Having had the privilege of experiencing Japan firsthand, I can genuinely attest to its magnetic allure—especially during the mesmerizing autumn season.
Sure, the spring's cherry blossoms get all the hype, but autumn? It's like walking into a real-life painting with all those fiery reds, oranges, and yellows everywhere.
So, if you're considering planning a trip to Japan during the fall season, you've come to the right spot. I've got the full rundown for you—what the weather's like, the coolest festivals you won't want to miss, and even those secret spots for the perfect Instagram shots.
Whether you're new to Japan or a returning fan, my guide's got you covered so you can have the ultimate fall trip.
When is Autumn in Japan?
Japan has unique charms during all four seasons—you'll find it distinctly different!
For those interested in autumn in Japan, you can expect this vibrant season to start around mid-September and last through late November.
If you're trying to compare a visit during the fall versus a different time of the year, don't worry—I've provided details on what to expect for each season below.
Autumn in Japan: September to November
Autumn is one of the most comfortable seasons in Japan, temperature-wise. There is lingering warmth from the summer, but the air is much drier.
Japan is spectacularly colorful in autumn. Autumn leaves are turning shades of red, orange, and yellow, accompanied by orange osmanthus, blood-orange spider lilies, and pastel chrysanthemums.
Fall in Japan is also dominated by flavors such as chestnuts, freshly harvested rice, pine mushroom broth, pumpkin soup, and sweet persimmons. As a foodie, I can't find a better combination of cooling weather and hearty Japanese cuisine!
Temperatures can fluctuate quite a bit throughout the season, so make sure you pack layers to adjust to both highs and lows.
Winter in Japan: December to February
It's common for temperatures to drop below freezing in Japan in the winter.
It's one of the destinations in Asia that can snow heavily in certain regions—for instance, in Hokuriku, Tohoku, and Hokkaido. Even Tokyo can experience snow occasionally.
There are also a few excellent Japanese skiing towns in the country's north.
The new year is celebrated over 3 days called "Shogatsu". Families send cards and visit temples and shrines to ring in the new year. Most businesses shut down for the 3 days for families to spend time together.
Spring in Japan: March to May
Spring in Japan occurs between March and May and is the famous cherry blossom season!
While it can start with chilly temperatures and strong winds, you can expect the air to feel more comfortable by the end of the season.
If you want to see the perfect pink landscapes, late March to early April is the best time for viewing the famous cherry blossoms.
Summer in Japan: June to August
The start of June in Japan can be pretty chilly despite officially being summer. This is because there are a few weeks when the temperature drops, and the rain sweeps in for a wet season called "Baiu" or "Tsuyu".
But when this ends, and the country enters "Baiu-ake" or "Tsuyu-ake," you can expect the temperatures to rise and summer to hit suddenly. The heat can feel intense thanks to the high humidity.
Autumn in Japan by Month: Temperature & Weather
The weather in Japan in autumn changes quickly. The first months are warm, with temperatures reaching the low 68s in Fahrenheit and experiencing a fair amount of rain.
But by November, temperatures will only reach highs of temperatures in the low 50s. You can expect that it'll get as cold as 44°F.
September in Japan
You'll see the weather in Japan in September reach highs between 74°F and 84°F, while lows hit 64°F to 70°F. Heavy rains and typhoons can sometimes hit Japan in September.
October in Japan
Temperatures reach highs of 66°F to 74°F, and lows are around 57°F to 64°F. You can still expect quite a bit of rain in October in Japan, especially in the south around Tokyo.
November in Japan
Japan weather in November brings temperatures that reach highs of 57°F to 64°F. Low temperatures can be from 45°F to 54°F.
It's certainly starting to get cooler by this time, with the country preparing for winter and its famous snow festivals.
Japan Autumn Itinerary: Where to Go in Japan During Autumn
In the fall, many visitors in Japan will engage in "Momiji-gari" or "Koyo", which is hunting red leaves. You can find the colors throughout the season.
