Autumn in Kyoto is a beautiful, vibrantly colored season thanks to the red and yellow leaves of autumn foliage. While Japan is a country well known for the beautiful natural changes that accompany each of its seasons, it's Kyoto that demonstrates this best.
There are several well-known spots for viewing the autumn leaves in Kyoto, and every year, autumn brings many tourists for "autumn foliage hunts", hoping to enjoy the fall colors.
This article will introduce Kyoto's must-see fall foliage viewing sites, from popular sites that draw crowds of tourists from around both Japan and the rest of the world, to lesser-known hidden gems.
1. Arashiyama: Where you can experience the resplendent fall scenery interwoven with both mountains and rivers
Arashiyama, Kyoto's leading tourist spot, has long been famous as a picturesque area with beautiful cherry blossoms and fall colors. When it comes to autumn in Kyoto, most representative of the fall foliage scenery in the Arashiyama area is Togetsu-kyo Bridge. This is where you can view the sight of Arashiyama Mountain colored in reds and yellows. The harmony of the bridge, mountain and river creates a resplendent scenery that feels uniquely Japanese, and it has become a popular photography location.
At Kaneyama Park, located in the hills of Ogurayama Mountain northwest of Togetsu-kyo Bridge, you can appreciate the fall colors of the cherry blossom and maple trees while walking the park's paths. The observation deck in Kaneyama park is a well-known spot that gathers camera-lovers who want to capture shots of Japanese houseboats on the Hozu-gawa River and the scenic train against a background of fall foliage. There is also a park in the path that lead to Tenryu-ji Temple and a bamboo forest, which is a popular route to take to sightsee shrines and temples in the fall season.
2. Enjoy true autumn in Kyoto with a cruise down the Katsura-gawa River
Katsura-gawa River runs through Arashiyama and is called Hozu-gawa upstream of Togetsu-kyo Bridge. Around 30,000 visitors come every year to enjoy popular boat tours down the river. The boat tours began as a way to carry lumber and other supplies utilizing the flowing river water, and later came to be enjoyed recreationally.
Boating down Hozu-gawa River on a small boat as it winds through the mountains, you can relish the beauty of nature in the water spray crashing against the rocks, the mirror-like clarity of the watery depths, and the mountains towering on both sides of the river. The face of the mountains are particularly stunning when brightly colored by the red, yellow, and green trees of their valleys in the autumn. As fall visits the area even before it reaches central Kyoto, try a boat ride to enjoy the foliage in a unique way.
3. The Takao Region: Covered entirely by Kyoto fall colors
The Takao Region is located in a mountain valley approximately one hour by bus from Kyoto Station. Along with the Makino-o and Togano-o regions nearby, the area is known as Sanbi. The three temples of Jingo-ji in Takao, Saimyo-ji Temple in Makino-o, and Kozan-ji Temple in Togano-o are all renowned fall foliage viewing sites. In fall, many visitors from both within Japan and internationally come to visit.
Including the autumn trees surrounding the temple grounds and the fallen leaves that create a red carpet up the temples' entrance paths, the region is packed with scenic spots. The Kiyotake-kawa River flows through Sanbi, forming a valley lined with beautiful foliage. This sight is said to resemble a brocade when colorful with fall leaves, and so the valley is known as Kin-un-kei, "Valley of Brocade Clouds". There is a path along Kiyotaki-kawa River, allowing for pleasant hiking as well.
4. Maruyama Park: A hidden gem only known by locals
Maruyama Park opened in 1886 and is the oldest park in all of Kyoto. You can reach Maruyama Park by leaving Gion-Shijo Station of the Keihan train line, heading straight south on Shijo-dori until you reach the dead-end of Gion Crossing, and passing through Yasaka Shrine where you will reach the park at the base of the mountain. The park is famous as a cherry blossom viewing site for its weeping cherry blossom trees. But it is actually a hidden gem of autumn in Kyoto as a fall foliage viewing spot as well. With a lake and walking paths within its 86,600-square kilometer area, you can stroll through the park while enjoying the maple trees growing thickly overhead.
The charm of the paths piled high with fallen leaves in particularly exceptional. There are pavilions and benches located throughout the park available to rest on if you get tired from walking. Despite being situated near Chion-in and Kodai-ji Temples, the park gets many fewer visitors, making it a recommended spot for a quiet viewing of the colorful fall leaves.
5. The tunnel of fall leaves covering The Philosopher's Path
The path following the flow of Lake Biwa Canal is called "The Philosopher's Path". It is said to have earned its name because philosopher Kitaro Nishida frequently took walks along the pathway. It runs approximately 1.5 kilometers from Wakaoji Shrine to Ginkaku-ji Temple. Cherry blossoms and maple trees line both shores of the canal, allowing for enjoyment of their flowers in the spring and fall colors in autumn.
The reflection of the fall foliage in the clear flowing water of the canal is beautiful, also making the path popular as a photography spot. You can appreciate the fall season by the waterside by taking a stroll while viewing the bright red foliage overhead. With the other popular Kyoto fall foliage spots of Nanzen-ji Temple, Eikando Temple, and Honen-in Temples located nearby, the path makes a nice spot to detour to for a walk.
Main photo: (C) Hozugawa Yusen Sightseeing Boat Association
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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