Leaf peeping trip to Tohoku this autumn would be a great holiday idea for you. In fact Tohoku is considered one of the perfect autumn holiday destinations in Japan. The region is well known for its picturesque landscapes of four seasons.

Though, the most significant part of fall season is watching the leaves turn bright hues of crimson, gold and orange. Nature is blessed with colored leaves for this time of year. If you are anxiously awaiting the stunning reds, gold, oranges, and yellows of fall, then make sure you know the places that are famous to see fall foliage in the Tohoku region.

matsukawa_river_fall_foliage_tohoku
Matsukawa River Fall Foliage, Hachimantai. Photo Credit: jasohill at Flickr.

I am a fall foliage fanatic, are you? I assume you are or you would be! The breathtaking views of fall foliage here would overwhelm you. It is guaranteed! I would like to feature only the top 10 autumn leaves viewing spots that are famous and worth a visit during autumn.

They spread throughout the prefectures within the Tohoku region. Picturesque landscapes of glorious foliage, local foods, hot spring resorts, good accommodation, public transport, and friendly locals surly would make you have an unforgettable fall foliage trip to Tohoku.

If you are looking for a Tohoku travel guide then please get this guide right away.

1) Mount Hakkoda

hakkoda_mountains_fall_colors
Awesome fall colors view from the Hakkoda Ropeway. Photo Credit: yoskita.at.webry.info

Mt. Hakkoda (Hakkōdasan) is located in central Aomori. Each year, Tohoku’s fall foliage season first begins here as it appears around late September at the summit of Mt. Hakkoda. Then it moves to the lower elevations. The peak season for autumn leaves is mid-October.

Therefore anyone who is a fall foliage fanatic must arrive there before the end of mid-October. Then begin your journey to have the experience of a lifetime. Thus how you make your dreams come true!

Even though Mt. Hakkoda is a popular winter holiday destination for its huge amounts of powdery snow that creates a perfect heaven for winter sports lovers, I request you to experience its fall colors. The views here are just unforgettable. You can experience it by Hakkoda Ropeway (about 10-12 minutes ride).

Mountain’s slopes get colored by Mother Nature’s fall foliage display. Beautiful colors display of red, yellow and orange would surprise you as you experience it from the Gondola taking you to upper ropeway station. To do so just hop on the gondola and that’s it. Enjoy the whole trip seeing amazing views of fall foliage from the ropeway.

tsuta_numa_lake_autumn_colors
Splendid autumn colors reflection, Tsuta Numa Lake. Photo Credit: en-aomori.com.

In addition, you can take a short hiking course that starts from the famous Sukayu Onsen. It lets you explore its surrounding fall colors nature as well as offer you a great opportunity to relax your mind and body at one of the hot spring baths. What’s next?

Head to the Jogakura Bridge (located near Sukayu Onsen), and from here view spectacular colors that cover the surrounding mountain’s slopes. Also you should go to Tsuta Numa Lake that is surrounded by a deep beech forest and see the impressive fall foliage display there.

2) Hachimantai

Hachimantai in autumn. Photo Credit: yisris at Flickr.

Everyone has their own favorite spot to see autumn foliage in Japan. For visitors from outside the Tohoku region, Hachimantai is a perfect place to experience a real Japanese countryside with many mountains slopes, ponds, winding roads, hot springs, rolling marshlands, active hell valleys, and walking trails.

It is a mountainous region, about 1,400-1,600 meters above sea level, located in northern Akita and Iwate prefectures. When is the best time to come? Arrive here in mid-October and experience a remote area filled with fall colors.

waterfalls_hachimantai
Colored leaves and waterfalls in Hachimantai. Photo credit: jasohill at Flickr.

In Hachimantai, there are several distinct spots, which are in fact gorgeous in the fall. And you should discover the attractions such as the National Route 341, Mount Hachimantai, Onuma Pond, Goshogake Onsen, Hachimantai Aspite Line, Tamagawa Onsen area, Matsukawa Gorge and Nyuto Onsen.

Vividly colored autumn leaves around Onuma Pond is absolutely brilliant. You can experience it sitting on the banks of pond. There is a lovely walking trail at Goshogake Onsen through which you can experience the volcanic activity and nearby colored landscapes.

The Tamagawa Onsen valley is pretty unique when autumn rolls around. I especially like sitting on the rocks there and spend hours watching impressive surrounding valleys. The road that takes you to this onsen is also breathtaking. Please, don’t leave Hachimantai without visiting the onsen as I believe it is one of the top places that everyone should pay a visit.

