Autumn or ‘aki’ is a special season in Japan. After the unpredictable blasts of late summer hurricane weather, the blue skies and cool nights of October are welcome. Arguably the best season for walking in Japan is autumn. The trees start to change colour in late September up in Hokkaido and Tohoku, gradually transitioning through the chain of islands south-west to peak in Kyushu in late November.

Just like the national mania for cherry blossoms, autumn leaf viewing is a thing, and the coloured leaf peak can be tracked on https://www.kyuhoshi.com/japan-autumn-foliage-forecast/

Most loved of all Japanese autumn leaves is the ‘momiji‘ or maple. It appears everywhere in autumn as a seasonal motif – in kimono textiles, print and even as a decoration on food.

Deciduous trees in Japan provide spectacular autumn colour, and walking through forests of beech, maples and larch is unforgettable. Narai village on the Nakasendo trail and Kamikochi in the central Alps area are good viewing spots for Karamatsu larch.

Karamatsu larch on the hillsides around Narai,on the Nakasendo

Autumn in Kyoto is all about strategy. Identify your destination, your route, and get there before opening or you will be in a very long queue with tourists and school groups. If you can tolerate the crowds, it is still sublimely beautiful.

Ginkgo trees come into their ancient glory at this time – sometimes up to more than a thousand years old, these venerable giants glow golden in temple grounds.

best Walks for autumn

  • Nakasendo – November
  • Tohoku Basho – October
  • Oirase Stream in Aomori – mid October
  • Kamikochi in Nagano – early October
  • Mt Fuji foothills to 5th Station – mid October
  • Kyoto Circuit Trail – mid November

With the warming climate, the timing of the autumn leaves’ peak has been getting later and is very dependent on the last hurricane, which usually marks the end of warm and humid weather. This has been as late as early November in recent years.

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