Autumn is one of the best times to visit Japan. During autumn it is the perfect temperature to enjoy one of Japan’s scenic hikes. More notably, this is the time that the leaves change colour and Japan’s usually lush greenery is transformed temporarily into a complex palette of reds, oranges and yellows. Prepare yourself for the beautiful scenery Japan’s autumn has to offer with this guide to Japan’s best autumn hikes.
Nikko is one of the most popular places to see autumn leaves in the Kanto region and is the perfect day trip for those visiting or residing in Tokyo. There are many things to see here including the famous Toshogu Shrine and Kegon Falls. The most famous points of interest are easy to commute between, so you can visit a lot of them in one day. There are also various hiking locations around Nikko with varying degrees of difficulty, each offering beautiful and unique autumn scenery.
My personal favourite is the area around Lake Yunoko, which offers a 3 km walk around the lake. It is near Yumoto Onsen and takes about 1 hour and 10 minutes. On a sunny day you will be treated to the reflection of the autumn leaves in the water of the lake, which creates a stunning image that would rival even the greatest of paintings. Another favourite of mine is the hiking trail at Kanmangafuchi Abyss. This is a pleasant, riverside walking trail that takes you through a gorge and is lined by about 70 stone statues. The trail is only a few hundred metres long and is close to Toshogu Shrine, so it is an ideal detour to make during a day of sightseeing.
【Official website】 https://www.env.go.jp/en/nature/nps/park/nikko/index.html
【Best time】 mid Oct – late Oct
【Access】 From Tobu Asakusa Station take the limited express to Tobu-Nikko Station. It takes about 2 hours and from there, there are various buses that can be taken to different sightseeing areas. A map from the Tobu-Nikko tourist centre provides a clear guide of the bus stops and times.
Minoh Park, Osaka
Minoh Park is located half an hour from downtown Osaka. It’s an easy hike that leads to its main attraction, its stunning waterfall. The hiking trail is paved and only takes about 45 minutes to get to the waterfall. During autumn, the leaves transition into brilliant hues of red, orange and yellow and frame the waterfall beautifully, creating a striking photo opportunity. As a result, autumn is one of the most popular seasons to visit and it is recommended that you come on a weekday to beat the crowds.
Along the hiking trails are various stalls selling a variety of snacks and trinkets. One of the most well known and my personal favourite is Momiji tempura, fried maple leaves. A snack that is not only interesting but delicious, it will also provide you with the energy you need to get to the waterfall. At the waterfall there are seats from which the view can be enjoyed and more stalls selling hardier food like chicken skewers and sanma, grilled fish popular in autumn.
【Official Instagram】 https://www.instagram.com/minohkoen_minohpark/?hl=ja
【Best time】 late Nov – early Dec
【Access】 From Hankyu Umeda Station take the Takarazuka Line to Ishibashi Station. From there take the Hankyu Minoh Line to Minoh Station. The journey takes about 25 minutes altogether.
Ginsendai is located at the eastern part of Daisetsuzan National Park. It is one of the first places in Japan where autumn leaves can be viewed. There is a variety of flora in the area and the leaves change to different colours during autumn, providing a rich tapestry of yellow, orange and red. Furthermore, during some early mornings a sea of clouds blankets the area creating a serene atmosphere. The trail from Ginsendai leads to the peak of Mount Akadake and takes about 3 hours. At the peak you will be treated to an epic view of the autumn colours cascading down the mountain range. The hiking trail is suitable for inexperienced hikers though the path can get rocky at some points. During mid-September, which is the peak of autumn for this area, traffic is regulated and only shuttle buses are granted access.
【Best time】 mid Sep
【Access】 From JR Kawakami Station, take the bus for 30 minutes to Sounkyo Onsen, then change to the shuttle bus and ride for 40 minutes to get to Ginsendai.
Mount Nakano Momiji, Aomori
Mount Nakano Momiji is a beautiful place to view autumn foliage while enjoying an easy hike. There are various trails leading from Nakano Shrine, with 4 kinds of different maple to be seen. Additionally, you’ll be able to see various well-known historical trees such as a 200 year old Japanese maple, a 600 year old Great Cedar and a 200 year old Fir tree. At the entrance of the hiking trail there are numerous food stalls selling delicious traditional Japanese food and snacks. The hike from the entrance to the main maple leaf viewing area takes around 20 minutes and provides breathtaking views of Fudo Waterfall and crystal clear streams.
Though Mount Nakano Momiji is beautiful all year round, I recommend going during autumn as there are a number of special events during this time. One notable event is Koyo-doko, which is an outdoor tatami platform set up especially during autumn. Here, people can dine while appreciating the magnificent waterfall and vibrant autumn colours. A bento box containing local seasonal ingredients must be pre-ordered at least two days prior to using this platform. Another reason to go during autumn is the evening light up event, which illuminates the colourful leaves at night. It creates an enchanting and mysterious atmosphere as you explore the scenery in a different light.
【Official website】 https://kuroishi.or.jp/english/nakanomomijiyama-en
【Best time】 mid Oct – early Nov (during this time the park is lit up from 5-9 pm)
【Access】 Take the Konan bus from Kuroishi Station for 30 minutes and stop at Nakano Minami Guchi.
Taishaku Gorge, Hiroshima
The Northern part of Taishaku (Kami-Taishaku) has a well maintained path with many fascinating points of interest. The path runs parallel to Taishaku River and as a result the relaxing and gentle sounds of the stream can be heard as you walk. During autumn, this already beautiful ravine is transformed from luscious green to rich autumnal shades.
The first landmark that you will pass on the trail is Hakuun Cave, which can be entered for ¥300. Inside you can see many interesting geological formations such as stalagmites, rock formations protruding from the cave floor. After continuing on the walking trail you’ll find the highlight of the hike, Onbashi Bridge. It’s known as the largest natural bridge in Japan and was formed by the river slowly carving out an arch within the limestone. This impressive bridge is a stunning photo spot and where most people usually end their hike. To get to the bridge it is a half an hour walk from the trailhead. Another point to note is that bikes can be rented at the trail’s entrance and ridden on the path.
【Official website】 http://taishakukyo.com/en/
【Best time】 late Oct – early Nov
【Access】 Take the bus going to Shushi from Tojo Station for about 18 minutes and stop at Kami-Taishaku.
We hope this guide has given you a taste of some of Japan’s spectacular autumn locations. Japan has many beautiful hiking destinations and it’s no wonder autumn is such a popular time to visit. If you have a hike to recommend, please feel free to leave it in the comments.