Autumn Colors in Japan: 2018 Fall Foliage Forecast

Mount Fuji in autumn

Japan is famous for its four distinct and breathtaking seasons. Though the cherry blossom in the spring is probably the most iconic, for many the fall is just as beautiful.

As temperatures dip after the scorching summer, the colors of the leaves change into vibrant shades of orange, red, yellow, and brown. It’s a magnificent sight which has inspired artists and poets for centuries.

In Japan, the natural phenomenon is called koyo or momiji (meaning red leaf). The activity of searching for the most striking shades of leaf is known as Momigari (red leaf hunting) It has been popular in Japan for centuries and is now a major draw for tourists.

When is the best time to experience fall in Japan? What are the best viewing locations? This handy guide is designed to help you plan the perfect momijigari vacation.

Autumn and maple leaves in Japanese culture

The tradition of momijigari has been popular since the Heian period (794-1195) and it has had a profound influence on Japanese culture. For Buddhists, it’s a moment which is important both spiritually and symbolically as it reminds us that life is ephemeral.

The maple leaf symbolizes fall in Japanese culture and its use is widespread. Momigari features heavily In eighth-century Manyoshu poetry as well as the classical Heian Period novel ‘The Tale of the Genji’. It’s typical to find screens, dishes, kimonos, and other fabrics bearing the symbol of the maple leaf.

Maple-shaped cakes are typical during the fall and the leaves themselves are often eaten as tempura: a delicious, deep-fried, sweet snack. There are various variations of maple leaf tempura throughout the country and they are often accompanied by a cup of Japanese tea.

Japanese maple leaf metaphors

  • Scatter autumn leaves’ means to go red-faced with embarrassment.
  • Hands like tiny maple leaves’ is used to describe the small hands of babies.
  • Like maple leaves and a deer’ means that two things make a great pair.

Maple red leaves during the autumn

Koyo viewing in Japan

Witnessing koyo is a moment of the year which the Japanese spend time anticipating and looking forward to. It’s not just tourists who agonize over the best times and places to see the fantastic colors.

There is no shortage of stunning places to enjoy the phenomenon through the best days to see it vary from place to place and from year to year. The momigari can be enjoyed in many ways including hikes, picnics, drives, bike rides and camping trips.

Many regions peak in November but some areas can start changing as early as September or as late as December. The type of maple tree determines whether the leaves are red (koyo), yellow (oyo), or brown (katsuyo).

Autumn foliage season in Japan 

The turning of the leaves in Japan varies due to temperature, elevation, and latitude. What does this mean for you? Mountainous regions and the islands to the north will experience autumn colors earlier than other regions. You should also take note of autumn color reports such as this one, as well as weather forecasts, as these will keep you up to date on fall color changes due to temperature. When temperatures turn cold early, the Japanese fall colors appear sooner – up to several weeks early – and vice versa.

In general, the autumn foliage season begins in mid-September on the island of Hokkaido, the northernmost island. In other parts of Japan, like Tokyo and Kyoto the best viewing times typically range from mid-October through early December. Peak viewing in each area typically lasts between two weeks to more than one month.

Where to see the autumn leaves

The best places to see autumn colors will largely depend on when you travel. Check the forecast below for information on when different regions reach peak viewing season.

The fact is, any place in Japan is a good area for koyo viewing. If you are feeling adventurous, consider hiking the meandering trails of one of Japan’s mountains. Even if you are visiting a bustling city such as Tokyo, city parks offer thousands of trees. Another option is simply looking out the window while traveling by train.

Likely, you already plan to travel from place to place using your Japan Rail Pass. Between stations, you will see the local countryside in all its autumn glory. For a truly unique koyo experience at a relaxed pace, consider a ride on the Sagano Scenic Railway.

Sagano Scenic Railway

2018 foliage forecast by region 

The following dates are estimates based on average best viewing times from previous years and can be helpful in timing your vacation.

Check this report often for further updates to the fall colors 2018 forecast.

Last update (Oct 03 / 2018): According to the latest forecasts, in 2018 the peak to appreciate the colors of koyo in the North of Japan will arrive between mid-October and late-November, in the East during the late November and in the west, earlier than average, from late November.

