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Japan is a truly unique destination in that each month has something fantastic to offer, and there is genuinely no bad time to plan a trip.

Seasons play a huge role in Japanese culture, so visiting at different times of the year will offer different experiences. Many plan their trip around spring to witness the cherry blossoms bloom, though a strong argument could be made that Autumn is the most beautiful time of year! And Kyoto has some of the most stunning fall foliage in the country.

Leaves start changing from mid October and last until mid-December. Using this as your Japan travel guide, hit up the following spots in mid November to see Autumn colors in Kyoto at their best.

If you’re inspired and want to travel with this information offline, I’ve created a free travel guide on Pearlshare which you can download straight to your phone so you don’t forget where to find your favorite fall foliage! Click here.

Best Places to See Fall Foliage in Kyoto, Japan

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Kitano-Tenmangū Shrine (北野天満宮)

One of the most important of several hundred shrines across Japan that are dedicated to Sugawara Michizane, a scholar and politician who was exiled by his political rivals.

Hundreds of maple trees line the river here. It is a particularly beautiful sight when lit up at night. There is a great flea market which runs on the 25th of every month.

Kiyomizudera Temple

This is an iconic Buddhist temple on Mount Otowa known for the scenic views afforded from its sizable veranda.

There are large wooden stages that jut out from the main hall, and it’s a spectacular contrast when the maple trees turn red in the second half of November.

Kiyomizudera, Watcher of Kyoto City

Daitoku-ji Temple (大徳寺)

Famed for its gardens, this sprawling Buddhist temple complex is part of the Rinzai Zen sect. This is best described as a world of temples, and there is a lot to explore.

The main temple is surrounded by nearly two dozen subtemples, and as far as fall foliage and gardens go, there are many great Zen gardens and beautiful maple trees inside the walls.

Nanzen-ji Temple (南禅寺)

Nanzen-ji, or Zuiryusan Nanzen-ji, formerly Zenrin-ji, is a Zen Buddhist temple. Emperor Kameyama established it in 1291 on the site of his previous detached palace. It is also the headquarters of the Nanzen-ji branch of Rinzai Zen.

For the best photos shoot at the maples near the San-mon gate. There is a beautiful zen garden & smaller temples can be accessed from around the main property.

Nanzen-Ji Temple, Kyoto

Kodai-ji Temple (鷲峰山 高台寺)

This temple was established in 1606 in memory of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, one of Japan’s greatest historical figures, by Hideyoshi’s wife Nene who is also enshrined at the temple.

Head here for night time illuminations. Everything is lit up, and the reflection of the maple leaves in the temple’s pond is spectacular.

Tofuku-ji Temple (東福寺)

This is a large Zen temple in southeastern Kyoto that is particularly famous for its spectacular autumn colours.

It’s not usually a busy place, but be prepared for huge crowds in November. This is one of Kyoto’s most famous maple leaf viewing spots. Don’t miss the Hojo Garden.

Tofuku-ji Temple, Kyoto

Ginkaku-ji Temple (慈照寺 (銀閣寺))

This 15th-century Zen temple features picturesque gardens & a sand mound shaped like Mount Fuji.

Visitors should note that it is always extremely busy, but very beautiful so absolutely worth the trip. To avoid crowds try to plan your visit for opening or closing. Take the trail at the back of the garden for fantastic temple and city views.

Honen-in (法然院)

Hōnen-in is a Buddhist temple located in Sakyō-ku, Kyoto, western Japan.

The iconic photo here is the pretty moss-covered thatched-roof gate backed by red maple trees. The best time to catch crimson Maples is in the first week of November.

Arashiyama

While the above recommendations are located at quite specific addresses, Arashiyama is a district with great opportunities for viewing fall foliage all throughout.

On the outskirts of Kyoto, this area offers beautiful forested mountains in the background and many temples to explore.

View of the roof of the Buddhist temple of Nosin-in in the district of Kyoto called Arashiyama in autumn

Daigo-ji Temple (醍醐寺)

An important temple of the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism, this is a designated world heritage site.

