Every year from October, the long and narrow Japan gradually enters the world of green, yellow, orange, and red. Many people like to come to the mountains and forests in autumn to enjoy this sight, which is called “red leaf hunting” in Japanese.
Many tourists flock to Kyoto for the hunting. For someplace a little less busy, we recommend heading to Tokyo instead where you can slow down and enjoy the beautiful maple trees in their autumn glory.
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Where are the best spots to see maple leaves around Tokyo?
1. Hananuki Gorge
Hananuki Gorge is a beautiful gorge in Takahagi City in Ibaraki Prefecture. It’s about 2-3 hours from Central Tokyo and it makes for a great overnight camping trip.
It has small and large waterfalls and various hiking trails. But its main draw is the Shiomi Falls Suspension Bridge. The bridge is built over a waterfall and river and it offers a vivid scenery of the maple leaves during autumn.
The best time to go here is at the end of November.
2. Ryuzu Falls
Ryuzu Falls is a twin waterfall located at Nikko in Tochigi Prefecture. It’s about 2 hours away from Tokyo and it can be visited on a day trip.
Ryuzu means “dragon head” in Japanese, referring to the two streams separated by a huge rock. It eventually gushes into Lake Chuzenji.
There is a viewdeck where you can easily enjoy the view of the waterfall. It’s also recommended to follow the footpath next to the falls, where you can watch the waterflow and the autumn leaves.
Ryuzu Falls is a charming place to visit all-year-round. To enjoy the maple leaves, come here from late September to early October.
3. Irohazaka Road
Irohazaka Road is a pair of winding roads that connect Nikko City to the mountainous Okunikko Region. It’s chosen as one of the 100 best roads in Japan.
This road offers a magnificent panoramic view of its surrounding. It’s also one of the more popular spots for autumn viewing, so to avoid traffic it’s best to avoid going on weekends or holidays.
The red and gold leaves can be enjoyed from late October to early November.
4. Hakone Choanji Temple
Hakone Choanji is a temple of the Soto school of Zen Buddhism, located at the base of a hill in Nakone. It’s only less than 2 hours away from Tokyo.
Hakone Choanji Temple is one of the quieter places to enjoy autumn viewing. It also hosts an impressive array of over 200 rakan statues (and counting!) over the temple grounds. The Gohyaku-rakan statues are the disciples of Buddha and each statue has a distinct expression.
5. Hakone Museum of Art
The autumn foliage of Hakone begins at Lake Ashino and then moves to Senshigahara, Johoro and Kosugiya. One of the most beautiful spots is the Hakone Museum of Art, which is less than 2 hours away from Tokyo.
Usually people visit the museum for its performances, but its outdoors are just as charming. There is a moss garden with a walking path surrounded by maple trees, a waterfall, a pond, and a Japanese Garden called Sekirakuen Garden which is open on selected days.
The best time to go here is in November.
6. Hayakawa Bridge
The Hayakawa Bridge (Dezan Railway) is located between Tonosawa and Ohiradai stations on the Hakone Mountain Railway. During the foliage season, there is a special service where the train stops on the bridge for a few seconds to allow you to enjoy more of the valley’s autumn colors.
Tips for enjoying the foliage
- Book your airline tickets and accommodation as early as possible, as airline seats are hard to come by during the foliage season and accommodation in popular places is often fully booked, especially for the stunning foliage with hot springs.
- You can find out the real-time foliage conditions at local tourist offices or weather information.
- There is a big temperature difference during the foliage season. Even if the sunshine is strong during the day, remember to prepare warm clothing at night.
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This article is contributed by a guest author.