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Top 3 Places to Visit on a Japan Rail Pass this Autumn

Autumn Hotspots - Japan
Autumn Hotspots - Japan

Autumn in Japan sees the leaves of maple and ginkgo trees across the country turn stunning hues of red, gold, and orange, making this time of year just as popular with travellers as the cherry blossom season.  

There are plenty of idyllic settings nation-wide where you can truly appreciate the beauty of the autumn leaves, known as ‘koyo’ in Japanese. Here are 3 of our favourite must-see spots to visit in Japan this Autumn.


Kyoto is home to an incredible number of temples, shrines, and gardens, which become hotspots for people wishing to view the colourful koyo during Autumn. The leaves begin to change colour in around mid November and usually last until early December.

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Kinkaku-ji (The Golden Pavilion)

Some of the best Kyoto temples to visit in Autumn include:

Tofuku-ji, Kiyomizu-dera, Yoshimine-dera, Eikando, and the magnificent Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion).

Many of these temples are illuminated at night so if you visit them in the evening you will be greeted by a dazzling and vibrant display.

The Arashiyama district, on the outskirts of Kyoto, is also a great destination at this time of year, where the forested mountains as a backdrop and the trees dotting the grounds of the temples in this area are particularly impressive.



If you'd like some other ideas for things to do while you're in Kyoto you should consult our Top 10 Things to See in Kyoto.

How to reach Kyoto: Tokyo and Kyoto are connected by the JR Tokaido Shinkansen line. This is the fatest and most comfortable way to travel between Tokyo and Kyoto. You can also reach Kyoto easily from the capital using local trains. If you fly into Kansai International Airport rather than Tokyo Narita Airport, you can take the JR Haruka airport express to reach Kyoto.

Best time to see the autumn leaves in Kyoto: Mid November to early December

Togetsukyo Bridge during the annual autumn light
Togetsukyo Bridge during the annual autumn light - a famous landmark in the Arashiyama district



Nikko is home to an extravagantly decorated shrine complex called the Toshogu Shrine which consists of more than a dozen 17th century structures set in a lush green forest. The UNESCO World Heritage site is located at the entrance to Nikko National Park which boasts majestic mountains, as well as numerous waterfalls, lakes, rivers, and plateaus. It is simply breathtaking to view the shrines, temples and bridges in harmony with the surrounding natural beauty during autumn when the leaves are changing from green to intense reds and oranges.

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Stunning natural beauty in Nikko National Park


How to reach Nikko: Nikko is a good day trip to make from Tokyo. The small city can be reached from Tokyo by taking one of the JR Tohoku Shinkansen (from Tokyo or Ueno Station) to Utsunomiya Station and then transferring to the JR Nikko Line.

Best time to see the autumn leaves in Nikko: Early October to mid November


Fuji Five Lakes

One of the most amazing ways to view Mt. Fuji is from the shores of one of the Fuji Five Lakes during Autumn. Not only do you usually not have to worry about the summer haze potentially ruining your view, you are also likely to be greeted by a snow-capped summit at this time of year. Add to that the spectacular autumn leave colours present between October and mid November and you are bound to get some extraordinary photo opportunities.

The Fuji Five Lake or Fujigoko region is the area located at the northern base of Mount Fuji, approximately 1000 m above sea level which surrounds the lakes Kawaguchiko, Saiko, Yamanakako, Shojiko and Motosuko.

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Chureito Pagoda with Mt Fuji backdrop

Great spot for viewing Mt Fuji in Autumn

One spot that is extremely popular among photographers is the location of the Chureito Pagoda which is part of the Arakura Sengen Shrine.

Situated to the east of Lake Kawaguchiko, the view of the five-storeyed pagoda on the mountain overlooking Fujiyoshida City with Mount Fuji in the background is an iconic symbol of Japanese culture.

Lake Kawaguchiko also makes a great day trip from Tokyo as it it offers lots of fun activities for travellers including hiking, fishing, museums, shopping and hot springs.



How to reach Lake Kawaguchiko: You can take the JR Chuo Line from Tokyo's Shinjuku Station to Otsuki Station. From Otsuki, you then take the Fujikyu Railway Line to Kawaguchiko Station. This second part of your journey is not covered by your Japan Rail Pass, however the train fare only costs around $15 AUD and your ticket can easily be purchased from the office at Otsuki Station.

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The Fuji Five Lakes region boasts awe-inspiring views of Mt Fuji during Autumn

Best time to see the autumn leaves in the Fuji Five Lakes region: Mid October through Mid November


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You'll enjoy scenic views as you travel by rail in Autumn

With your Japan Rail Pass in hand, you have access to a wonderful range of destinations where you can admire the dazzling autumn leaves.

Due to the vast differences in climate across the country, the autumn foliage can last from September to December depending on which part of Japan you visit. However, it changes each year, so it’s a good idea to check an autumn foliage forecast when planning your trip.

Aside from Kyoto, Nikko and the Fuji Five Lakes, other popular places to visit in Autumn include Hokkaido’s national parks, Lake Towada, Naruko Gorge in the Tohoku Region and gardens such as Rikugien and Koishikawa Korakuen in Tokyo.


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