2 Special Ways to Enjoy Autumn Leaves in Japan | CoolJapan

Autumn in Japan is a magical season of crimson leaves and pleasant weather. (Photo from: PIXTA)

Autumn in Japan is a season to look forward to, with vibrant fall foliage painting the landscape in hues of red and yellow. As the summer heat makes way for cooler temperatures, it is a great time to head outdoors and enjoy the best of what nature has to offer.

Similar to cherry blossoms, viewing autumn leaves (known as Momijigari) has long been a popular activity in Japan. To see the colours of autumn foliage at their peak, the best period, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency’s forecast, is from the end of October to early December.

There are plenty of beautiful autumn leaves viewing spots across Japan, from national parks and sacred shrines to gorges tucked away in the mountains. Here are two special ways to admire this stunning autumn spectacle.

A mirrored floor of maple trees at Houtokuji Temple

The historical Houtokuji temple is framed by over 100 maple trees and a Japanese rock garden. (Photo from: Kiryu Tourist Association)

Houtokuji Temple, a Buddhist Zen temple founded in the Muromachi period (1336 - 1573), is a hidden gem located in the tranquil mountains of Gunma Prefecture. It was originally built around 1450 as a fortress to protect the back entrance of Kiryu Castle.

Keeping with the philosophy of Zen, this building is a simple wooden structure without extravagance. The main attraction of this temple is the gorgeous main room that reveals a breathtaking view of the Japanese maple trees in the surrounding gardens.

Every year in autumn, more than 100 maple trees in the shrine grounds transform to a vivid yellow and red. This beautiful display is reflected onto its shiny polished floor, creating a remarkable visual effect. Away from the premises of Houtokuji temple, you can also see the vibrant autumn leaves of nearby Mount Narukami, one of the 100 famous mountains in the Kanto region.

During the peak of the fall season, Houtokuji’s exclusive main hall opens to the public for a special paid viewing exhibition. There is also a light-up night event happening in November, where the serene temple grounds will be illuminated for a truly surreal experience.

While you are there, enjoy a languid walk and go on a search for the many Jizo statues scattered within the temple grounds. Jizo statues are said to be guardian angels whose primary role is to protect children and travellers. At Houtokuji, 50 adorable Jizo statues are waiting to put a smile on your face, each uniquely exuding a calm expression.

Jizo statues welcome visitors at Houtokuji temple. (Photo from: Photo-AC)

Houtokuji floor maple exhibition

Public Viewing: 20 October to 30 November 2023
Opening Hours: 9AM to 4PM
Light-up Event: 11 to 28 November 2023
Opening Hours: 5PM to 8PM

Take a spectacular train ride through a Momiji tunnel

Kirara sightseeing train at Momiji tunnel

The “Kirara” sightseeing train journeys through a mesmerising Momiji tunnel. (Photo from: Photo-AC)

With the arrival of autumn, Kyoto City is awash in the glorious colours of red, gold and yellow. The city’s numerous shrines and beautifully landscaped gardens are popular spots for fall foliage viewing. For a different experience, embark on an unforgettable train ride to the northern part of Kyoto's scenic countryside.

Eizan Electric Railway is a private railway network that runs in the lesser-known area of Rakuhoku. From Demachiyanagi station, take the westward train line that heads towards Kibuneguchi and Kurama stations.

Between Ichihara and Ninose stations, there is a section that runs through a 250-metre stretch of around 280 maple trees lining both sides of the train track. This is the famous Momiji tunnel, a Japanese maple tree tunnel.

As the trees gently arch over the train, passengers are treated to the extraordinary sight of a maple tunnel. These maple trees are a verdant green in summertime and transform into the golden palette of autumn as the season changes.

Hop on the special “KIRARA” sightseeing train to bask in the splendour of nature. Fitted with large glass windows for panoramic views, these trains also offer designated train cars with seats that face the windows. It’s particularly lovely when the sunshine streams through the trees, creating a dreamy, dappled light effect.

Several attractions along the journey are worth a visit. Check out the small but photogenic Kifune-jinja Shrine dedicated to water divination. Nature lovers can spend some time at Takaragaike Park, a popular family recreation spot with scenic walking trails and various local wildlife.

Tengu statue at Kurama station

A mythical Tengu statue greets visitors at Kurama station. (Photo from: PIXTA)

At Kurama station, look out for a 4-metre-tall striking Tengu statue. In Japanese folklore, the Tengu is believed to be a supernatural being that protects the local community.

Check out the "KIRARA" train timetable before making a trip there!