Japan Fall Foliage Forecast: October 2018

PrefectureLocationEstimated best viewing
Hokkaido Region
HokkaidoMuroranEarly November
HokkaidoHakodateLate October
HokkaidoSapporoLate October
HokkaidoDaisetsuzan National ParkLate October
Tohoku Region
AomoriAomoriMid-November
IwateMoriokaMid-November
MiyagiSendaiLate November
AkitaAkitaMid-November
YamagataYamagataLate November
FukushimaFukushimaMid-November
Kanto – Koushin Region
IbarakiMitoLate November
TochigiUtsunomiyaMid-November
TochigiNikkoLate November
TochigiMount Nasu-dakeEarly November
GunmaMaebashiLate November
GunmaOze National ParkMid-November
SaitamaKumagayaEarly December
ChibaChoshiEarly December
TokyoTokyoLate November
KanagawaYokohamaMid-December
KanagawaHakoneMid-November
KanagawaKamakuraMid-November
YamanashiKofuLate November
NaganoNaganoEarly November
Hokuriku Region
NiigataNiigataMid-November
ToyamaToyamaLate November
IshikawaKanazawaLate November
FukuiFukuiLate November
Tokai Region
GifuGifuLate November
GifuJapan AlpsMid-November
ShizuokaShizuokaLate November
ShizuokaMount FujiMid-November
AichiNagoyaLate November
MieTsuMid-November
Kansai Region
ShigaHikoneLate November
KyotoKyotoLate November
OsakaOsakaLate November
HyogoKobeLate November
NaraNaraEarly November
WakayamaWakayamaEarly December
Chugoku Region
TottoriTottoriLate November
ShimaneMatsueLate November
OkayamaOkayamaLate November
HiroshimaHiroshimaMid-November
YamaguchiShimonosekiEarly December
Shikoku Region
TokushimaTokushimaLate November
KagawaTakamatsuLate November
EhimeMatsuyamaLate November
KochiKochiLate November
Kyushu Region
FukuokaFukuokaLate November
SagaSagaEarly December
NagasakiNagasakiMid-December
KumamotoKumamotoEarly December
OitaOitaEarly December
MiyazakiMiyazakiEarly December
KagoshimaKagoshimaMid-December

Experiencing fall in Japan is nothing short of unforgettable. Don’t forget to acquire your JR Pass in order to travel between viewing locations in a simple, efficient, and affordable manner.

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Related Tours & Activities

Autumn Leaves: Mt. Fuji, 5-Storey Pagoda, and Lake Kawaguchi Day Trip from Tokyo

Book this seasonal tour (only available in November) and fully appreciate the beautiful leaves changing in the fall. This day trip from Tokyo will take you to see the breathtaking autumnal landscapes and Mount Fuji.

Autumn Leaves: Tokyo in Fall Full-Day Sightseeing

Fully enjoy the beautiful season of “Momiji” (Momiji means autumn leaves in Japanese) in Tokyo. The most comfortable way to admire the best of Tokyo during the fall without missing the best places to admire the beautiful color of the leaves.

Autumn Leaves: Small-Group Arashiyama and Sagano Walking Tour - Kyoto

On this tour we will visit the areas of Arashiyama and Sagano, famous for their beauty during the autumnal season, and also less crowded places known only by locals.

72 thoughts on “Autumn Colors in Japan: 2018 Fall Foliage Forecast”
  1. I plan to be in the Hakone/Fuji Five Lakes area from 10/31-11/2/18. Is this too early for the fall foliage this year? If it’s just the beginning does this mean that only certain leaves will be turning color?
    Thank you.

    1. Hi William! Estimated best viewing in Fuji Five Lakes is extected to be between early November and early December. Check this report often for further updates to the fall colors 2018 forecast! Happy travels!

  2. Hi!

    We’ve booked tickets for Fujikawaguchiko around the 4th to 6th of November, and Kansai region from 6-12th November.

    Do you reckon we’ll be able to see the autumn leaves around the Momiji tunnel and Arashiyama during that time? I haven’t seen any update for 2018 so far.

    Thanks

  3. Hi,

    In the Japan Fall Foilage Forecast 2018 map, you put “Mid Nov to Early Nov” for Tokyo. You might want to change that. Also, thank you for providing this information.

  4. Hi,
    I’m Alice from Italy. I’m planning my trip to Japan and I will be in Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara and Osaka from November 23 to December 3.
    Can I see the autumn colors during this period?

