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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.