What do you expect from a trip to Japan in the fall? Viewing vividly colored fall foliage is not the first and last thing you do here, instead there is a list of exciting activities you must experience. Before you figure it out anyway, I would like to ask you some other questions.

Would you go on a hike in the wood to experience the fall colors or take a stroll along the trails of traditional Japanese gardens? Do you want to explore the traditional Japanese old villages or the historic temples and shrines? Do you want to experience a shinkansen ride or interested in an amazing rickshaw ride? Are you keen to experience the ancient architecture or modern landmarks?

Fall colors at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Kyoto. Photo Credit: Norio NAKAYAMA at Flickr.

I reckon you have gone through all these questions. You don’t have to decide anything yet because the following suggested itinerary is going to highlight most of the exciting activities that all of your family members would gladly like to experience. In fact, there is something for everyone.

Nobody will be disappointed, if they follow this suggested itinerary for this year autumn holiday in the land of the rising sun. Japan is without question one of the top destinations in the world to admire the fall foliage. If you want to immerse yourself in the beauty of this glorious fall season, you have to embark on a dream trip to Japan’s most iconic koyo spots, which includes Kyoto, Osaka, Tokyo, Nara, Kamakura, Hakone, Nikko, and Takayama.

Your valuable time and money that you are going to spend in Japan will not be wasted for sure. And I guarantee that this trip would meet your all expectations. Before you arrive in Japan, buying a Japan Rail Pass and making online hotel reservation in advance is must.

I also recommend you to read this travel guide to get some practical Japan travel info. This suggested itinerary would be suitable for those who intend to travel to Japan between mid November and late November. Ok let’s get started now!

***the above photo of Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is taken by Norio Nakayama, who is a good photographer and a blogger from Japan, who also owns a personal blog named “airoplane.net” – visit his blog site and get some awesome travel news and recommendations.***

Day 1 – Tokyo->Nikko->Tokyo

Shinkyo Bridge in Autumn. Photo Credit: Marufish at Flickr.

Unlike other suggested itineraries, that guide you visit a day trip to Tokyo’s most famous sightseeing attractions, I would suggest you to start off your Japan Fall Tour with a visit to Nikko, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Japan. It’s a great destination, famed for a day trip from Tokyo.

Seated at the foot of Mount Nyoho, in the western part of Tochigi Prefecture, Nikko is an ultimate destination to admire traditional Japanese nature and historic shrines.

Lake Chuzenji and Mount Nantai from the Hangetsuyama Observation Platform. Photo Credit: to0mi1 at Flickr.

Although two day is recommended to explore all the sightseeing spots in Nikko that includes Central Nikko and Okunikko area, a day is enough to discover most of its famous landmarks. Explore the Shinkyo Bridge, Rinnoji Temple, Toshogu Shrine, Taiyunbyo, Kegon Waterfall, Chuzenji Temple, and Chuzenjiko Onsen area.

Marvel at the decorative structures of the Shrines, lake, mountains, and the waterfalls. After spending a memorable day in Nikko, get back to Tokyo in the evening and sleep tight because tomorrow you are supposed to take another day trip from Tokyo.

Hotel to Stay overnight in Tokyo: Hotel Gracery Shinjuku, Tokyo.

There is two day Nikko itinerary for autumn, read that to get some travel tips and ideas from including access info from Tokyo to Nikko.

Day 2 – Tokyo->Kamakura->Tokyo

The Great Buddha of Kamakura. Photo Credit: CaptChrisCoconutAdvent at Flickr.

If you are searching for a perfect day trip from Tokyo, which is cheap, easily accessible, and historically profound, I would tell you to embark on a trip to Kamakura, a magical place to feel the atmosphere of an old Japanese town. It boats of having many temples and shrines, gardens, great Buddha statues including some designated hiking trails.

Here I have a suggested itinerary for your dream trip to Kamakura. If the timing of your visit perfect to Kamakura is between late November and early December, you will witness beautiful temples’ garden decorated with red maple trees.

Don’t miss visiting Hase Temple, Engakuji, Hokukoji, Kotokuin Temple, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, and of course you should walk along the Komachi-dori Street.

Day 3 – Tokyo->Hakone->Tokyo

Lake Ashi and Mount Fuji. Photo Credit: Jiratto at Flickr

Where do you want to go Fujigoko (Fuji Five Lake area) or Hakone? Both these places are worth a visit during the fall. Though in Fujigoko area, the best time to see the fall foliage through early November and Mid November. While on the other hand, in Hakone, the fall colors are at their brightest in the second week of November.

The fall colors timing between these two areas seems almost the same, don’t you think so? I think a visit to Hakone as a day trip from Tokyo would be much more adventurous than visiting Fuji Five Lake area. Who want to miss great views of Mount Fuji from a gondola ride?