3) Lake Towada (Towada-ko)

lake_towada_in_autumn_tohoku
Lake Towada’s fall foliage. Photo Credit: Agustin Rafael Reyes at Flickr.

Lake Towada is a largest deep blue crystal clear water caldera lake on Honshu Island, located in central Aomori prefecture and part of Towada-Hachimantai National Park. It is said to be the third deepest lake in Japan with a depth of 327 meters. Mysterious beauty of fall colors can be experienced here.

Visitors don’t come here only to see autumn leaves; instead they also enjoy a number of activities such as cruising, hiking, and tracking.

The sightseeing boats depart from Yasumiya and take you to Nenokuchi at the entrance to the Oirase Mountain Stream. Cruising time is approximately 50 minutes. It is almost an hour of boat journey!

autumn_leaves_lake_towada
Autumn Leaves at Lake Towada. Photo Credit: en-aomori.com.

There are some viewpoints along the lakeshore to see the beauty of Lake Towada, but exploring the area on a boat trip is truly exceptional.

If you are not tired, and want to experience other interesting landmarks, then you can gladly pay a visit to the Towada Shrine, the bronze statue of two maidens Tohoku women (created by an artist called Takamura Kotaro), and walk along the walking trails to see surrounding forests painted in red, yellow and orange colors.

4) Oirase Stream

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

If you are going to visit Lake Towada, then visiting Oirase Stream is a must thing to do. Deciduous trees (maple and beech) found along the oirase stream are in blazing bloom. One interesting fact about Oirase stream is that this is the only outlet draining Lake Towada.

Here, I like hiking along the hiking trails in the fall. Please note many hikers like to explore the area even in the summer. The sounds of stream and vibrant fall colors make me think of a never ending hike journey. I absolutely love the surrounding colored landscapes there! In fact, to discover the most scenic beauty of autumn foliage there, you have got to take a hiking course. You would surly like and enjoy it as much as I do and did in the past.

The trail starts at Nenokuchi and ends at Ishigedo. It is about 9 kilometers long and takes about 2.5 hours to walk one way. There is a busy road alongside the Oirase stream. Anyone can experience beautiful scenic views of the stream and fall colors from the running buses and cars.

It is absolutely breathtaking when you decide to hike. I think it is a paradise for both amateur and professional photographers who are looking for a perfect place for capturing beautiful autumn leaves photographs. I met with some photographers there who were quite busy with their cameras!

5) Kakunodate Samurai District

Kakunodate samurai residence in the fall. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Usually, I visit Kakunodate in spring and autumn. I do like seeing tons of weeping cherry blossoms during hanami here, and colored autumn leaves in the fall. Kakunodate is a former castle town in which there are old samurai houses along the street.

If you want to get back to the Edo Period (1603 – 1867), head to this castle town and I am sure you would enjoy every moment as long as you roam around. The picture-perfect houses, gates and black walls of the old samurai houses look all pretty stunning when fall foliage appears there.

This is a the real historic place in Akita Prefecture, where you have a great chance of experiencing a lovely autumn day. You even could enter one of the samurai residences there and explore the history of each landmark. Along with visiting the houses, you can visit Omura Museum and Denshokan Museum.

There is a simple travel tip I want you to follow – please, walk and roam around the samurai district area and this would lead you to experience the utmost beauty of autumn colors in Kakunodate. If you are interested in visiting this historic place during Koyo season, visit it from late October to mid November.

6) Naruko Gorge

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

Naruko Gorge is one of the best autumn leaves viewing spots in the Tohoku region. It is located in north-western Miyagi Prefecture. This 100 meter deep with a total length of 2.5km is considered one of the scenic gorge in the region. You can view brightly colored fall foliage around the gorge that seems to me unique, spectacular and breathtaking.

Ofukazawa Bridge over the Naruko Gorge looks absolutely marvelous when surrounding trees display their hidden autumn beauty. The gorge gets crowded with many visitors in fall usually from late-October to early-November.

There is a nice observation deck, located next to the Narukokyo Resthouse. It was built for visitor to enjoy the view of Ofukazawa Bridge and colored autumn leaves around it. If you don’t bother walking, you should take a leisurely stroll along the Naruko Gorge walking trail down to the bottom of the gorge.

This leads you to experience the actual autumn nature that you expect to view in fall. Don’t leave Naruko without buying Naruko kokeshi dolls. They are super cute and best one of the best souvenirs you can buy in Tohoku.

