Tohoku is blessed with beautiful nature and autumn foliage here is fabulous! The Tohoku region consists of six prefectures, Aomori, Akita, Iwate, Yamagata, Miyagi, and Fukushima. These are the places where colorful autumn foliage is expected to be seen from early October to Mid November.

Koyo (colorful fall leaves) in Tohoku offers travelers to experience its breathtaking fall foliage in different places across the region such as on the slopes of the mountainous, lakes, rivers gorges, samurai residences, national parks, Japanese countryside, and ponds. Indeed this sounds very good to discover all those areas!

Waterfall and autumn leaves in Akita Prefecture. Photo Credit: Syuzo Tsushima at Flickr.

You will be happy to know that Tohoku is home to some Japan’s top famous autumn leaves viewing spots. In fact, most of the spots are perfect for taking photos of iconic colorful autumn foliage. In autumn many professional photographers come here to capture the awesome fall foliage landscapes of Tohoku.

Few years ago from now, I met with a French amateur photographer in Hachimantai who told me this “I have found a post on the web about Tohoku’s autumn season, I was inspired and encouraged to see the nature in real life and shoot some photographs.” Hearing such I myself felt Tohoku really is a place for hunting autumn foliage. What do you think?

Best Time to View Autumn Leaves in Tohoku

I was asked a question many times by many Tohoku visitors who wished to see autumn colors there. Here is the question: “What’s the best time to visit Tohoku for viewing autumn foliage?” I know it is a vital question for those who have never ever been to Tohoku during fall season before.

Usually, Japan autumn foliage season begins in Hokkaido region then it comes down to Tohoku region. From early October to early November is considered to be the best time to view autumn leaf in Tohoku. Though you could enjoy viewing colored fall foliage at Adatara Mountain, Koyo River Gorge, Mogami River Gorge,Tazawa Lake, Geibi River Gorge, Oirase Mountain Stream, and Nakano Japanese Maple Mountain till Mid November.

Samurai Housings & Colored Autumn Leaves

Kakunodate Samurai House and Autumn leaves. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Once samurai used to rule the land of the rising sun but now they don’t. Though, we have the historic samurai residences and one of them is called Kakunodate Samurai District, which is located in Akita prefecture. This place offers stunning beauty of autumn colors during the fall season.

History says that about 80 samurai families used to reside there. Their houses still look pretty neat and clean just like they were in the Edo period. When you enter the samurai district during autumn season you will be witnessed colorful autumn nature there and the atmosphere of the place makes you feel as though you have gone back in time to the Edo Period.

The samurai houses’ gates and black walls seem to you like they all have dressed-up with autumn colors. In fact, you could imagine how beautiful the samurai houses could be, when it is time of changing colors. Please note that, Kakunodate Samurai District is seen to be one of the best famous places to visit in Akita Prefecture.

Therefore, in order to experience both autumn foliage and this historic place, please make a meaningful travel plan and have some fun there. The best time to see autumn foliage there is from late October to mid November.

Mystic Beauty at the Gorges in Tohoku

Naruko Gorge Autumn Colors in Miyagi, Tohoku. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

There are some beautiful gorges throughout the Tohoku region that get crowded with lots of visitors, especially in the fall. The mystic beauty of autumn color is hidden unless or until you make a visit to these areas. For some reason you have to be an explorer whose minds hunt for exploring things that are precious.

To me the autumn color of Tohoku is a precious thing. You can’t leave Tohoku just right after visiting a famous autumn leaves spot called Hachimantai. To be honest with you, there is much more than this popular fall color spot. For example, Geibikei Gorge and Genbikei Gorge in Iwate prefecture are well known for outstanding scenery of autumn colors.

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Waterfall and Autumn Leaves in Akita. Photo Credit: jasohill at Flickr.

While on the other hand in Yamagata prefecture, there are three most popular river gorges: Mogami River Gorge, Koyo River Gorge and Akashiba River Gorge that offer visitors to have relaxing boat tours alongside viewing colored autumn leaves.

The first time I visited Naruko River Gorge, located in Miyagi prefecture, I saw yellow beech and oak trees, at the same time I saw green color cedar tree leaves along with red maple leaves. Truly, all these colors had blown my mind.

To explore the autumn leaves, one of the things I enjoyed most was I walked through a hiking trail that runs through the Dakigaeri gorge in Akita prefecture. I saw waterfalls there, and blue river that looked amazing with those colorful trees. I visited all the river gorges of Tohoku that I have mentioned here; indeed every trip was full of mystic beauty.

Mount Hakkoda Ropeway Adventure

Mt. Hakkoda’s fall foilage! Photo Credit: Aomori Tourism Times.