The temple complex has a lot of beautiful maple trees. Take the trailhead to the Kami Daigo at the summit of the mountain. It is an hour climb through the forest.

Kyoto Gyoen (京都御苑)

Kyoto’s Central Park, located in the middle of the city. Open to everyone, this spot has become a national garden where people can come to get away from the busy city.

The park has free entry, and is very popular among locals. It’s an expansive space, so never feels crowded, even in autumn when people come out to see the colors.

Stone bridge at Kyoto National Garden Gyoen

Shinyodo Temple

Shinshōgokuraku-ji or Shinnyo-dō is a Buddhist Tendai temple in Kyoto. It was established in 984 AD by Kaisan Shonin. Famous for it’s spectacular autumn display.

This is a great place to avoid the crowds. Pretty red maples trees and gorgeous gingko trees that turn bright yellow can be seen in October and November.

Okochi Sanso Garden (大河内山荘庭園)

Ōkōchi Sansō is the former home and garden of the Japanese jidaigeki or period film actor Denjirō Ōkōchi and is located in Arashiyama, Kyoto.

There are gorgeous gardens, and Autumn here is very pretty. Head to the viewpoint which looks across Kyoto and a Shinto shrine for some great photo opportunities.

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Megan is an Australian Journalist who has been travelling and blogging since 2007, with the main aim of inspiring others to embark on their own worldwide adventure. Her husband Mike is an American travel photographer, and together they have made the world their home.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

Follow their journey on Facebook, TwitterYouTube, Pinterest and Instagram.

Photo credits: Featured & Pinterest images by Moyan Brenn. Kiyomizudera by Karlo Camero. Nanzen-Ji Temple by Hessam. Tofuku-ji Temple by Yusuke Umezawa. Stone bridge at Kyoto National Garden Gyoen ©Christian Kaden / www.Japan-Kyoto.de.

    16 Comments

  1. Wow! These pictures are so stunning. It really makes me want to go to Japan now :)

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Joanna! Hope you have the chance to visit Japan soon!

  2. The Autumn colours in Japan look amazing. I’ve visited Japan in spring and winter but after seeing those golden leaves I think I need to go there in Autumn, especially as I live in Queensland where we don’t really get much of an Autumn.

    • Definitely recommend Autumn if you’re planning another trip – always nice too when it’s something unique and different to what you usually experience at home :) Happy travels Christina!

  3. What a great guide. I was in Japan this summer but plan on going back. Your photos of the fall foliage are inspiring, especially the one of Arashiyama. Will have to plan my next visit during the fall.

    • Thanks Debra! You’ll love Autumn in Japan – happy travels!

  4. Great tips here and loving the photos. :) So want to go to Japan and see this. THe autumn leaves and temples combined look amazing

    • Thanks Danik! Hope you have the chance to travel soon :) X

  5. What a lovely city and colors! I really wish and hope to visit Japan one day. It just seems the whole different world from many points of view. Thank you for sharing your experience, tips, and stunning pictures!

    • A whole different world is a good way of describing Japan :) I hope you have the chance to travel here soon! XX

  6. Great guide! Arashiyama might as well be my favourite of all of them but they are all gorgeous! I’ve heard people saying before that it is different in the different seasons but I think I would love to visit during the cherry blossoms.

    • Thanks Sia! Arashiyama is absolutely beautiful for sure :) Each of the seasons in Japan really are just so different, and there’s honestly something which makes each season worthwhile for a visit :) Cherry blossoms are definitely the big pull during spring! X

  7. Usually I get said when fall comes. In Canada that means summer is officially over and “Winter Is Coming” (to quote Game of Thrones) lol. However, the only thing that makes me love fall is all the the beautiful and stunning colours the season produces. I love your pictures and it really show how awesome nature is and how beautiful this planet is!!!

    • Definitely a double edged sword to fall if you’re in a part of the world with a brutal winter. But it’s definitely one of the prettiest seasons! Maybe this year you can swap winter in Canada for summer somewhere else :D!

  8. Ah I miss Japan! Unfortunately when I went we had just missed out on seeing the pretty flowers! I was so sad!

    • Just means you have the perfect excuse to plan a return trip :D

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