Autumn and spring are arguably the best seasons in Japan. Although mercilessly short, these seasons both offer visually beautiful natural treats. Springtime in Japan brings us the pink and white clouds of cherry blossoms, and autumn presents us with the rich contrasting colors of its changing leaves.
We recently showed you the best places in Kyoto to catch an eyeful of autumn tranquility, but for those who might not make it there this year we’d like to share the ten best places in all of Japan to enjoy the fall.
The following ten locations were voted on by readers of the travel website 4travel in an annual poll of Japan’s Beautiful Sightseeing Fall Foliage Spots, 2013. Let’s start with number 10 and work our way to the top.
Image: Mt. Takao Official Web Site
Located about an hour away from the urban center of Tokyo, Mount Takao can be a convenient escape for many autumn leaf lovers. Mount Takao received a perfect score from Michelin and offers a variety of things beyond the foliage like a monkey park.
This highland region was declared a Special Natural Monument among other official honors due to its wide areas of unspoiled natural beauty. So it’s no wonder people come here to see some of the best golden leaves in country. The protection of all this beauty was credited to a British missionary, Walter Weston whose image can be seen on a monument there.
Image: Shiretoko Goko Lakes
This unique cluster of lakes was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Surrounded by vast nature on the northern coast of Hokkaido it’s the perfect place if you really want to get as far away from it all as possible when watching some fall foliage. The lakes themselves act as mirrors giving visitors double the beauty.
Image: Wikipedia – Geomr
Also known as Yamadera, this mountainous trail near Yamagata City was once mentioned in a poem by Matsuo Basho for its now treasured sound of cicadas in the summer. However, in the fall the golden hue that falls over the trees is equally if not more beautiful.
Mount Arashi to the west of Kyoto City is a double threat offering nationally famous views of both cherry blossoms and autumn leaves. Both are said to be best seen from the Togetsukyo, the bridge pictured above.
Image: Takachiho Official Site
Rowing a boat along this waterfall-decorated gorge any time of the year would be a beautiful getaway, but when the leaves take on the extra colors or autumn the experience is heightened that much more.
Image: Nara Park Quick Guide
This massive park in Nara holds various national treasures as well as gorgeous landscapes which turn a rich red, yellow, and green during the autumn season. While there, don’t forget to feed a deer or two, but only if they bow first.
Image: Miyajima Tourist Association
Also known as Itsukushima, it’s called one of the three views of Japan with its famous offshore tori that can only be walked under during low tide. If you’re coming here for the autumn leaves then you best go to Momiji-dani Park (Autmun Leaves Valley Park) at the foot of Mount Misen. And afterwards you can head up Mt. Misen and get look at the leaves in all their glory from above.
While Miyajima is said to be one of the three great views of Japan, Kenroku Garden is one of the three great gardens of Japan. Aside from its meticulously landscaped paths and ponds there is also Mount Yamazaki which is also called Momiji Mountain for it’s wonderful fall leaves. Readers at 4travel recommend going up Momiji Mountain first and then as it gets dark making your way back to Kasumiga Pond which lights up in the evening. Other readers say that the charm of Kenroku is that every visit feels different and never gets old.
All of these things made Kenroku Garden the number one choice for autumn leaves in 2012. However, this year it got edged out by…
Image: Ise Jingu Official Site
One of – if not the most – famous Shinto shrine in Japan, Ise draws flocks of tourists all year round. However, its display of foliage during the fall season is said to be remarkable. Previously at number two in Japan for autumn viewing, Ise Shrine’s Inner Shrine overtook Kenroku garden thanks to Shikinen Sengu. This is a special time when the shrine gets regularly scheduled upgrades and renovations. This is considered a more festive time making it even more popular.
Voters on 4travel chose Ise Shrine this year largely because of the unique atmosphere created by the Shikinen Sengu where you can see and smell the fresh wood alongside the older structures of Ise.
If you happen to be in the neighborhood of one of these locations then you might want to check them out in the coming month or so. Unfortunately these types of seasonal wonders can be hard to predict from year to year making it difficult to plan too far in advance. Just make sure you say a little prayer to the red leaf god for when you have some vacation time.