Mount Hakkoda is famous for its autumn and winter season landscapes. It is the collective name of the sixteen mountains. In autumn, Hokkoda mountains slopes get covered with red, yellow, purple, orange, magenta and even dark green leaves.

The best way of enjoying your time here is by Hakkoda ropeway. It is amazing for seeing colored mountainous slopes in autumn and snowy white landscape in winter. Here, autumn that appeals to your sense of fun with an interesting experience is called Hokkoda ropeway.

It is accessible to uppermost slopes via the ropeway and it takes you to the top of the Tamoyachidake (one of the peaks of Mount Hokkoda). On the entire ropeway trip, you can enjoy the great views of the autumn colors in the valley and surrounding mountains slopes. It is extreme, fun, enjoying and most importantly it is the best opportunity to witness Hakkoda mountains autumn colors up from the sky!

Best Places to See Autumn Foliage in Tohoku Region

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Beautiful Autumn Foliage in Hachimantai. Photo Credit: jasohill at Flickr.

So far, you have experienced some scenic beauty of autumn foliage of Tohoku in this article. I also named some most popular autumn leaves viewing spots throughout this post. At least you could figure out some top places where colorful autumn foliage can be seen and enjoyed. Well, it is time to inform you the best of the best autumn leaves viewing spots of Tohoku region.

1) Hachimantai:

Hachimantai is a beautiful town especially in autumn season, located in Iwate prefecture and well known for its colorful autumn foliage, hiking trails, hot spring resorts, and natural beauty. You can see awesome colorful autumn foliage in the Hachimantai mountains, Hachimantai Aspite Line, Goshogake Onsen, Tamagawa Onsen, Nyuto Onsen and Onuma Pond.

Best time: Early to Late October

2) Lake Towada and Oirase Stream:

Oirase Stream. Photo Credit: Tak H. at Flickr.

This spectacular autumn leave viewing spot is loacted in Aomori prefecture. It offers to see a beautiful stream called Oirase Stream, usually, get crowded by many visitors when deep forest change its colors along the stream. While on the other hand, lakefronts of Lake Towada looks fabulous with the colors of autumn leaves. Witness the beautiful reflection of the autumn leaves on the water of Lake Towada.

Best time: Late October

3) Kakunodate Samurai District:

Find out the Historic Edo period of the Samurai residences along with charming autumn foliage. This is a perfect spot for having a day trip to Akita Prefecture.

Best time: Late October to Mid November

4) Mount Hakkoda:

Hakkoda hills in the fall. Photo Credit: C.K. Tse at Flickr.

Hokkoda mountains areas that are covered with autumn foliage can be experienced by ropeway. This is going to be an unforgettable trip for you. And you will be thinking of it for many years. Fly like a bird with the ropeway and see the autumn foliage up from the sky like a sea hawk! No doubt that Mount Hokkoda is a pride of Aomori prefecture!

Best time: Mid October

5) Naruko Gorge

This is the best autumn leaves viewing spot in Miyagi prefecture. The  bridge, river gorge, stream, colorful yellow beech, oak and maple leaves make this place is an ideal place for enjoying a beautiful autumn day. Want to have a little family picnic party there? If so, just go ahead and enjoy!

Best time: Late October to Early November

8) Bandai Azuma Lake Line:

Bandai Azuma Skyline. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

On the entire driveway you can enjoy the spectacular view of beautiful landscape of Nakatsugawa Gorge & Vally, Bandai-Azuma Skyline, Lake Hibara, Lake Akimoto and other sightseeing spots. It is a 13.1 km driveway that connects Kitashiobara Village and Inawashiro Town. Nevertheless to say it is one of the best ways of enjoying scenic beauty of autumn colors in Urabandai.

Best time: Late October

6) Mogami Gorge

Mogamikyo or Mogami Gorge is seen as one of the best river gorges of Tohoku. The scenic beauty of this gorge is fully attached with the autumn beauty. It is marvelous when you look around and have a nice boat tour in the river of Magami. This is the main river of Yamagata prefecture that attracts thousands of visitors in fall season. We can find this famous gorge name in a haiku poem written by famous haiku poet “Basho Matsuo“.

Best time: Late October

7) Ouchi-juku:

Ouchi-juku in Autumn. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Ouchi-juku is one of the most visited place in Fukushima prefecture. Everyone here in Japan knows it as post town that had been built in the Edo period (1640). There are thatched roof (made from dried straw) houses in a row which look pretty awesome.

In the fall, nearby Ouchi-juku mountainous areas trees change colors and that surly add an extra beauty to this place. This sort of rare town with autumn colors could overwhelm you and make you stay a night there. If you could then please stay a night.

