Koyo: 10 Places to See Autumn Leaves In and Around Tokyo

Selena Hoy
Autumn leaves in Tokyo
Ginkgo trees pic via Shutterstock.

Koyo time is here! 紅葉, meaning the changing of the leaves, is an important seasonal marker in the land of FOUR (count ‘em!) seasons! While perhaps not quite as widely celebrated as cherry blossom season, the arrival of autumn leaves in Tokyo (from October to early December) is still an excuse to get out into the great outdoors and marvel at the stuff that Mother Nature does with her pigment palette. Here are some of the best koyo spots in and around Tokyo.

Autumn leaves in Tokyo: Start with Rikugien

Rikugi Gardens (“en” means garden) is trying to have it all, and most probably succeeding, with their combination of autumn foliage and “light up” or “illumination”. Its Edo-era landscape garden, a beautiful place to stroll while you mentally compose the next cryptic scroll message to your kimono-clad lover, is resplendent in this season and is artfully arranged for you to be able to snap that perfect picture.

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autumn leaves
Photo by Guilhem Vellut used under CC

Meiji Jingu Gaien

The roads around Meiji Jingu Shrine (the outer gardens) are gloriously lined with flaming golden ginkgo trees, the falling nuts of which smell rather fecal special. The distinctively-shaped leaves are found on many a Japanese school and family crest, notably Tokyo University (Todai) and Osaka University (Handai).

autumn leaves tokyo koyo
Photo by Taichiro Ueki used under CC

Yoyogi Park

Once you’ve explored Meiji Jingu Shrine, head into nearby Yoyogi Park to see another vast collection of fiery maples and ginkgo trees doing their autumn thing. Tip: make for the south part of the park for maximum foliage.

Autumn leaves in Tokyo
Autumn leaves in Tokyo make for great snaps.

Imperial Palace East Gardens

If you want a really regal experience, head down to the palace. The Ninomiya Garden, a sub-garden of the East Gardens, is replete with Japanese maples (momiji) and a few ginkgos, bending gracefully over ponds and meticulously manicured topiary.

Autumn leaves in Tokyo
Autumn at the Imperial Palace. | Photo by Guilhem Vellut used under CC

Mount Takao

Get out of the city into the REAL nature and leave behind all those manufactured parks. Mount Takao is only somewhat manufactured, and by that we mean it’s well tended and carefully managed, but it’s still at least 35% wilder than any of the parks within spitting distance of downtown Tokyo.

Also, if you’re impatient to get your koyo on and Tokyo is just still too stinking warm, the mountains are sure to be a couple of degrees chillier and the leaves don their autumn robes earlier. During November there’s an autumn leaves festival—be careful you don’t miss it!

autumn leaves tokyo
Photo by nakimusi used under CC

Mount Mitake

For more out-of-the-city koyo reveling, Mount Mitake is another great option. Its popular hiking trail is peppered with shrines, a temple, a village, waterfalls and a great view of the surrounding landscape.

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Mount mitake
Mt. Mitake. | Photo by Chris Kirkland

Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens

This Japanese garden in the heart of Tokyo is a picturesque winner—so much so that on any given day you might find an artist perched on a flat stone by the pond finding her muse under a weeping cherry tree (whose leaves are certainly bright and pretty in their fall incarnation, though not as come-hither-y as the neighboring maples and ginkgos) or brilliant scarlet maple. The whole scene is reflected in the glassy surface of the pond, and the skyscrapers in the near distance remind you that this kind of beauty exists side by side with the urban jungle that is Tokyo. Ah. Now to Instagram it all.

Maples at Koshikawa Korakuen
Maples at Koshikawa Korakuen. | Photo by kanegen used under CC

Mizumoto Park

Hidden in plain sight, Mizumoto Park is one of Tokyo’s autumn treasures. Head to one of the biggest parks in the metropolitan area to take in the transformation of nearly 2000 dawn redwoods (living fossils), reflected in the surface of the surrounding water. The park, which is in Katsushika Ward, covers more than 68 hectares, so crowding is not usually a concern.

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Autumn leaves in tokyo
To the surprise of many, this is actually in Tokyo. Mizumoto Park is a hidden wonder for nature enthusiasts. | Photo by hiroshiykw used under CC

Shinjuku Gyoen

Take a stroll through the ever-lovely Shinjuku Gyoen this fall to see exquisite maple trees and other autumn highlights. Seek out the Japanese garden and Momijiyama (“Maple Mountain”) in particular—and pack a picnic to enjoy on the sweeping lawns when you’ve had your fill of the foliage.

Ginkgo leaves turn Tokyo a transient gold.

Showa Memorial Park

If you’re on the western side of Tokyo, set aside a day to explore Showa Kinen Kouen—it’s well worth a ramble any time of year, but is especially beautiful during autumn. The huge park welcomes you with a display of ginkgos, and once inside you’ll see heaps of Japanese maples too. Consider renting a bicycle and taking a slow meander along the extensive network of paths through the park.

autumn leaves in tokyo
Surprisingly, this is also in Tokyo. Showa Memorial Park offers some amazing autumn views. | Photo by Yoshikazu Takada used under CC

Cheapo bonus: Looking to get out of the city? Check out our article on awesome fall day trips from Tokyo.

This post was first published in December, 2014. Last update by Carey Finn on October 5, 2017.

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