Who would not like to enjoy a pleasant sightseeing boat cruise on Lake Ashinoko? You can even enjoy a scenic train ride on the Hakone Tozan Railway! These activities are awaiting you to make you fall in love with Hakone.

Buying a Hakone Free Pass is highly recommended to have easy access to most of the sightseeing spots within Hakone area. It offers you unlimited use of Odakyu-Affiliate trains, buses, cablecars, ropeway, and discount admission to various tourist attractions. This is simply a useful Pass to discover Hakone from A to Z.

On day 3, take a walk to Shinjuku Station, then you hop on the train to Hakone-Yumoto Station. Then you are to have a scenic train journey from Hakone-Yumoto Station to Gora Station. Visit Gora Park from the station (a-5 minute walk), a French style landscape garden with a fountain and flower garden provides a tranquil space to admire the surrounding picturesque landscape.

Please note that in Gora park is considered one of the best places to see fall colors in the area. In search of history, moss garden, and a breathtaking Japanese landscape garden, head to Hakone Museum of Art. You will be delighted exploring them all.

Hakone ropeway. Photo Credit: Eugene Flores at Flickr.

Next you take the cable car to reach Sōunzan Station. Then head to the ropeway platform. From there, you take use the Hakone Ropeway (connects Sounzan Station with Togendai Station) to get to Owakudani Valley and then to Togendai. Be sure that the ride would be a thrilling experience! The valley is said to be one of the wonders of Hakone’s unspoiled nature.

You will find a hiking trail there. Eat some black chicken eggs boiled in the hot Sulphur springs. Consuming the black eggs is believed to increase your lifespan. Therefore, Owakudani (active volcanic zone) is worth a visit along with viewing the snow-capped Mount Fuji (on clear days) from the gondola along the way to Togendai. You will not have to pay admission fee to use the ropeway if you have a Hakone Free Pass. If you are hungry, please head to Togendai View Restaurant for a quick bite.

What’s next? You are to make your way to Moto-Hakone Station by the Hakone Sightseeing Cruise ship. Board the ship on time and wait for the beautiful surrounding views as it takes you on a journey to an ultimate adventure. This is obviously the perfect gateway to enjoy incredible seasonal scenery of Lake Ashinoko.

In the fall, the slopes of the surrounding mountains are ablaze with colors. From the ship, on a clear day, great views of the majestic Mount Fuji will definitely thrill you. When the journey ends, head towards Onshi Hakone Park, and then continue your tour by moving towards the Hakone-Yumoto Station by bus. Take the train to get back to Shinjuku Station, in Tokyo.

Day 4 – One Day in Tokyo

Sensoji temple in Asakusa, Tokyo. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

How to spend a day in the capital city of Japan? Many expert travelers who frequently visit the city or have visited it numerous times can advice you various ways to explore it. Therefore, I will gladly share mine; and hopefully you would like to follow it. If you don’t like it, you can Google and find some suggested one day Tokyo itineraries. I will not bother if you follow them either.

The best time to immerse yourself gorgeous fall colors in the city is in late November. If you want to start this fall trip to Japan around mid November, which I mean on November 15 or 16, 2018, then after end of three incredible days of adventure, yet you cannot expect to view fall foliage in the city.

Today is not going to be your last day stay in Tokyo; you will be back here again before you leave for your home country. Therefore, you would better start exploring some of the amazing highlights the city has to offer you year round. Did you make a list of places you want to visit in Tokyo before leaving for Japan? Visiting the popular sightseeing attractions of Tokyo is easy because of its punctual and reliable public transport facility.

Tokyo Skytree. Photo Credit: YU-LI LIN at Flickr.

Manage your time to visit the attractions such as Tokyo national museum, Asakusa, Sensoji Temple, Tokyo Skytree, Shinjuku Gyoen, Harajuku, Shibuya. All of these attractions let you feel the atmosphere of what Tokyo really is and why it is called as an amazing city in the world.

Walking down the Takeshita Dori (Street) is different than taking a walk along Shibuya’s Center Gai in the evening. If you are a fan of Hachiko: A Dog’s Tale, don’t forget to see to the Hachiko Statue. Spend a lovely evening exploring the neighborhood by heading out to the shopping stores and restaurants.

Day 5 – Tokyo->Takayama

Hida, limited express train. Photo Credit: tsuda at Flickr.

Today, in the early morning, you are heading towards Takayama by train. First take the JR Tokaido Shinkansen (Hikari Train) from Tokyo to Nagoya, and then transfer to limited express train to Takayama. The entire one way journey takes about 4.5 hours. And that’s a good sign of spending half a day in Takayama on day 5.