    Thank you so much

    1. Hi Alice,

      Yes, you probably will! As you can see in our infography above, late November is a great time to see the autumn leaves in the Tokyo and Kyoto areas.

      Happy travels!

  5. Hello! I will be in Japan from Sept 10- Oct 1. Will I be able to catch any of the autumn colors? Is it worth the trip up to Hokkaido?

    1. Hi Tiffany! Daisetsuzan National Park (Hokkaido) would be, according to the forecast, the only region in its estimated best viewing time during your trip. Daisetsuzan boasts being the first location to receive koyo in Japan, yet it is seldom frequented by tourists. The park is also home to volcanoes, lakes, mountain, and hot springs.

  6. Hi, I have booked my flight to Osaka from 5th Nov to 8th Nov. This is my third time to the region and this time we are hoping to see KOYO if we hit any luck. What will be the best bet of places to visit during the time, Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Wakayama? We are open to suggestions. With the warm weather lately in Japan do we have any past experience whether that will shift the timescale of fall foliage or not? I really hope we can see beautiful Japan in autumn colours.

    1. Hi Cheney! The 2018 forecast will be disclosed by September so please come back by then – as always, we will keep the forecast updated! 😉

  7. Hi,
    I am planning of doing simple trekking in Kamikochi on November 9 or 10. I would like to see the beauty of the alps. Is it okay to visit the said place during that time? Is it still magnificent? Or do I have to drop this plan? Do you have any alternative?

    Thanks,
    El 🙂

    1. Hi El! In this article you can see the forecast. As stated, the estimated best viewing time for fall folliage in Kamikochi is early to mid October.

  8. Hello
    I will be at Fujigoko on 26 and 27 october/2018. This area is considered “Mont Fuji” ? In this case, would have better visualization koyo at Nikko late octobre ?
    Thank you
    Thelma

  9. Hi! planning to visit Nagoya and its surrounding areas including Kenrouken Garden, Kanazawa, Gokayama and Gujo-Hachiman. When’s the best time to see autumn leaves in that area? I am trying to decide whether end Oct or end Nov?

    1. Hi Catherine! For this year’s forecast we still have to wait. Last year, in southern-central Japan (Tokyo-Nagoya-Kyoto), the best time to see the autumn was around from next November 13th to December 1st.

  10. Hi, I plan to visit Sapporo from Oct 14-21. Would that be a good time to see the autumn colors or should I go a week later?

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Gloria! 2018 fall foliage forecast has not been released yet. As soon as first details are disclosed they will be updated in this article so please make sure you visit it.

  11. Hi, i’m going to Tokyo and Kyoto next week from 13 to 24 November. Please recommend me some waterfalls and ropeway in the region with good autumn view. I will be travelling between Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Nagoya and Kobe.
    Thank you.

    1. Hi Justin!

      Located near Tokyo in the Kanto region, Nikko is among Japan’s most popular destinations. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, home to historic shrines—including Toshogu, the most decorated shrine in Japan—and natural wonders such as onsen and waterfalls. This park makes a good day trip or overnight trip from Tokyo.

      Have an amazing trip!

  12. Hi, I will be in Otsu,Shiga on Dec2-5.
    Where is the best place to see colored momiji aside from Kyoto and Osaka? I want to stay in Shiga most of the time.
    Thank you very much!

    1. Hi Beth!

      In this article you are reading you get to see the estimated best fall foliage viewing in each area of Japan. According the last update of the forecast, in southern-central Japan the best time to see the autumn leaves should be from next Monday November 13th to December 1st. We recommend you to come back check this article since we keep updating it with the latest available information.

      Have an amazing trip!

    1. Hi Mary!

      The best viewing days always depend on nature – the best we can do is providing you the best forecast 🙂 In Kyoto the best viewing times typically range from mid-October through early December so you might get to see the city parks at its full fall colors. However, Osaka’s best estimated viewing is Mid November to Early December. We strongly recommend you to keep visiting this article since it gets updated with the latest available information.

      Very happy travels!

  13. Hello, I am coming to Japan between 7th to 13th November. Can you kindly devise which are the places to experience best fall foliage? I am thinking of going Hakone, Nikko, Nara or Kyoto but not too sure which one are a better place to go during this period and what type of JR line should I buy for the location you recommended. Many thanks for your advise.