The process starts in a wave up in the north in Hokkaido and finishes in the south around Okinawa. Below, I've listed the best places to visit in the fall in Japan, whether you're red leaf hunting or just want to experience different parts of Japan in the autumn.
Autumn in Tokyo
Tokyo is Japan's pulsing heart. You'll want to visit the bustling capital no matter when you visit Japan. If you're visiting Japan in autumn, one of the best things to do in Tokyo is to watch the leaves fall.
Yoyogi Park is near the famous shopping districts in Shibuya, Omotesando, and Harajuku, so it's easy to fit into a busy day of souvenir shopping in Japan!
At the park, you can expect golden ginkgo and Japanese maples. Icho Namiki is an avenue of golden yellow ginkgo trees pruned to resemble giant natural torches.
Rikugien is excellent for weeping cherry trees in the spring and lit up in the autumn so that the red maple leaves on the trees appear to be burning.
Koishikawa Korakuen near the Tokyo Dome is also picturesque, with the bright leaves reflecting in the central pond.
If you want to take a day trip from Tokyo, head to nearby Mt Takao for excellent hiking amid the colorful autumn scenery. It is just 50 minutes away by train, with several hiking routes to suit every level.
Autumn in Kyoto
Kyoto is another city that you can visit at any time of year. It's the cultural and historical heart of Japan.
This Japanese city is the best place to see traditional Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, and Geishas. There are also plenty of distinctively Japanese shops and restaurants to enchant any visitor.
For fantastic autumn foliage, head to Daitoku-Ji temple, which you can reach via a magnificent maple leaf tunnel. There are also many good vegetarian and vegan restaurants in the surrounding streets.
The Tenryu-Ji gardens are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to many colorful trees in the fall. Daigo-Ji has many maple canopies on its sprawling grounds, while Nanzen-Ji is the rich red temple featured in "Lost in Translation."
Autumn in Hokkaido
If you come at the start of the season, you must head to Japan's northern island to find the best fall foliage full of beautiful colors. The main city of Sapporo has plenty to see, do, and eat.
Do you travel to experience unique foods? You'll love Sapporo! Plenty of seafood and fresh meat are produced in the region and used in local dishes.
Head to the high-elevation areas of Kogen Onsen, Mt. Akan, and Mt Asahidake in September. Travel by train to take in all the spectacular views.
Autumn Hiking in Japan
If you enjoy exploring nature on foot, many Japanese hiking trails show off Japan in its spectacular autumn glory. They can be done as day or weekend trips from the cities.
The Yoro Valley in Chiba is near Tokyo and has eight hiking trails ideal for hunting red leaves. Oku-Nikko is a more challenging but equally beautiful area for hiking. You can tackle mountain trails, circumnavigate Lake Chuzenji, or explore Senjougahara Marsh.
Oze National Park is about 100 kilometers north of Tokyo and is another region with many excellent hiking trails through the changing trees. The high elevation means you might encounter good leaves earlier in the season.
Nearby Mt Yamagata, known for its snow monasteries, also turns crimson and red early in the season. The cable car to the summit provides some great views.
Japan Autumn Festivals 2023
The pleasant temperature and colorful backdrop make autumn a popular festival season in Japan. There are many culturally rich festival experiences to add to your Japan autumn itinerary.
September 29, 2023
The festival of the Harvest Moon in late September celebrates the autumn moon, which is believed to be the most beautiful moon of the year.
All across Japan, families and friends will gather to see the moon and eat traditional dishes, such as white rice cakes, to represent the moon.
October 7-9, 2023
This is one of Japan's most famous lantern festivals and has been celebrated around Nihonmatsu Castle for almost 400 years. You'll need to take a short trip south from Fukushima to celebrate this festival.
7 floats representing the 7 parts of the city are blessed and decorated with lanterns, then processed in a lively music festival. If you're traveling to Japan in early October, you should definitely add this to your itinerary!