Check in at either Best Western Hotel Takayama or Takayama Green Hotel. Have your lunch before you make your way to Hida Folk Village (Hida no Sato). It’s a 10 minute bus ride from Takayama Station. If you want to take a walk to the village, then it will take about 30 minutes.

The village itself is a museum that showcases over 30 old traditional houses (built in the Edo period) from the Hida region. Explore all the wooden structures, and other notable treasures you find there one by one. Get back to the station.

Hida folk village (Hida no sato) in Takayama. Photo Credit: Wikimedia commons.

Even if you decide to stay there for 2 hours, you will still have enough time to take a walk along the old town of Takayama. Experience a unique rickshaw ride in this well preserved historic town. Roam around the area and get to Takayama Jinya by crossing the iconic Nakabashi Bridge.

For best Japanese curry, I would tell you to visit Jakuson, a restaurant located adjacent to the station, famous for serving excellent curry. Enjoy your dinner there.

Let’s call it a day!

Day 6 – Takayama->Shirakawago->Kanazawa

Kenrokuen garden in Kanazawa. Photo Credit: inazakira at Flickr.

Today you are off to two magnificent destinations known as Shirakawago and Kanazawa. The best way to reach Shirakawago from Takayama is by bus. Nohi bus offers daily buses from Takayama to Kanazawa. Besides, it provides day trip tour package to Shirakawago (UNESCO World Heritage Site), lunch included.

If you don’t want to visit Kanazawa, you should rely on the day trip sightseeing course. I believe, you should not miss visiting some famous places in Kanazawa such as Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa Castle Park, and if you have time then a museum located adjacent to Kenrokuen. Spend half a day in Shirakawago and rest of the time in Kanazawa.

Ogimachi village, Shirakawago, Gifu Prefecture. Photo Credit: bryan… at Flickr.

Kenrokuen is one of Japan’s three most beautiful landscape gardens, where incredible seasonal changes can be enjoyed just by taking a stroll along its picturesque garden trails. While on the other hand, Shirakawago is a beautiful traditional Japanese old village, home to dozens gassho-zukuri farmshoues, and nestled at the foot of Mount Hakusan in northwestern Gifu Prefecture, has become one of the most important highlights in central Japan.

Before you get to Shirakawago, I think you should take a look at the seasonal photographs and read the descriptions of the famous landmarks in the area.

Day 7 – Takayama->Kyoto

A rickshaw ride, Takayama Old Town. Photo Credit: Robert Young at Flickr.

This morning you enjoy a little hike along Higashiyama Walking Course, a-3.5 kilometer hiking trail offers picturesque views of the beautiful surroundings including temples and shrines and the castle ruin. Spend two hours for the hike and on your way back to the hotel, stop at the Kokubunji Temple, a beautiful Buddhist temple which is worth a visit. That’s it!

Next you take the train to Kyoto Station from Takayama Station. Here is the route: Takayama Station to Nagoya Station by JR Hida limited express train, then Nagoya Station to Kyoto Station by the JR Tokaido Shinkansen. The entire ride takes about 3 hours. Spend your three hours of train journey adventure by reading one of the following books.

1) Spring Snow
2) The Makioka Sisters

Check in at Kyoto Hotel Tower or if you want to experience a stay at a ryokan in Kyoto, stay at Toshiharu Ryokan.

Spend a free time till you get to sleep. Though, you may find it interesting to go out for a dinner at night. If it’s possible for you, then why not to go for it?!

Day 8 – Kyoto->Arashiyama->Kyoto

Arashiyama bamboo forest. Photo Credit: bryan… at Flickr.

This travel plan is especially designed to catch the peak fall foliage season in Kyoto, Nara, Osaka and Tokyo.

There is nothing much to say about Arashiyama, because a few days ago I have shared 1-day suggested Arashiyama itinerary for you. Follow that itinerary in order to find out how to get the most out of your time in Arashiyama. Please note Arashiyama is a 15 minute train ride from Kyoto Station.

You don’t need to visit all the places included on the itinerary, instead try visiting the most famous attractions of the town. And the day will be much better if you could spend 2 hours before the sunset at Kiyomizudera temple back in Kyoto.

The temple is a one of the notable places to see autumn leaves in Kyoto. And from the large wooden stage, watching the sunset is absolutely mind-blowing. In the evening, trees are lit up majestically. I don’t want you to miss the night views of momiji.

Day 9 – Kyoto->Osaka->Kyoto

Minoo waterfall in the fall, a tranquil place to enjoy nature. Photo Credit: pelican at Flickr.

Osaka is a 15 minute shinkansen ride from Kyoto Station. How cool is that! The easy access to Osaka from downtown Kyoto makes visitors spending a full day in the city. Though, you mostly go there to see the fall colors.