    1. Hi Jacqueline!

      In this article you are reading you will find all available details regarding fall foliage in Japan. The best places to see autumn colors will largely depend on when you travel. We recommend you to carefuly check this forecast for information on when different regions reach peak viewing season. Keep in mind this article’s information will be updated with the lateast available information so please make sure you read it more than once!

      The most adequate pass will be entirely based on the itinerary.

      Have a nice trip!

    1. Hi Gracia!

      You can find them all in this article. Please check locations that are expected to be at its best viewing in late October. We recommend you to keep an eye in this article since it gets constantly updated with the latest news.

      Happy travels!

  14. Hello! 🙂

    I will be in Kyoto Nov 24-26. Any chance of seeing peak autumn foliage then? Or is it going to be beyond peak during that time?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi KM!

      As you can see in this article, the estimated best viewing of the fall folliage in Kyoto is from mid November to early December. However please come back to check this article before your trip since we keep updating it with latest information.

      Have an amazing trip!

  15. Hello i will be visiting japan in the first week of november and would love a recommendation for a good place to see the autumn leaves in that period (hopefully not too far from a major airport as it will be a short trip). Also would be great if it were close to some nice onsens!

    1. Hi Mike!

      In this article you are reading you have our best recommendations for seeing the fall foliage in Japan! We recommend you to check it weekly since as soon as more information appears this article is updated.

      Have a nice trip

  16. Hi, i will be visiting Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka from 21 – 29 oct..
    Do you think i will be able to see Autumn colours since the forecast is around mid nov?

    1. Hello Martha,

      You can feel the autumn atmosphere in different places from Mid October to Early December except Hokkaido region. Though some part of Kanto and Chubu regions provide plenty of incredible fall colors in early October.
      Within your itinerary there are many locations where you will be able to enjoy the koyo, but here you have our list of best places to see autumn leaves in Japan

      Hope you have a nice trip!

  17. I will be going Hokkaido on 15 oct to 23 oct. Is the autumn foliage already started there now? Or during the week I reach ? Really hope we can see it the time we arrive.

    1. Hello Adam,

      As usual, the fall foliage is expected to be seen in mid September. Don´t miss any update of our Fall Foliage Forecast for 2017. Based on this forecast the best time to see colorful fall foliage in Hokkaido is between early to mid October. If you arrive in Hokkaido on the given time then I must say you will nailed it! Now get ready to explore the best fall foliage trips in Hokkaido.
      The best places to enjoy the koyo there may include Shiretoko, Daisetsuzan National Park, Miharashi Park, Hokkaido University, Shikotsu-Toya National Park and Onuma Park among other…

      Hope you have a magical trip to Japan 🙂

  18. I will be visiting Osaka, Kyoto & Nara from 4 -12 Nov with Hong Kong relatives. Can we see Autumn colours in Japan?

    1. Hello,

      In comparison with the fall colors of Kyoto or Tokyo, Osaka seems a less popular destination. However, Minoo Park, Osaka Castle Park, Midosuji Avenue and Kanshinji Temple are the best points to see the autumn leaves there. The best time to view autumn foliage in Osaka is from early-November to late-November. If you visit Osaka in mid-November you expect to experience the peak season.

      Nara is stunning all year round, but in the autumn, nature decorates it with vibrant colors. To experience magnificent fall colors in Nara you have got to come there on time, between late-November to early-December.

      And kyoto… Kyoto is a heaven of autumn colors.

      Listed here are our favorites 10 spots to see autumn leaves in Japan. Would you like to visit more than one location? Doing so is easy and affordable when you travel by train using your Japan Rail Pass.

      Hope this information helps you 🙂

      Regards

  19. Hi! Thank you for this article! Your update on 9/29 mentions that with above average temperatures the autumn leaves have not quite changed yet. Does this also affect the red Miharashi no Oka in Hitachi Seaside Park? Will it change in November instead?
    What about the leaves in Nikko? Will that also be later in November? I plan to be in Japan Nov 17-24 so I’m hoping to catch these areas!