Best time: Late October

These are the 8 (eight) top places to see autumn foliage in the Tohoku region. Except these places, one could visit to these spots: Yamadera, Tsutanuma Pond, Mt. Chokai, Shirakami-Sanchi, Yagen Mountain Stream, Yagen Mountain Stream, Genbi River Gorge, and Akashiba River Gorge.

Please find out the top 10 famous places to see fall foliage in the Tohoku Region. They are well described with useful travel information.

Autumn Travel Tips to Tohoku

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Beautiful Autumn Colored Landscape in Hachimantai. Photo Credit: Agustin Rafael Reyes

Tohoku is a great region for hunting momiji throughout its prefectures. I think few useful travel trips might help you to have a wonderful trip. You don’t have to worry about staying in Tohoku. It provides from luxurious hotel to cheapest hotel deals.

If you are seeking for a cheap hotel still you could get one, but make sure to book a room in advance. You can even think of staying a night at a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn). When you talk about transportation, you first think of Japan Rail Pass. This is a kind of your train ticket that allows you to travel all over Tohoku region including the Kanto region.

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Tohoku Shinkansen. Photo Credit: bryan… at Flickr.

Buying a JR East Pass lets you enjoy fast train ride at a convenient way. As Tohoku is well known for its hot springs, you must take a bath in one of the best hot springs you find there. If you would like to experience a hirayama-style Japanese castle then visit Hirosaki Castle.

Beautiful unique souvenirs that can’t be found in Tokyo could be found here in the Tohoku region. And yes, never ever forget to have some traditional Japanese dishes at the restaurants you find across Tohoku. I strongly recommend you to buy a Tohoku travel guidebook that includes travel maps of every prefecture of Tohoku region. So, everything you do there, just make sure you enjoy them all.

Foods to try in Tohoku

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Kitakata Ramen. Photo Credit: Jun Seita at Flickr.

Tohoku is home to some delicious unique dishes that can not be found elsewhere in Japan but only there. When visiting fall foliage spots in Iwate, I strongly recommend you to try the Three great noodles of Morioka: Morioka Reimen Noodles, Wanko Soba Noodles and Morioka Jajamen Noodles. Fresh apple eating in Aomori is a great choice for anyone especially who visit it in Autumn.

You can head to downtown Hachinohe to see its famous Tatehana Wharf Morning Market that is held every Sunday. Eat and buy popular local delicacies there from marine products to vegetables. Cold Niku Soba is Yamagata’s one of the top popular dishes. So, why not to have it when you visit the prefecture during autumn?

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Gyutan. Photo Credit: ayako at Flickr.

When it comes to eating sweet then I would like you to try Morokoshi – a famous sweet of Akita prefecture. One of my favorite dishes in Akita is called Kiritanpo – mashed rice put on a chopstick and baked. I ate Sasakamaboko (Fish Cake) in Miyagi. It is a bamboo leaf-shaped kamaboko, believe me it was very yummy to have.

If you want to taste a famous local soup in Fukushima, please try KOZUYU. Also have some Kitakata Ramen at a local restaurant you find there. Finally, I am going to reveal one of the most famous dishes of Sendai city, that’s Gyutan or so called Grilled Beef Tongue. In addition, there are other varieties of local specialties including sake one could try as he/she moves from one places to other. 

Three Great Noodles of Morioka” which are known as Morioka Reimen Noodles, Wanko Soba Noodles, and Morioka Jajamen Noodles.

Tohoku’s Some Quality Hotels to Recommend You

Hachimantai in the Fall. Photo Credit: yisris at Flickr.

As I have been to all over the Tohoku region before, I know where to stay! I guess it is better to recommend you the good ones. They are as follows:

Hotel in Aomori: Towadako Lakeside Hotel

Hotel in Akita: Green Hills Tazawako

Hotel in Iwate:  Hachimantai Royal Hotel

Hotel in Yamagata: Petit Resort Hotel Der Barte

Hotel in Miyagi: Echigoya Ryokan

Hotel in Fukushima: Aizu Yunokami Onsen Shimizuya Ryokan

These are the hotels that are pretty close to the autumn foliage spots I have recommended here in this post.

Tohoku’s Autumn & My Final Words

Autumn leaves at Morioka Castle Site Park. Photo Credit: yisris at Flickr.

Sometimes, I heard people saying that “Tohoku’s autumn colors atmosphere is different than other parts of Japan”. Do you think the same or think differently? I think, I would agree with the people who say that.

Take a look at the photographs uploaded here in this post, they are truly gorgeous and things to behold! The variety of leaf colors that you find in Tohoku cannot be compared with the colorful leaves of Tokyo and Kyoto. That’s true! Thanks for reading.