Autumn Day Trips from Tokyo to Give You Those Fall Feels

Lily Crossley-Baxter

If parks just don’t do it for you, here are some great autumn leaves day trips from Tokyo to give you those fall feelings. Scarves on and cameras ready? Tokyo autumn season, here we go!

Maple Nikko Autumn
Photo by J Pellgen used under CC

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.


Karuizawa and Agematsu (Nagano)

Best seen: Late September – early November

Karuizawa Shiraito Falls
Photo by Reginald Pentinio used under CC

Deep in the valleys of Nagano are plenty of beautiful autumn-leaf viewing spots, from famous bridges to quiet towns. The easiest is Karuizawa, with bicycle rental making the perfect method to explore the forests and streets. Be sure to cycle to Kumoba Pond, which has incredible reflecting views of golden leaves and blue skies. You can also catch the Karuizawa-Kusatsu Line bus from the station to see the famous Shiraito Falls (pictured above), which are amazing throughout the year, but especially so in autumn.


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Note: The Karuizawa Momiji Festival will take place from the 23rd of September to the 5th of November, with small events and discounts available.

Photo by Bong Grit used under CC

For a more natural day, head to Agematsu, an area famous for forest-bathing (and when better to do so than in the season of golden, amber and red leaves?). The Kiso Valley is home to gorgeous landmarks such as the Nezame no Toko—strange rock formations in the river bed, as well as many carefully-preserved walking routes through the protected forests. Agematsu is a post town on the Nakasendo Trail, with traditional Edo-style buildings and an open-air logging train.

Hike through the countryside on this relaxing tour. Experience Japan's natural beauty, chat to locals, see hidden shrines and explore a small town just outside click here for details
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Getting there: Agematsu can be reached on the Chuo Line, with buses from the station taking you to Nezame no Toko or the forest.  


Nikko

Best seen: Early October – mid-November

Kegon Falls Autumn
Photo by Reginald Pentinio used under CC

A popular day trip throughout the year, Nikko 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! The Kegon Falls provide one of the most stunning views in Japan during autumn, with water rushing down a 97-meter drop from Lake Chuzenji. This is the highest natural lake in Japan, with views of Mount Nikko and Mount Nantaisan from the walking path surrounding it as well as from the ferry.

The Shinkyo Bridge is another popular spot for Tokyo autumn day-trippers—the traditional red curved bridge meets colorful leaves on either end as it crosses the bright blue Otanigawa River. Alternatively, you could visit the Ryuokyo Gorge and walk along a 6km nature trail with hot springs at each end. Considering the large area covered, the times will vary for each spot. The leaves begin to change high up in Okunikko in early October, reach Lake Chuzenji  in mid-October and Nikko town in early November. Have a read of our full article on Nikko for more information, including discount travel passes.



Getting there: There are a few different travel discount passes available for the Tobu Line, or you can travel for just under ¥3,000 from Tokyo Station to Tobu-Nikko, taking around 130 minutes.


Okutama

Best seen: Mid-October – early December

Okutama Autumn
Photo by Guilhem Vellut used under CC

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 4km promenade along 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 45km in circumference. With views of Mount Kumotori, Kawanori and Gozenyama, you won’t be short of breathtaking moments, especially if you are a fan of hiking. You can take the 10km 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). Although a popular summer destination thanks to the river activities, autumn is a stunning time to see the area, as towns are stringing up persimmons and it’s still pleasant enough for a picnic!



Getting there: It takes around 100 minutes from Shinjuku with one or two changes, depending on your route. It will cost just over ¥1,000


Tateyama Kurobe Alpine route

Best seen: Mid-October – mid-November

Tateyama alpine Route
Photo by T HIno used under CC

Although this spot is more famous for its impenetrable walls of snow, it is also stunning in autumn as the Tateyama mountain range undergoes a jewel-like transformation. The route stretches between Toyama city in Toyama and Omachi 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-late October.

The 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 busses running along the Alpine route—meaning you don’t have to do too much walking if you don’t want to. The Tateyama Kurobe Option ticket offers a discounted price for foreign travelers, including the bus from Nagano Station to Ogizawa and a one-way trip along the route. Although travel here can be quite pricey, if you have a JR Pass you can enjoy it without a second thought!

Getting there: Multiple routes via Nagano, Toyama or Shinano-Omachi, costing around ¥12,000 one way.


Mount Takao

Best seen: Late October – early December

Takao Autumn
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November is set to be the Kanto region’s prime fall-foliage period this year, and the Mount Takao Momiji Matsuri is a great way to see more flaming-red maple leaves than you can shake a stick at. Mount Takao, on the outskirts of Tokyo, is listed (by the Michelin Green Guide, no less) as one of the best places to see the momiji. The Festival runs for the whole of November, making it a great choice for a Tokyo autumn day trip.

Even if koyo don’t do it for you, you can hike the scenic trails, check out Biwa Falls, visit Takao Yakuo-in Temple and the Ju-Itchome Tea House, get a delicious lunch, gaze upon the summit of Mt Fuji (on a clear day), and soak your weary bones in an onsen, all within 50 minutes of Shinjuku Station.

Many of the Festival’s events are scheduled for the weekends. As well as many musical events, a highlight of the Festival is sake served in the traditional square wooden masu, and an exhibition of Tokyo kokeshi (traditional wooden dolls). There is parking available, but the area gets crowded, so it’s best to use public transport. The nearest station is Takaosanguchi Station on the Keio Line, and from there it’s a three-minute walk to the Festival venue. There is a cable-car and a chairlift to the top of Mount Takao, as well.

Getting there: Mount Takao is less than an hour from Shinjuku by train and costs just ¥360!

Lake Kawaguchiko

Best seen: Early November – early December

Kawaguchiko Fuji Autumn
Photo by Guilhem Vellut used under CC

You can kill two birds with one stone here: what better way to see Fuji than surrounded by stunning autumn leaves? The area is transformed with shimmery lake reflections and maple leaves galore ready to leave you in awe.

One of the highlights is the Maple Corridor, near the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum, which has an annual festival with food stalls, souvenirs, crafts and more to help you enjoy the views. There is also a stage with performances throughout the festival, which takes place from the 1st of November to the 23rd from 9am to 7pm. The area is illuminated with LED lights from about 4.30pm until 10pm and looks truly incredible, making it a good spot to visit later in the day.

There is also a Momiji Tunnel near the Kawaguchiko Natural Living Center but this does not have illuminations, so is better to visit during the day.

Getting there: Trains and busses are available from Tokyo, taking approximately 2-2.5 hours, with tickets ranging from ¥1,750¥3,900.


Super-easy Tokyo autumn destination: Kamakura

Best seen: Late November – mid-December

tokyo autumn
Photo by Houroumono used under CC

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 Kotokuin 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.

Meigetsuin Temple is famed for a unique view through a circular window into the bright autumnal foliage, and Engakuji Temple is surrounded by aged trees glowing with fall colors. There are multiple hiking routes through the area if you want to get right into the forests.

Getting there: Between ¥500¥900 from Tokyo depending on your starting station. Takes around one hour.


Special thanks to Kylie Van Zyl for her contribution in the Takao Section.





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