Japan is a destination at the top of many a traveler’s bucket list. The country is unique in several ways, with an unusual island geography and a culture that is unlike anywhere else. Plus, a history that stretches back thousands of years. All of this is particularly wonderful in the fall, as the bucolic landscapes transform and the locals engage in festivals both modern and traditional.
Fall is an ideal time to visit Japan. Running from September to November, the intense heat of the summer gives way to calmer temperatures and clearer skies. Japan is famous for its gardens, and the fall turns the green foliage into a kaleidoscope of reds, yellows and oranges, offering breathtaking scenery. It's hardly surprising, then, that many travel here simply to experience the many 'falling leaf' festivals that take place around the country each year.
If you’re keen to explore Japan in the fall, book some of these brilliant activities.
The Japanese are famous for their excellence in horticulture and garden design. When you combine this with the natural beauty of the changing leaves, the country’s landscapes become truly spectacular.Visit the Imperial Palace East Gardens or the Shinjuku Gyoen in Tokyo for perfect examples of Japan’s natural fall beauty. At both, the principles of Zen showcase what time and growth can achieve.
Take in the fall foliage from the comfort of a thermal pool, naturally heated by geothermal activity underground. Many of Japan's hot springs, such as those in Hakone, sit within sprawling forests and offer a brilliant view of the developing shades. This is a custom that stretches back centuries, but at the progressive Kuroyu Onsen in Akita, you can enjoy 'konyoku rotenburo' (unisex, open-air bathing). This place has been running since the Edo period.
Considered the country's national sport, Sumo is a practise steeped in history and tradition. It's also a hell of a show. Grand tournaments are rare with only six taking place each year, but two of these occur during the fall and make for sensational viewing.
The fall in Japan brings forth what the Japanese call an 'Autumn appetite', as the harvest gives rise to a large number of food festivals. Highlights include Hokkaido’s food festival and the Tokyo Ramen Show.
If you happen to be in Japan towards the end of the fall season, you may be able to catch the beginnings of the winter lights season, where the whole country transforms into a sparkling wonderland with light shows and festivals.
Fall in Japan is probably the mildest time of the year to visit. The humidity and heat of the summer fades as a more temperate climate takes hold. Sweatshirts and long-sleeved tops are advised, while mornings and evenings may call for the use of a light jacket.
The best season to visit Japan is the spring: the weather is glorious and the cherry trees are in blossom. You can also go in the autumn when the colours are just as beautiful. But is it always better to go mid-season to explore the country. In fact, winter can be very cold, whilst summer is often very hot with heavy rain.