Whether you’ve arrived via Google or clicked here from my collection of photos of Japan in fall, you’re obviously curious about autumn in Japan 2023. When the leaves will change; where the best places to see them are; and how long you need to stay in Japan to have the full kōyō experience.
I’ll cover all of this, and then some. Interspersed with my Japan autumn leaves forecast 2023, for example, are personal anecdotes about my many trips to Japan in autumn—unlike a lot of people with pages on this topic, I’ve actually experienced Japan’s most colorful season on the ground, countless times over.
Indeed, I hope that both my words and my photography will inspire you to take an autumn foliage Japan 2023 trip, irrespective of where you go or how long you end up staying. Shall we begin?
Japan Autumn Foliage Forecast 2023
Although Japan’s fall color forecast varies from year to year, it’s not quite as temperamental as the one for cherry blossoms. As a result, even if a warmer autumn leads to an later season or a cooler one leads to an earlier one, I’ve founded that most years are pretty similar.
When is autumn in Japan 2023? Well, the Japan Meteorological Corporation released its first forecast on September 4, 2023, which predicts that peak color will be delayed by about a week compared to a “normal” year. Forecasts aren’t generally accurate until much later in the season, however, so that this with a grain of salt.
Regardless of a particular forecast, here are the approximate times you can expect to enjoy autumn colors in Japan:
|Destination||Yellow leaves||Red leaves|
|Daisetsuzan||September 15||September 25|
|Hachimantai||October 5||October 15|
|Mt. Hakkoda||October 15||October 25|
|Kurobe Gorge||October 25||November 5|
|Kakunodate||October 15||October 25|
|Nikko||October 25||November 5|
|Tokyo||November 25||December 5|
|Takayama||October 25||November 5|
|Fuji Five Lakes||October 25||November 5|
|Kanazawa||November 15||November 25|
|Kyoto||November 25||November 25|
|Setouchi||November 25||November 25|
|Shikoku||November 25||December 5|
|San’in||November 25||November 25|
|Kyushu||November 25||December 5|
As far as how I formulate my autumn color forecasts, in 2023 and otherwise? If the months of September and October are warmer than average, I expect autumn colors to appear later than usual. The inverse is also true: In colder years, autumn colors come to Japan sooner. Other factors can also delay the colors or bring them forward, mostly notably rainfall (or lack thereof)
In order to monitor this for yourself, keep an eye on temperatures in the cities or prefectures where you want to enjoy fall foliage, and compare them to the averages you find posted online. You can also check “Recent” pictures of your target destinations on Instagram, although you should make sure they were recently taken, and not just recently posted.
Best Places to See Autumn Leaves in Japan in 2023
As is the case during the spring with the sakura, Kyoto is one of the most satisfying places in Japan to see autumn colors, no matter what the Kyoto autumn leaves forecast 2023 ends up holding. My favorite places in Kyoto to see autumn colors include Arashiyama (Tenryu-ji temple, Okochi Sanso Villa and the entire shoreline of the Katsuura River) as well as Higashiyama temples like Nanzen-ji and Kiyomizu-dera, and more distant temples such as Daigo-ji and Kurama-dera. There are also many awesome Kyoto autumn color spots on the periphery of the city, from Tofuku-ji along the Nara Line en route to Fushimi district, to Kurama-dera north of the center.
Now, I’d like to tell you where you can go in Tokyo to enjoy autumn for yourself, whether for Tokyo autumn 2023 or another year. Obviously, the most famous autumn color spot in Tokyo is Meiji Jingu Gaien, aka Ginkgo Avenue, but that’s not the only game in town. In particular, I love Koishikawa Koraku-en and Rikugi-en gardens within the city limits; Yokohama‘s Sankei-en garden is also very worth a visit, if you have time during your fall 2023 Japan trip. Additionally, as you can see above, colorful trees (especially yellow ginkgos) are strewn throughout the heart of the city, including in Marunouchi just west of Tokyo Station.
The autumn forecast Japan 2023 can be vague for areas around Mt. Fuji, since they differ so much in terms of elevation and other climactic conditions. For instance, while it’s possible to see autumn colors in coastal Shizuoka prefecture and even along the shores of Lake Kawaguchi well into the end of November, you’ll want to visit earlier in the month (or maybe even October) if hiking trails closer to Japan’s most famous mountain are where you to see autumn colors. Early-to-mid November, meanwhile, is usually the best time to get the “money shot” behind Chureito Pagoda in Fujiyoshida.
Hokuriku and the Japanese Alps
Irrespective of whether you plan to visit during autumn Japan 2023 or another year, Kanazawa is one of my favorite places in Japan to enjoy autumn colors. As an added bonus? It’s just a stone’s throw from the Japanese Alps, which are bounded by Nagano on the other side. If you’re coming to this region during the month of October, you might want to visit the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route near Toyama or Kamikochi Valley near Matsumoto. In November, on the other hand, autumn colors along the historical Nakasendo Trail will be nearing their peak, as will those in Shirakawago, Takayama and Kanazawa itself (at least toward the end of the month).
