Fall in Japan
For most of the people the spring in Japan is the most iconic season of the year, but we can say that autumn is even more beautiful as the colors its more spectacular and you can see in the most of locations you can visit. But when to see autumn colors in Japan?
Japan has the four seasons with big differences, spring with the cherry blossom, autumn with the fall foliage but also summers are hot and then you can enjoy lavender fields or beautiful landscapes of flowers, and of course, the winters where Japan is one of the snowiest countries in the world and you can enjoy incredible landscapes during this season.
As temperatures between the seasons, and especially from summer to autumn, have big differences, the colors of the leaves during the fall change into vibrant shades of orange, red, yellow, and brown. Making the landscapes perfect spots for photographers or painters.
In Japan, as in spring cherry blossom, the natural phenomenon has a particular name, and its called Koyo or Momiji (meaning red leaf). In the same way the red leaf hunting activity gets the name of Momijigari. A popular activity in the Japanese culture during centuries, that now tourists and especially photographers continue practicing.
When is the best time to photograph a fall in Japan? What are the best locations? This guide is thought to help the photographer to plan the perfect Momiji photo tour.
Autumn colours and maple leaves in Japanese culture
Before think about our photo tour, its good to know about the history of Momijigari. Popular since the Heian period (794-1195), it has had a profound influence on Japanese culture since the beginning of Japanese history. As a spiritual country, influenced by Buddhists, the fall foliage during autumn reminds us of the ephemeral of our lives and the moments.
As in Canada, the maple leaf symbolizes a fall in Japanese culture and its use is widespread. Its referenced since the eighth-century, where the Manyoshu poetry already was writing about this phenomenon. Also during the classical Heian Period, in the famous novel ‘The Tale of the Genji’. It’s typical, as the cherry blossom, to find references about the Momiji in all kinds of Japanese cultural representations as kimonos, dishes or folding screens among others.
Also in the Japanese gastronomy, where you can find maple-shaped cakes during the fall, or even eat directly the leaves fried in tempura as a snack. Definitely an important season for the Japanese culture, that during this period you can enjoy not only with your eyes but also with all other senses.
Koyo viewing in Japan
To witness the Koyo, the best moment to see autumn colors in Japan, goes from early September to late December, according to the region. Also, the autumn colors of the fall, you can enjoy in many more places than the sakura, so the number of spots & locations for photography and the number of trees that will catch our attention as photographers are considerably bigger than in spring.
The type of maple tree determines whether the leaves are red (Koyo), yellow (Oyo), or brown (katsuyo). Knowing this the landscape designers of the historical and present locations in Japan, created incredible parks and gardens that during this season became spectacular to photograph.
Autumn foliage season in Japan
According to the place you want to visit, you must be thinking about three main factors: the temperature, the latitude & the height. That means that in the north of Japan it will start sooner than in the south, also the same factor with the height, where fall will start early in the mountains. But as we said, also the temperature will modify every year the moment that fall will start, so each year you must be checking when start to become cold, so at this moment fall will start.
In general, Hokkaido is the first part of Japan where the autumn fall will start, around the middle of September. While in the main cities of central Japan usually, the best weeks are from the middle of November to the first week of December. These colors usually can be viewed between two weeks and more than one month. So to plan your photo travel, you must think before what do you want to visit, so at this moment you can choose the best weeks according to the location.
Where to see autumn colours in Japan
Any place in Japan it’s a perfect place to enjoy Momiji. If you can visit Japan just in certain weeks we recommend you to see the table & images belong to choose your itinerary. Anyway, you will enjoy the colors from the mountains to the main cities, passing from the countrysides all around the country.
Read our post with the best places in Japan during autumn, if you want to know our favorite locations to enjoy the Momiji.
Historical forecast to see autumn colours in Japan by region
Using the 2019 forecast (2020 will be ready soon), you can check the estimates data is based on average best viewing times from previous years. So it can help you to prepare your photo tour, as it helps us every year to prepare our Japan Photo Tour during autumn.
Check this report often for further updates to the fall colors 2020 forecast.
Forecast for red leaves viewing dates
|Location||Forecast for red leaves||Average date for red leaves|
Forecast for yellow leaves viewing dates
|Location||Forecast for yellow leaves||Average date for yellow leaves|
Hope this post helps you to prepare your travel to see autumn colors in Japan, and of course, if you want to join us during our photo tour, you will be able to visit & photograph places as Mount Fuji, Nikko valley, Kyoto, Koyasan & Tokyo during the best weeks to photograph the fall in Japan.