Minoo Park, Osaka Castle, and Midsouji Avenue are your prime destinations of the day, but if you want some more from the day trip, I would suggest you to go to Universal Studios Japan (USJ), a theme park with a lot of things to see and do. Are you not interested in visiting this theme park? Replace it with Osaka Aquarium. Get back to Kyoto before the sunset.

Osaka in autumn is great, you can find the reason here.

If you are planning to stay in Osaka for 3 days, this travel plan could help you explore all the sightseeing attractions.

Day 10 – Kyoto->Nara->Kyoto

Sacred deer at Nara Park during autumn. Photo Credit: tonko43 at Flickr.

Nara is a World Cultural Heritage Site of Japan, packed with historic landmarks such as traditional Japanese architectures, Buddha statues, gardens, deer, and seasonal beauty.

Nara is a 45 minute train ride from Kyoto Station. Take Miyakoji rapid service train and get off at Nara Station. If you are looking for an easy day trip from Kyoto, Nara is at the top of the list.

Nara Prefecture is full of important historic treasures and impressive architectures. You may even like to spend an hour at Tanzan Shrine, famous for its 13 story pagoda, where fall colors are at its best in late November. Bear in mind, it’s located outside downtown Nara though.

And it requires a-25 minute bus ride. Whether you are interested in visiting the shrine or not, your today’s goal is to explore most of Nara’s popular attractions such as Todaiji Temple, Nara Park, Kasuga Taisha, Horyuji Temple, Kofukuji Temple, Todaiji Museum, Nara National Museum, and Isuien Garden.

Todaiji temple. Photo Credit: Kimon Berlin at Flickr.

It’s always amazing to stare at the Todaiji Temple’s main hall, which is considered to be the largest wooden building on earth. It houses a-15 meter tall bronze Buddha Statue (Daibutsu). You would like to see a picturesque traditional Japanese garden at Isuien garden.

In fact, autumn is the perfect time to visit it. Besides, relax the ground of Nara Park where you can meet many freely roaming deer. Feed them well! Please don’t you forget to miss a thing I have mentioned here.

Learn about autumn leaves in Nara.

In the evening, you will return to your accommodation in Kyoto.

Day 11 – Kyoto->Tokyo

Kinkakuji Temple. Photo Credit: secondman_2017 at Flickr.

Today, you explore the attractions of Northern Kyoto and Higashiyama district. In Kyoto, it’s true that you find endless discoveries, and each attraction tells you a different story. Two full days is highly recommended to cover most of the popular sightseeing spots in the city. So far you have visited other renowned places on the other days.

You start the day with a visit to Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, one of the best places to see fall foliage in Kyoto. Then head over to Kinkakuji temple (Golden Pavilion), spend a great time there walking along the path, and having fresh match tea and sweets at the tea garden found within the temple’s ground.

Tofukuji temple’s fall foliage. Photo Credit: Kimon Berlin at Flickr.

Proceed to Ryoanji, a Zen temple famous for its breathtaking rock garden. It is said to be the best rock garden you would ever explore in the land of the rising sun.

Embark on a trip to Ninnaji temple (World Heritage Site) to see its picturesque pond and rock garden, located beside the former residence of the head priest known as Goten.

Your next destination is Gion. There you walk down the Hanami-Koji Street and find a good restaurant to have your lunch from. Then you head toward Tofukuji Temple, experience mind-boggling views of autumn leaves from the famous Tsutenkyo Bridge.

Leave for Tokyo in the evening.

Day 12 – Tokyo

Jingu Gaien Icho Namiki Avenue. Photo Credit: nakashi at Flickr.

Today you will embark on a trip to Tokyo’s some of the most popular koyo spots. You can see the list of our top recommended autumn leaves spots in the city. Make the day memorable by visiting city’s two most beautiful Japanese landscape gardens known as Rikugien Garden, and Koishikawa Korakuen.

They are also known for their stunning scenery in the fall. These two places should be your top pick when exploring Tokyo’s autumn leaves spots. A walk along the trails of the gardens would reveal their autumn beauty for sure.

Rikugien Garden is famous for viewing autumn leaves at night. Photo Credit: mrhayata at Flickr.

Tokyo’s Icho Namiki (Ginkgo Avenue) is a perfect place to see mind-boggling golden ginkgo leaves. It’s a stunning 400 meters long ginkgo tree-lined path with sidewalks. It looks spectacular when the leaves turn beautiful color in the fall.

The day would be unforgettable if you visit Tokyo Imperial Palace, and Imperial Palace East Garden. Rest of the time, you may head over to some shopping malls in Shinjuku area to find some souvenirs to bring home.

If you think that you cannot stay in Japan for 2 weeks, but have only a week to travel around, then modify it on your own. Thank you.