    1. Hi Lena,

      For the red Miharashi no Oka in Hitachi Seaside Park, we wouldn´t say it will last until November since the peak period goes from mid-September to mid-October. So, even if this year the autumn colors come later, November may be to late for the viewing.
      The coloring season in Nikko is long because of the wide range in elevation from the mountains of the Okunikko region to the Nikko town area down in the valley. The colors usually first arrive in the high elevations of Okunikko around early October, reach Lake Chuzenji in mid October and the Irohazaka Winding Road in late October before descending to the town of Nikko in early November. Note that the best colors are found in the Okunikko region, while the town area of Nikko is dominated by evergreen trees and does not offer too many colors.
      Here you have our 10 best places to see autumn leaves in Japan
      Hope this info helps

      Have a lovely trip to Japan

  20. Hi, I am going to Kamikochi and Karuizawa on 21st & 22nd Oct, do you think I can see autumn leaves there? And will it be peak period?

    1. Hello Mayme,

      Karuizawa’s autumn begins a little earlier than Tokyo’s, and every year the highlight of the season is in October, when visitors can fully enjoy the beauty of Karuizawa’s nature. In case of Kamikochi, particularly beautiful during the autumn foliage season, the peak period is usually in mid October. Therefore, you will be able to enjoy autumn colors spots in the area while you are in Japan.
      Have a look at our travel guide, If you are looking for best spots to see autumn leaves

      Have a nice trip

      Kind regards

  21. My family and I will be in Tokyo end of Oct to early Nov this year. Which specific places in Tokyo would you recommend if we were to try to see some autumn foliage (assuming they’d be there already)? Thank you!

  22. Hello everyone,

    I am Yen from Ho Chi Minh. I wonder which week in Oct, Nov, Dec to see beautiful autumn (yellow and red leaf)?
    Been to Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto for cherry blossoms last year and still love to see another beauty of Japan.
    I like to see something new or I dont mind to see same place before. Is there any chance that I can see snow in the north of Japan same time this time?

    Thanks for your helpful advise.
    Cheers,
    Yen
    Mysaigonhome.com

    1. Hi Yen!

      In general, the autumn foliage season begins in mid-September on the island of Hokkaido, the northernmost island. In other parts of Japan, like Tokyo and Kyoto, the best viewing times typically range from mid-October through early December. We recommend you to check this forecast to help you decide on which month to visit Japan depending on the region you want to visit. Snow season in Japan goes from mid-December until late March so if you wish to see snow you might want to travel on December.

      Have a nice trip!

    1. Hi tanggg!

      According to past years’ experience, the estimated best viewing for the fall foliage in Sapporo would be from mid October to late October. However we recommend you to follow closely this article as it will be updated with the latest forecasts available.

      Have a nice trip!

  23. Planning to do a mini honeymoon in Hokkaido October 24-27. Will we expect to see koyou fall colors in furano, biei, asahikawa, daisetuzan? Is there a map link I can find updates to the forecast?

    1. Hi Jonathan!

      Congratulations on your upcoming wedding!

      In general, the autumn foliage season begins in mid-September on the island of Hokkaido, the northernmost island. Usually the estimated best viewing dates are between Late September and Late October based on average from previous years. This article will be updated with 2017’s forecast so don’t forget to review it weekly!

      Happy travels

  24. I have a question, when is the best ideal time to go to Aomori – Hirosaki Castle to view the Autumn colors? October 24 or 30th?

    Thank you

    1. Hi Christopher,

      Mid to late October should be the best time so both should be good times, but it’s hard to say yet. Please check back this forecast for further information!

      Thank you!

  25. Regarding your best viewing windows, does that mean that if I go to say Kyoto before the middle of November, that there won’t be any leaves? Or just not as good as if I went in mid-November?

    1. Hi Joshua,

      That’s the estimated best viewing, but you may actually see the red autumn leaves before mid-November. Please check back this article for future updates.

      Cheers!

  26. Dear Team,
    Thank you for your good article. Would you please advise in more specific time, if it said autumn from mid November to early December. Does it mean from 15 November to … December ( usually what date that refer to ‘early’?
    I am sorry to ask you this, but I real want to see momiji gari in Tokyo, kyoto, osaka this year.
    Thank you,
    Maria

    1. Hi Maria,

      Early December usually means the first week. However, depending on the weather it can mean the first two weeks of December. We advise you check our weather-forecast back in October for more details.

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