October 7-9, 2023
This Nagasaki festival started in 1634 and is a celebration of the autumn harvest. Expect processions of mikoshi floats, Chinese-style dragon dances, and some Dutch-inspired rituals.
But where did the Dutch inspiration come from? You can thank the Dutch traders who visited the area in the 17th century. Make sure to try Hashimaki and Mochi mochi fries while you're there!
October 22, 2023
Are you sticking around until late October? If so, you'll be able to attend "Jidai Matsuri". This is the Festival of the Ages that happens in Kyoto.
It commemorates the founding of the Heian Jingu Shrine. And if you're going to be there this year, in 2023, it also celebrates the 1100th anniversary of the city! I'm sure they'll be going all out.
You'll definitely feel like the city turns back the clock to the 8th century and the founding of Kyoto. Expect locals in historically accurate costumes to participate in processions of portable Mikoshi shrines and for drum and flute bands to process past the imperial palace.
November 1-5, 2023
In early November, there is the Saga International Balloon Fiesta. But you'll need to travel within Japan a bit to experience this festival firsthand.
On the island of Kyushu, every year, people come together to launch more than 100 hot air balloons, filling the sky with color.
Rikugien Gardens Illuminations
Every year in the autumn, the Rikugien Garden places artistically positioned lights to illuminate the colorful trees. It runs daily from sundown until 9 pm.
Other Things to Do & See in Japan During the Fall
Visit the Daisetsuzan National Park
Autumn in Japan is incomplete without a visit to Daisetsuzan National Park in Hokkaido, especially if you're an outdoor enthusiast.
Often referred to as the "roof of Hokkaido," this vast expanse is the first place in Japan to see autumn colors each year, usually starting in September. The park offers many hiking trails to immerse yourself in a colorful tapestry of foliage.
The views are beyond stunning and offer a different kind of beauty compared to the famous cherry blossoms of spring.
Partake in Tea Ceremonies
Autumn is an excellent time to experience the serenity of a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. After all it'll keep you warm and toasty as the cool temperatures become common.
And with the backdrop of fall foliage, these ceremonies take on a particularly poetic atmosphere.
Many tea houses and gardens offer outdoor sessions where you can sip your matcha while enjoying the views of meticulously curated gardens adorned with autumn colors.
Soak in the Hot Springs
There's nothing like soaking in a Japanese onsen as the leaves around you transition into hues of orange and red.
Hot springs in areas like Hakone or Beppu provide the perfect setting to enjoy nature's display of color while relaxing in mineral-rich waters.
I couldn't get to this activity when I visited Japan, and it's one of my biggest regrets. Please add this to your itinerary for me! But remember that the Japanese aren't very fond of tattoos, so if you have any you'll need to find an onsen that allows them.
Eat Your Way Through Japan's Fall Specialties
Japanese cuisine takes seasonality very seriously, and autumn is no exception.
Enjoy seasonal dishes like "matsutake" mushrooms, Pacific saury or "sanma", and chestnuts. You'll also find limited-edition sweets flavored with pumpkin or sweet potato. The seasonal food in Japan is an experience you won't want to miss.
See a Unique Stop: Hitachi Seaside Park
If you want to see autumn in Japan with a twist, don't miss Hitachi Seaside Park.
Located in Ibaraki Prefecture, this expansive park is famous for its seasonal flower displays. While spring sees the garden covered in blue nemophila blooms, autumn has its own spectacle—kochia bushes that turn a radiant crimson.
These fluffy, ball-shaped bushes create a surreal, otherworldly landscape that contrasts beautifully with the clear blue sky.
The park also features cycling paths and an amusement area, making it ideal for a day out with the family.
Pack Your Suitcases for Japan
Japan is one of the most fascinating countries on the planet, no matter when you visit. But if you visit in the autumn, you get the added wonder of the colorful leaves and fewer tourists than in the spring cherry blossom season.
Now that you know what to expect when visiting Japan in autumn, you can start to craft your ideal travel experience for you, your family, and your friends.