If parks just don’t do it for you, here are some great autumn leaves day trips from Tokyo that will give you all those fall feelings.
Autumn leaves give cherry blossoms a run for their money in our opinion — and what better way to escape the busy streets of the capital than with a relaxing day trip to enjoy them? Whether you prefer a hike, want an easy stroll, or love seasonal festivals, there’s a Tokyo autumn destination perfect for everyone here.
- 2022 Fall Leaves Forecast
- Karuizawa (Mid-October to late November)
- Nikkō (Mid-October to Mid-November)
- Okutama (Mid-October to early December)
- Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route (Mid-October to early November)
- Mt. Takao (Mid- to late November)
- Lake Kawaguchiko (Mid- to late November)
- Kamakura (Late November to Mid-December)
The 2022 fall forecast
The first 2022 forecasts have now been released by the Japan Meteorological Corporation, so we can all get planning our fall sightseeing.
- Northern Japan: Higher altitude areas are expected to peak from late September to mid-November, while lower altitude areas peak from mid-October to late November. Yellow leaves will peak from late October to late November.
- Eastern Japan: Higher altitude areas are expected to peak from late October to early December, while lower altitude areas peak from mid-November to mid-December. Yellow leaves will peak from mid-November to early December.
- Western Japan: Higher altitude areas are expected to peak from late October to early December, while lower altitude areas peak from late November to mid-December. Yellow leaves will peak from mid-November to mid-December.
Note that yellow leaves (ginkgo) usually turn sooner than the main attraction, red leaves (maple).
1. Karuizawa: Famous bridges and golden ponds
Season: Mid-October to late November
Deep in the valleys of Nagano are plenty of beautiful autumn leaf viewing spots, from famous bridges to quiet towns. The easiest is to visit is Karuizawa. Renting a bicycle here is the perfect method to explore the forests and streets.
Be sure to cycle to Kumoba Pond, where you can see golden leaves and blue skies (hopefully) reflected in the waters. You can also catch the Karuizawa-Kusatsu bus from the station to see the famous Shiraito Falls (pictured above), which are amazing throughout the year, but especially so in autumn.
Note: The 2022 edition of the Karuizawa Momiji Festival is already underway, continuing until November 6th.
Getting there: Karuizawa is an hour from Tokyo by bullet train, and is covered by the handy Tokyo Wide Pass which lasts three days, covers the Kantō region and is available for residents as well as visitors. Read more about the Tokyo Wide Pass or simply book yours here.
Best Value Flights To Tokyo
2. Nikkō: Waterfalls, lakes, and temples
Season: Mid-October to Mid-November
A popular day trip throughout the year, Nikkō really comes into its own during fall, with flowing waterfalls and mountains blanketed in golden-hued trees. There are countless falls, gorges, lakes, and mountains to explore here, so take your pick!
Kegon Falls provides one of the most stunning views in Japan during autumn, with water rushing down a 97m drop from Lake Chūzenji. This is the highest natural lake in Japan, with views of Mt. Nikkō and Mt. Nantai from the walking path surrounding it (as well as from the ferry). The leaves here peak from late October to mid-November. Alternatively, you could visit the Ryūōkyō Gorge and walk along a 6km nature trail with hot springs at each end. This area is expected to peak around mid-November.
Shinkyō Bridge is another popular spot for Tokyo autumn day-trippers, right in central Nikkō. The traditional arched red bridge meets colorful leaves on either end as it crosses the bright-blue Daiyagawa River. Central Nikkō peaks from early to mid-November, slightly later than the falls and lake as the altitude is lower.
Pro-tip: The Nikkō All Area Pass includes all travel between Tokyo (Asakusa), Nikkō, and the area around Kegon Falls and Ryūōkyō Gorge — which saves a bit of money and trouble over individual ticket-buying.
Have a read of our full article on Nikkō for more information, including more on discount travel passes.
Getting there: Travel to Nikkō typically begins in Asakusa, and takes 110 minutes on the Tobu Limited Express Kegon and costs ¥2,860. A cheaper option is to get the Asakusa subway line to Oshiage, catch the Tobu SkyTree Express to Minami-Kurihashi and then the Tobu Nikkō Line Express to Tobu Nikkō. This takes just over 2.5 hours and costs ¥1,570. Read all about the best options in our full guide on getting to Nikko.
If travelling by train, consider also the Tokyo Wide Pass which lasts three days and covers the Kantō region — you can use it to visit both Nikko and Karuizawa, for example. It is available for residents as well as visitors. Read more about it here or check our guide to all of Japan’s regional rail passes.
3. Okutama: A natural escape technically in Tokyo
Season: Mid-October to early December
Enjoy the mountain views of Okutama while you stroll alongside the lake or rivers, feeling a million miles away from the frenetic streets of Tokyo. The Hikawa Keikoku Valley is a few minutes’ walk from Okutama Station, and there is a 4 km promenade along the Nippara River, Tama River, and Mt. Atago, with stunning views of the surrounding autumn leaves.