I can understand why Nikko, a histor city in Tochigi prefecture just north of Tokyo, might seem like an afterthought for your Japan autumn 2023 trip. Most people come to this place, which centers around 17th-century Tosho-gu shrine as a day trip from Tokyo, assuming they come at all. This is complicated in autumn, at least if you’re not careful: While Tokyo’s leaves tend to change around or just before December 1, Nikko’s (particularly those near Kegon Falls and Lake Chuzenji) often turn yellow, orange and red a full month (or even six weeks!) earlier.
Hokkaido and Tohoku
Japan’s northernmost reaches see their leaves change earlier—which is to say, in line with when many places in North America and Europe experience autumn. If you’re planning an October or early November autumn trip to Japan, therefore, it makes sense either to visit Hokkaido or Tohoku, which comprises the northern half-dozen prefectures of Honshu island. Some of my personal favorite spots in these regions for autumn colors include Lake Towada and Oirase Stream, both in Aomori prefecture, as well as Yamadera temple in Yamagata and Ouchi-juku village in Fukushima. If you’ll only have time to visit Japan during the earlier part of the season, Hokkaido autumn 2023 is your best bet for seeing leaves!
I feel like the Seto Inland Sea is not among the top destinations people search when consulting the Japan autumn leaves forecast 2023. But it should be. Foliage in Setouchi is magnificent even in the major cities of the region: In Hiroshima near the A-Bomb Dome; at Okayama‘s Korakuen garden; and in Ritsurin, Takamatsu‘s treasure. Obviously, this beauty is even more pronounced the more off the beaten path you go, be that to deer-filled Miyajima island or to the harbor city of Onomichi, whose Old Temple Trail is arguably at its most enchanting during the autumn.
When Does Japan’s Autumn Foliage Usually Peak?
Whether we’re talking about autumn foliage Japan 2023 or in general, autumn leaves in Japan follow a rather predictable pattern. Specifically, you can expect to see peak koyo color according to the following calendar:
- Late September: Hokkaido and high-altitude Tohoku destinations
- Early-to-Mid October: Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route; Tohoku’s Aomori prefecture
- Late October to Early November: The rest of Tohoku; the Japanese Alps; Fuji Five Lakes; Nikko; Mt. Koya
- Mid-to-Late November: Kanazawa; Kansai; Setouchi; most of Shikoku; most of Kyushu; San’in
- Early December: Tokyo and southern Kyushu, plus Shikoku
You should note that these dates represent the peak of colors for all trees, whether for autumn in Japan 2023 or a different year. Japanese authorities also release a so-called “yellow leaves” forecast, which predicts when Japan’s famous ginkgo trees will change colors.
Is it Too Early to Plan a Japan Autumn Itinerary?
Autumn in Japan 2023 will start when the hillsides of Daisetsuzan National Park blaze red and orange in late September or early October. Accommodation for major Japan autumn leaves destinations will quickly fill up for 2023, so I’d recommend booking your hotels and ryokan as soon as possible.
Other FAQ About Autumn in Japan 2023
What months are autumn in Japan 2023?
Japan’s autumn colors begin in Hokkaido in late September, color the hillsides of Tohoku and the Japanese Alps from mid-October through mid-November, and reach their peak in Kyoto, Hiroshima and eventually Tokyo as November gives way to December.
Where should I go in Japan in autumn?
As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, you can find autumn beauty throughout Japan, from rural hillsides and gorges in Hokkaido and the Tohoku regions, to ancient historical districts from Kyoto’s Higashiyama ward to the town of Takayama in the Japanese Alps.
Is it cold in autumn in Japan?
Japan can be downright hot at the official beginning of autumn in late September, with temperatures in major cities well above 25ºC or 80ºF. However, by the times leaves change wherever you choose to see them, things will have cooled down substantially. You can expect crisp days with temperatures around 10ºC, and chilly nights approaching (or sometimes dipping below) freezing.
The Bottom Line
Whether it’s six months or just six weeks away by the time you read this, autumn in Japan 2023 is closer than you think—the time to start planning is now! Split a week or two in late November between Tokyo and Kyoto, or come earlier in the year and visit somewhere more non-traditional, be that in off-the-beaten path Tohoku or in the scenic Fuji Five Lakes region. One thing to note about Japan fall foliage 2023, if you’re feeling stressed, is that they’re much less fickle than the cherry blossoms—they last longer, too. Still, if you’re feeling uneasy about planning your trip or simply don’t have time to do it, there’s another option. When you hire me to create a custom Japan autumn colors itinerary for 2023 or 2024, I sweat all the details for you!