7) Lake Tawaza

lake_tawaza
Lake Tawaza and Autumn Foliage. Photo Credit: tazawakokougen.jp

What is the deepest lake in Japan? The answer is “Lake Tawaza” (Tawaza-ko in Japanese).

With a depth of 423.4 meters, and located near the center of eastern region of Akita prefecture, Lake Tawaza offers visitors year-round activities. The lake is part of Towada-Hachimantai National Park.

It is quite similar to Lake Towada except having the option of cruising. There are many row-boats, paddle-boats, and bicycles you can rent. These will give you amazing views of the lake and surrounding forest.

You can take a row boat and enjoy the scenic beauty that lake Tawaza offers you during autumn. That will be an amazing experience to share with your others. The reflection of autumn leaves on the surface of the lake is truly magnificent.

Breathtaking fall foliage can be seen around the lake. Visitors can take a scenic bus trip to discover the surrounding attractions including the deciduous forests on the shoreline that turn to red, yellow, organ. The leaves start turning colors in this area typically around mid-October and peaking around early November.

8) Dakigaeri Gorge

Waterfall at Dakigaeri. Photo Credit: 柳雩 at Flickr.

I like hiking and it is in my blood. I have so many hiking experiences. Sometimes I was alone, other times I had friends with me. My favorite hiking trails are located throughout Hokkaido and Tohoku regions.

Located in Akita Prefecture, Dakigaeri Gorge is one of the best hiking destinations in Tohoku. Locals believe that it’s a wonderful place for hunting momiji. They don’t lie!

Beautiful blue mountain stream, colored leaves and path make the place quite unique, which is even visited in the summer months by many hikers. It features picturesque large and small waterfalls, bridge including the gorgeous fall foliage of the virgin forests.

You can take a taxi from Kakunodate Station and reach to Dakigaeri Gorge. This is a ride about 12-15 minutes. The peak season for viewing autumn colors here is from mid-October to early November.

9) Mogami Gorge

mogami_gorge_yamagata
You can experience fall foliage at Mogami Gorge by a boat journey. Photo Credit: kouyou.nihon-kankou.or.jp

Want to have a nice boat journey in the Mogami River during autumn? If you say “YES” then your decision is 100% right. The famous Mogami Gorge is there to offer you a pleasant boat trip and you can experience brightly colored fall foliage at the same time. I love the scenic beauty of this river gorge when autumn rolls around.

Many people think that it’s one of the most beautiful natural wonders of Yamagata prefecture in Tohoku. I agree!

The gorge is surrounded by mountains by both sides of the river. The colors actually start turning super bright in late-October. The Mogami Gorge Basho Line Tour takes you to a journey of a beautiful colored world. The boats ride down the river on the Mogami gorge.

On the way, you can see picturesque mountains covered with fall foliage including majestic waterfalls beauty. The downstream boat platform is only 6-8 minutes away from JR Rikuu West Line Furukuchi Station.

10) Urabandai (Bandai Highlands)

Fall colors and lake in Urabandai. Photo Credit: Alex Muntean at Flickr.

Here comes the last one, which I believe is one of the best autumn leaves spots not only in Tohoku, but in Japan as well. It is Urabandai or so called Bandai Highlands! It lies in the northern part of Fukushima Prefecture and is part of Bandai-Asahi National Park.

The area is home to beautiful lakes and ponds, winding roads, walking trails, mountains, gorge, and forests. From early to late October is seen to be the best time to view autumn leaves in Urabandai.

The blue colored ponds along the Goshikinuma Walk look pretty gorgeous as the leaves change their colors to red, orange and yellow. Here, red maple’s leaves dominate most of the area. A scenic driving along the Bandai-Azuma Lake line and Bandai-Azuma Skyline will leave you breathless.

Especially, I like driving along the Bandai-Azuma Lake Line, in which panoramic views of surrounding mountain slopes and fall foliage can be experienced. There is also a scenic gorge known as Nakatsugawa Gorge along the Bandai-Azuma Lake. Often said that it’s an ideal place for many trekkers and hikers alike.

I have featured the top 10 fall foliage spots in the Tohoku region. In fact there are more places except these ones. I think these 10 places would reveal why Tohoku is said to be a perfect place for hunting momiji. Before heading towards these fabulous attractions, make sure you check out the autumn leaves forecast in Japan.

It could be rainy on the day you visit there, so be always ready yourself to handle such a bad weather. Thanks for reading!