Park, which is a 40-minute bus ride away from Hakodate Station, is Kōsetsuen. Kōsetsuen is a landscape garden that was constructed in 1898 as one of the city’s most luxurious villas.
Later in 2001, Kōsetsuen was designated as a “Place of Scenic Beauty” under the Law for the Protection of Cultural Property and became the only landscape garden in Hokkaido to be officially designated as a cultural property.
There are approximately 150 different kinds of trees planted, out of which most are maple trees. When autumn comes, Kōsetsuen is bustling with lots of visitors looking to enjoy the fall foliage.
Fall foliage starts in late October at Kōsetsuen and ends in early November. In line with the Hakodate MOMI-G Festa event held during this period, rows of maple trees stretching almost 100 meters will be illuminated in Kōsetsuen.
- Address 56, Miharashi-chō, Hakodate-shi, Hokkaido, 042-0956
・Phone: 0138-57-7210 (Office for Eastern Parks)
・Hours: 24 hours for Miharashi Park (9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. for the pavilion)
・Admission: None (fees applicable for use of the pavilion and exclusive use of baseball park or lawn)
・Closed: None (pavilion is closed to the public from December to March)
3. Motomachi Park: Western Style Streets and Fall Foliage All Around
With streets that exude a feeling of exoticism, the area near Motomachi Park is home to the Old Public Hall of Hakodate Ward and Hakodate Orthodox Church.
In autumn, fall foliage colors the Western-style buildings here, creating a harmonious blend of Japanese and Western aesthetics. Enjoy the red autumn leaves as you stroll around Motomachi.
- Address 12-18, Motomachi, Hakodate-shi, Hokkaido, 040-0054
・Phone: 0138-23-5440 (Hakodate City Tourist Information Center)
・Hours: 24 hours
4. Sasanagare Dam: Don’t Miss the Reflection of Fall Foliage in the Water
A 10-minute walk from the “Akagawa Elementary School” bus stop is Sasanagare Dam, the water source for Hakodate residents.
The dam’s front garden is a popular viewing spot for sakura in spring and for fall foliage in autumn. You can enjoy a scenic view of the lake and fall foliage as you move along from the sides of the dam to the riverbank.
Because of the high water level in Sasanagare Dam, the close distance between the trees nearby and the water surface creates a vivid reflection of the fall foliage in the waters akin to a beautiful painting.
- Address 313, Akagawa-chō, Hakodate-shi, Hokkaido, 041-0804
・Phone: 0138-46-3282（Akagawakōku Water Treatment Plant）
・Hours: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. from the third Saturday of April to 30 September; 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. from 1 October to 23 November
・Closed: 24 November – third Friday of April
*Please note that the facility may close or have changed hours due to Covid-19.
5. Mt. Esan: A Deep Crimson Carpet in Nature
The active volcano Mt. Esan is located on the eastern end of the Kameda Peninsula and has an elevation of 618 meters. A one-hour car ride away from Hakodate Station, Mt. Esan is designated as part of a prefectural natural park.
At the base of the volcano, there are 600,000 Ezoyama azaleas and redvein enkianthus. In fact, the only location within Hokkaido where redvein enkianthus grows en masse is right here, at Mt. Esan. During fall, the redvein enkianthus changes in color, dyeing the whole area red.
With an observation deck and a mountain path available, visitors can admire the stunning scenery from multiple perspectives. You can also drive to Kakogen Parking Lot, which is situated 300 meters above sea level.
- Address Kashiwano-chō, Hakodate-shi, Hokkaido, 041-0521
・Phone: 0138-85-2336（Hakodate City Esan Branch Industry Construction Division）
・Hours: 24 hours
6. Onuma Quasi-National Park: Incredible Scenery
Onuma Quasi-National Park is the only national park within the southern and central area of Hokkaido. It even serves as a resort!
From mid-October to early November, the leaves of the itaya kaede, Japanese emperor oak, and other trees turn brilliant colors, and that is when you will be able to see Mt. Komagatake in the distance cloaked in crimson too.