There are boat rides available across the lake, which is a whopping 45 km in circumference. With views of Mt. Kumotori, Mt. Kawanori, and Mt. Gozenyama, you won’t be short of breathtaking moments, especially if you are a fan of hiking. You can take the 10 km Mukashi-Michi Trail from the station, which takes you towards the lake; it is a largely paved route, with some steep sections (catch a bus back from the lake if you prefer).
Okutama may be more popular as a summer destination thanks to the river activities, but autumn is a stunning time to see the area — towns string persimmons to dry and weatherwise it’s still pleasant enough for a picnic!
Getting there: It takes under two hours from Shinjuku with one or two changes, depending on your route, and costs around ¥1,100.
4. Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route: The Japanese Alps sightseeing tour
Season: Mid-October to early November
The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is stunning in autumn as the Tateyama mountain range undergoes a jewel-like transformation. The route stretches between Toyama City in Toyama and Ōmachi Town in Nagano, with incredible views of the Japanese Alps along the way. The highest points often begin changing color in early October, with the transformation reaching the lower areas from mid- to late October.
Murodo is the highest point, with walking trails of varying difficulty and incredible views. There is also a cable car and ropeways, as well as buses running along the alpine route — meaning you don’t have to do too much walking if you don’t want to.
Getting there: Admittedly, this is more than a day trip. Access to the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is from either Nagano (80 minutes) or Toyama (2 hrs), both stops on the Hokuriku Shinkansen. This is a pricey excursion without a rail pass: both the countrywide Japan Rail Pass and the Hokuriku Arch Pass cover travel on the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo. (Otherwise just the Shinkansen travel alone comes to around ¥20,000 round-trip from Tokyo).
From Nagano or Toyama, buses run to the start of the route, from where you can continue on various forms of transport for part or all of the route. This part is not covered by the Japan Rail Pass. However, JR Central’s 5-Day JR Alpine-Takeyama-Matsumoto Area Pass covers travel along the whole route — as well as travel to/from Nagoya, which could work out to a better deal.
Unfortunately, the Tateyama Kurobe Option ticket seems to have been discontinued with no replacement (although we’re hoping it may be resurrected).
5. Mt. Takao: An easy hike with an autumn festival
Season: Mid- to late November
November is set to be the Kantō region’s prime fall foliage period this year, and Mt. Takao, on the outskirts of Tokyo, is listed (by the Michelin Green Guide, no less) as one of the best places to see momiji.
Here you can also hike the scenic trails, check out Biwa Falls, visit Takao Yakuo-in Temple and the Ju-itchome Teahouse, get a delicious lunch, gaze upon the summit of Mt. Fuji (on a clear day), and soak your weary bones in an onsen. There’s also the Mt. Takao Momiji Matsuri.
Getting there: Mt. Takao is less than an hour from Shinjuku by train and costs just ¥390 if you stick to the Keio Line! The nearest station is Takaosanguchi Station, and from there it’s a three-minute walk to th base of the mountain. There is a cable car and a chairlift to the top of Mt. Takao, as well.
6. Lake Kawaguchiko: Views of Fuji and the Maple Corridor
Season: Mid- to late November
What better way to see Mt. Fuji than surrounded by stunning autumn leaves? One of the highlights in Kawaguchiko, at the base of Mt. Fuji, is the Maple Corridor (near the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum). There’s an annual festival here with food stalls, souvenirs, crafts and more. The area is illuminated with LED lights from about 4:30 p.m. until 10 p.m. and looks truly incredible, making this a good spot to visit later in the day. There is also a Momiji Tunnel near the Kawaguchiko Natural Living Center.
Kawaguchiko makes for a great day trip whatever the season. Here are some extra ideas for what to see. If you like the idea of a guided tour, this option
includes ropeway views, Fuji’s 5th station, and fall leaf-viewing in season.
Getting there: Trains and buses are available from Tokyo, taking approximately 2 to 2.5 hours, with tickets ranging from ¥1,750–¥3,900. Full details on getting to Kawaguchiko from Tokyo here.
7. Super-easy Tokyo autumn destination: Kamakura, a mini Kyoto
Season: Late November to Mid-December
It helps that Kamakura is an awesome place to visit anyway, but throw in some spectacular autumnal leaves and you’ve got an extra-great day out. Due to the coastal location, the autumn leaves in Kamakura start to turn a little later, meaning the best time to visit is around late November to mid-December.
The famous temples and shrines of the area all look amazing with a backdrop of gold and red leaves, so be sure to visit Kōtoku-in Temple — the home of the giant Buddha — as well as the pathway up to the main hall of Hasedera Temple, which is lined with beautifully lit maple trees in the evening.
Meigetsu-in Temple is famed for a unique view through a circular window into the bright autumnal foliage, and Engaku-ji Temple is surrounded by aged trees glowing with fall colors. There are also multiple hiking routes through the area if you want to get right into the forests.
There’s a handy essentials walking tour if you’re wanting to fit all the best bits in without worrying about logistics.
Getting there: Between ¥500–¥900 from Tokyo depending on your starting station and takes around 1 hour.
While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. Post first published in 2017 and last updated in October, 2022. Special thanks to Kylie Van Zyl for her contribution on the Takao section.