Photo:Fallen leaves at Ueno Park (Photo by @vanessazelle on Instagram)

Beautiful Autumn in Tokyo: A Guide to the Best Foliage Spots

It is undeniable that Japan is the first place which comes to mind when you think of “sakura”, the pink cherry blossom. However, as much as we all love spring, you’ll definitely prefer autumn if you know where to go and what to do. Here’s why:

1) Extremely Photogenic: The warm color of the autumn leaves (red-orange-yellow) are very distinctly photogenic, especially in photos, as compared to sakura. Autumn leaves also look beautiful regardless of the weather, whether it be under sunny, cloudy, or rainy days.

2) Plenty of Time for Viewing: Throughout each prefecture, autumn leaves tend to last about two months, which is certainly much longer than sakura which only lasts a few weeks. More importantly, autumn leaves aren’t as fragile as sakura, and won’t be washed away by unexpected rain.

3) Fewer Allergic reactions*: Spring is the season of hay fever in Japan, which could be very annoying. When spring starts to kick in, it’s easy to find more people sneezing or wearing masks as the pollen from cherry blossoms start to disperse. But fewer people experience allergic reactions during autumn.

*To counter the allergic reactions, other than taking medication, some very helpful remedies would be to wear a mask and drink lots of green tea, as they could help ease the reactions to some degree.

Where Are the Best Spots in Tokyo for Autumn Foliage?

Autumn in Japan starts as early as late September, starting from Hokkaido prefecture, slowly down to Kanto (Tokyo), then to Kansai (Kyoto, Osaka, Nara) and Kyushu. In Tokyo, it often lasts from early November to early December. Having lived in Tokyo for the past 3 years and being a photographer, here are a few very photogenic spots in Tokyo I would highly recommend.

Showa Kinen Park (昭和記念公園, Shōwa Kinen Kōen)

Covering an area of 180 hectares (440 acres), Showa Kinen Park is the biggest park in Tokyo where not only can you enjoy the warmth of the autumn leaves, but also other fields of beautiful flower, cycling/running tracks, picnic spots and lake views. This park is great for any season year round.

Entrance fee: 410 yen per adult
Opening hours: 9:30 – 16:30 (Nov 1st to end of Feb), 9:30 – 17:00 (Mar 1st to Oct 31st), 9:30 – 18:00 (Apr 1st to Sept 30th on Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays)
Nearest station: Tachikawa station

Official Site

celiaintokyo on Flickr
Yoshikazu TAKADA on Flickr

Mount Takao (高尾山, Takaosan)

Does hiking a mountain sound a bit too hardcore for you? No worries! Located just 50 minutes away by train ride from Shinjuku station, Mount Takao is only 599m high and is quite an easy mountain to hike. Coupled with the color-changing leaves and a very friendly route to get to the top, it is climbable for anyone and is very much enjoyed by people of all ages, including children and the elderly. There is also a cable car lift leading to the top if you are that lazy. Along the route, there is a monkey park and several bazaars selling Japanese food and drinks for you to enjoy throughout the hike.

Yummy Soba at the Summit of Mt. Takao

Entrance fee: FREE (Cable Car: 470 yen One way; 900 yen Round)
Opening hours: 8:00 – 17:00/18:00 (depending on season)
Nearest station: Takaosanguchi station

Ueno Park (上野公園, Ueno Kōen)

Located in the central part of Tokyo, Ueno Park always attracts visitors every season throughout the year. Besides the park, there are also museums, a zoo and Ameyoko Shopping Street for you to explore among the maple trees.

Entrance fee: FREE
Opening hours: 5:00 – 23:00
Nearest station: Ueno station

Shiba Park (芝公園, Shiba Kōen)

Being one of the spots in Tokyo to get a great glimpse of Tokyo Tower, Shiba Park is surprisingly not very well known among the residence in Tokyo. From early-November onward, this park will be radiant with some ginkgo tress. If you walk up the stairs near the temple just beside the park, there is also another open field ideal for a picnic and relaxing.

Entrance fee: FREE
Opening hours: 24 hours
Nearest station: Shibakoen station

Shiba Park in the summer (Photo by @vanessazelle on Instagram)

Hibiya Park (日比谷公園, Hibiya Kōen)

A rather more isolated park away from the crowd, but Hibiya Park is not any less compared to other renowned parks in Tokyo. Featuring the colorful garden of tulips, the park will glimmer with the warm red maples and calming yellow ginkgo trees. It is also a great place for jogging and working out.

Entrance fee: FREE
Opening hours: 24 hours
Nearest station: Hibiya station

akiko yanagawa on Flickr

Icho Namiki Avenue (銀杏並木, Icho Namiki)

Being a very cliché spot for autumn foliage in Tokyo, Icho Namiki Avenue is a long street stretching between the fashion district Gaienmae and central business district Aoyama Itchome, except the fact that it will be abundantly yellow with rows of ginkgo trees in fall. The trees also light up at night, and their appearance is very dreamy-like.

Entrance fee: FREE
Opening hours: 24 hours
Nearest station: Aoyama-Itchome station

nakashi on Flickr

Photography Tips:

Beautiful pictures tell great stories, so here are a few techniques you can use for more stunning photos with autumn foliage.

  • Clothing choices

If you plan on being in the photos, avoid clothing with color tones such as green, bright pink, blue, or any color that contradicts red-yellow-autumn. Instead, go for basic tone clothing such as black, cream, and grey.

  • Shooting time

The best time to shoot is during the golden hour 15:00 – 16:30 as the sunlight is a little redder and softer than it is during other times of the day, yielding better lighting for your photos. Similarly, 8:00 – 10:00 (an hour after sunrise or so) is also a great time to take photos if you want to avoid the potential crowds. Make sure to modify your White Balance and use wide aperture.

  • Play with the fallen autumn leaves

Make use of the massive pile of the leaves to create story-telling photos. It’s time to get creative and have some fun!

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