Japan autumn colours in early November?
September 18, 2008 11:45 PM   Subscribe

Going to Japan over the 1st week of November: where to see autumn colours?

I'll be landing in Tokyo on 2nd November this year and I'll probably be spending upwards to a week in Japan. Does anybody know where would be a good place to visit to see the autumn colours (kouyou)?

I've found some online resources (e.g. http://kouyou.nihon-kankou.or.jp/) which give me a rough idea of what areas will be in full "bloom" during the period I'm there, but I get the idea I'll be a few weeks too early for the main autumn colour season. The areas towards the north (Tokohu) will likely be in season, but from what I gather there are less places up there to visit. Currently I'm planning to stay in Nara for a day or two.

Any more general suggestions of places I could visit are very welcome too... this is quite a sudden trip so I haven't really made any concrete plans yet.
posted by destrius to Travel & Transportation around Japan (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You're really going to have to wait until it gets closer. The forecast for autumn color is updated daily on most weather forcasts in the fall, but it really depends on a number of weather factors. I would wait until I get there and then just take a train to wherever is "hot".

You are almost certainly too early for koyo in Nara. Take a train up to Nikko and spend the night, do some time in an onsen. It's stunningly beautiful even if the leaves aren't turning. Or go further to Sapporo which is a large, interesting, and under-visited city.
posted by Ookseer at 1:35 AM on September 19, 2008

When I move the little gadget on the page you linked to November, I see the red color coming down to Tochigi Prefecture. Nikko is in Tochigi, and you can make a day trip from Tokyo to there. On preview, seconding Ookseer.

Actually, there are many interesting places up north that you might enjoy. I'd recommend Kakunodate, which is in Akita Prefecture, because it's like a small Kyoto with all the buke yashiki (old samurai residences). I went there a few years back during exactly the season when you're planning on coming, and it was lovely. The town is also really compact, so you could book a ryokan in Tazawako or Nyuto Onsen or one of the many other hot springs in the region.

From Akita, you could head on over to Iwate Prefecture to the east by bullet train or car. Iwate also has many places of interest, like Hiraizumi and the Ryusendo limestone cave.
posted by misozaki at 1:42 AM on September 19, 2008

Tohoku, Kanto, and Nikko should be, probably, showing autumn foliage. Kyoto is a favorite, but you will perhaps be 2-3 weeks early. Yakushima is more or less subtropical, but the cedar forests are very worth a visit if you can swing it.
posted by dawson at 1:44 AM on September 19, 2008

Second Nikko.
posted by strawberryviagra at 3:23 AM on September 19, 2008

Best answer: Yeah, the first week of November is perfect for Nikko and most of Tochigi prefecture. However, I am warning you that Nikko will likely be overrun with tourists looking for autumn color and a general pain in the ass to visit.

Still, there are plenty of other places in Tochigi prefecture that are beautiful to visit, there are a ton of good hot springs and the tsuginamiki-lined roads are great for drives. I'm usually not a fan of driving around Japan when there is such great public transportation, but Tochigi is a comfortable place for long nature drives. Plus, it will get you to the places with the best hiking and the most to see.

My husband lived there for a few years and will know the names of specific places better than me. PM me if you would like details.

Also, I've been all over Japan studying ceramic techniques and some of the coolest stuff is in Mashiko. It's totally worth a side trip.
posted by Alison at 6:53 AM on September 19, 2008

Misozaki speak truth.
posted by planetkyoto at 4:54 AM on October 6, 2008

Response by poster: I'm back from the trip, and it was great. Went to Nikko as suggested by many here, as well as Kyoto and Nara. I'll give quick reviews for any future people looking at this thread for advice.

Nikko: The colours were pretty rich when we were there, but it wasn't at the peak yet it seemed. We also made a side-trip to Lake Chuzenji which was really beautiful, but we were there right after the peak season (a week ago) so most of the leaves were already brown. Given the timings though I think Nikko was the best bet.

Kyoto: Too early like most people said. Nevertheless, given the huge numbers of people already there, I think Kyoto during the peak season would be pretty crowded. Not really my kind of thing, especially if you're going to be looking at the temples; I think they're best appreciated in a more quiet atmosphere.

Nara: Also a little too early, but showing more colour than Kyoto. Again, very crowded despite of this.

Thanks to everybody who gave comments!
posted by destrius at 4:46 AM on November 14, 2008

Hey! I think we were in Nikko at the same time! We drove up on a Monday so that we only had to deal with moderate traffic, but it gave us more time to look at the trees along the Irohazaka. But yeah, the trees around Chuzenji-ko was a little past its peak.

We ended up going a little farther north to Yunishigawa Onsen, which was perfect for that week. I really recommend it if anyone is looking for a quiet, out of the place for leaf viewing.
posted by Alison at 6:26 AM on November 14, 2008

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