With a total area of 9,083 hectares, this park is home to multiple lakes and marshes like Onuma, Konuma and Junsainuma. You should definitely consider taking a sightseeing boat to enjoy the views around the islands situated on lakes Onuma and Konuma.
Plus, this park is highly accessible – its nearest station Onumakōen Station is just a 50-minute ride away from JR Hakodate Station via the express train.
7. Iwabe Coast: Enjoy the Scenery from Across the Sea
Situated in Fukushima Town, Iwabe Coast is a scenic location with continuous cliffs. It is part of the Matsumae-Yagoshi Prefectural Natural Park, which stretches around 30 kilometers across Hokkaido’s southernmost towns: Matsumae, Fukushima, and Shiriuchi.
Because no roads lead to the coast, land travel is not possible, but you can enjoy the picturesque scenery of Iwabe Coast from the sea. “Iwabe Cruise” allows you to do just that by offering round-trip excursions to the coast.
With the seabed visible through the transparent glass floor of the boat, you will get to appreciate both the clear waters and the vividly colored cliffs. Be blown away by the majestic view!
Measures against COVID-19 are strictly enforced on Iwabe Cruise, including the disinfecting of seats on the boats and the mandatory wearing of masks by all passengers.
The number of outbound boats and duration of the boat rides have been reduced too, but these can change depending on the situation so please be sure to check out the official website for more details.
IWABE CRUISE (Iwabe Area Exchange Center)岩部クルーズ（岩部地区交流センター）
- Address 65-1, Iwabe, Matsumae-gun, Fukushima-chō, Hokkaido, 049-1325
・Phone: 0139-46-7822（Fukushima Town Factory）
・Hours: 9:00 a.m. – around 3:00 p.m. on days with boat rides
・Admission: 3,000 yen for adults (middle school and older) and 1,500 yen for children (elementary school and younger) for the basic plan
・Closed: Days without boat rides and winter period
*For more information, please visit Iwabe Cruise’s official website https://iwabecruise.com/
8. Umemura Garden: Surround Yourself with Japanese Aesthetics and Autumn Leaves in Hokkaido
Umemura Garden, located in Yakumo Town, is an 8-minute walk away from JR Yakumo Station. It was landscaped in 1930 as a garden to a residence by Umemura Tajūrō, who had moved to Hokkaido from Aichi Prefecture.
This garden has been designated as a cultural property of Yakumo Town and a landscaping heritage site by the Hokkaido Branch of the Japanese Institute of Landscape Architecture.
The Baiuntei Pavilion is a free-to-use rest area repurposed from the storehouse of the old Umemura home that was constructed in 1912. While you are here, be sure to take the chance to appreciate Japanese-style architecture and ornaments close up!
Visitors can enjoy the view of fall foliage from the azaleas, Japanese red pines, and maple trees during autumn. As fall transitions to winter, you will also get to see fresh snow and fallen red leaves piling onto each other, creating a striking contrast perfect for photos.
Social distancing within the garden is currently enforced to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Thorough measures have also been put in place at the Baiuntei Pavilion, where visitors are required to provide their names, contact numbers, and information on their physical condition, plus wear masks.
For more information, please visit the official website:
- Address 154, Suehiro-chō, Futami-gun, Yakumo-chō, Hokkaido, 049-3112
- Phone Number 0137-63-3131
・Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. from 1 April to 30 April and 1 November to 28 December; 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. from 1 May to 31 October
・Closed: Every Monday (and the following day if Monday is a public holiday) from 1 May to 31 October;
・Every Monday and public holidays from 1 November to 30 April;
・Winter period from 29 November to 31 March
When is the best time to see autumn leaves in Hokkaido?
The period between mid-October to early November is the best time for viewing fall foliage in southern Hokkaido. However, in some years, Hokkaido can welcome fresh snow as early as late October.
Fall foliage starts at different times in different areas. If there are places you want to check out, be sure to visit them at the best timing to enjoy autumn leaves in Hokkaido at their peak!
Text by: Minna no Kotobasha
*The above article is based on information from July 2020.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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