Do you remember your first autumn experience abroad?
It is still vivid in my memory. I was sitting on the banks of Lake Kawaguchi in Japan, surrounded by autumnal trees dressed in red, orange and yellow.
Inspired by the mesmerizing sight before me, I penned a Haiku, an ode to autumn:
Flashes of gold, red, ochre
Dancing in the wind
I recently discovered that the Japanese even have a word for appreciating the autumn foliage: Momijigari (red leaf hunting) or Koyo (red leaves).
The harbingers of autumn in Japan are clear blue sky, brightly coloured leaves, shorter days, longer nights, and dry cold air.
Autumn begins in mid-September to December, for about three months. If you have the opportunity, you should visit Japan during this season at least once in your lifetime, you will not regret it.
Time to get your JR Pass ready to experience what Japan has to offer during autumn. Here are some of the best spots in Japan to experience autumn with your loved ones.
1. Arashiyama, Kyoto
Located on the outskirts of Kyoto, Arashiyama (Storm Mountain) is well-known as a place of scenic beauty and was a favourite retreat of the emperors and aristocrats in ancient times. Today, this area is also known for its exorbitant suburban homes.
Apart from the insta-famous Bamboo forest, there are so much more to Arashiyama. Go on the Sagano Scenic train ride, which is also Kyoto’s Romantic Train, and as its name suggests— it is truly a romantic experience to pass through the mountains overflowing with Japanese maple trees and listen to the soothing burbling sound of the Hozu-gawa River. Try to get your tickets at the station early and wish hard that you’ve been assigned to a window seat.
2. Mount Takao, Tokyo
As a matter of fact, it is impossible to miss the beautiful foliage even if you are taking a leisure stroll in bustling Tokyo. Consider venturing out of the city for a while, take a day trip to Mount Takao, which is only one hour away from Shinjuku station.
It is said that Mount Takao is home to the tengu, which is a variety of yōkai (supernatural monsters). But don’t you worry, there are no monsters in sight.
Take the Takaotozan Cable Car ride to the observatory deck on top of the mountain and, lo and behold, a spectacular view of the forest blanketed in gold and scarlet foliage greets you.
If you’re in the mood to hike up the mountain, there are several hiking trails designed for beginners to advanced hikers.
After taking in the marvellous view from the top of the mountain, treat yourself to a bowl of Mount Takao’s signature dish, Tororo soba (buckwheat noodles topped with grated Japanese yams), at Takahashiya located at the foot of the mountain.
3. Fuji Five Lakes
Possibly the world’s most beautiful volcano, Fuji-san, the highest mountain in Japan at 3,776 metres above sea level. Fuji-san last blew its top in the late 16th century. The volcano is now dormant, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world to marvel at the snow-capped beauty.
Autumn is the most beautiful time to visit any of the Fuji Five Lakes (Yamanakako, Kawaguchiko, Saiko, Shojiko and Motosuko), with the iconic Fuji-san in the background.
If you’re travelling from Tokyo, then I’d recommend taking a trip to Kawaguchiko. There is an Autumn Leaves Festival (Fuji-Kawaguchiko Momiji matsuri) that takes place on the northern shore of Lake Kawaguchiko. It has a designated ‘Momiji Corridor’— a walkway lined with plenty of maple trees in bright red, orange and yellow that proves to be an alluring sight and it is also a prime location for photography.
But if you wish to take in the sights of the autumnal leaves far from the tourist crowd, then take a trip to Lake Yamanakako, the largest lake of the Five Fuji Lakes. Apart from the stunning scenery, there are reputable outdoor hot spring baths in this area too.
4. Hoshi no Buranko in Hoshida Park, Osaka
Literally the swing of the stars, Hoshi no Buranko in Hoshida Park is a 280-metre-long giant suspension bridge at about 50-metre-high, which is about 15 storeys. As this long bridge connecting the two valleys looks like a bridge over the milky way hence it has been described as a swing.
The wooden suspension bridge offers panoramic views of the forest valleys. The atmosphere is even more spectacular during the autumn season. Imagine gazing out into the gorgeous natural landscape that is covered in soft shades of gold and scarlet, what a sight to behold.
5. Lake Ashinoko, Hakone
I’m sure you have seen that iconic Instagram photo featuring the giant waterside torii gateway of Hakone Shrine and Fuji-san in the backdrop, and that, is none other than the legendary beauty – Lake Ashinoko. It was formed in the caldera of Mount Hakone after the volcano’s last blew its top 3,000 years ago.
During autumn, the surrounding forested slopes will be shrouded in vivid colours, and the best way to admire the spectacle is to cruise on Lake Ashinoko and we bet you’d wish the entire journey to be longer than 30minutes!
6. Ryuzu Falls, Nikko
Fall paints the landscape in crimson red at Nikko city in Tochigi Prefecture. Just two hours of train ride from Tokyo, you’ll find yourself in a mythical city full of natural wonders. Nikko is famed for its rugged wilderness, ornamental temples and shrines, as well as therapeutic hot springs.
I had no idea that the surrounding trees near the waterfalls transformed into vivid colours of crimson and oranges faster, it is usually the first site that reveals the change in season. And that brings us to Ryuzu Falls in Nikko.
According to the locals, Ryuzu Falls is Nikko’s underrated beauty that puts on an amazing autumn display and is a prime location for photography. What is interesting about Ryuzu Falls is that it resembles the shape of a dragon head. Hence it was named literally— as Ryuzu means ‘the head of a dragon’.