Autumn Travel Guide

Where to See Autumn Leaves in Shikoku

Shikoku is the smallest of Japan’s islands, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in wonderful sights to see. This is very true in autumn when many of the island’s trees change color from lush green to fiery red, gold, and orange.

Autumn leaf viewing has an ancient history in Japan and the most beautiful spots are very popular places to visit for locals and tourists alike. Here are the best places to view autumn leaves in Shikoku.

1. Kankakei Gorge, Kagawa

Gorgeous fall foliage of Kankakei Gorge. Photo Credit: Kagawa Prefecture Tourism Association.

Considered one of the three most beautiful gorges in Japan, Kankakei Gorge’s unique, steep cliffs, are covered in forest foliage. It’s beautiful at any time of year but nothing is quite like Kankakei gorge in autumn.

The unique grey stone formations are a lovely contrast to the fiery color of the autumn leaves. When you stop here, be sure to visit the ropeway.

The best time to see autumn leaves here is in mid November.

Deep red Maple Leaf Cider is sold here, offering a unique treat. The hike from the top of the ropeway is a treat, as well, allowing you to see the autumn Japanese wilderness up close and personal.

The best way to get to Kankakei Gorge is to take a bus to the Kountei bus stop. The ropeway charges 1050 yen for a one-way trip for adults and 530 yen for elementary school children.

2. Ritsurin Garden, Kagawa

Night illuminations in Ritsurin Garden in autumn. Photo Credit: Tourism in SHIKOKU.

This beautiful garden is a great place to enjoy autumn leaves. It was built in the 16th century and took 100 years to complete, first opening to the public in 1875. The garden is huge and you can spend all day inside it.

Many often choose to picnic under the autumn leaves when the season rolls around. There are many shops where you can buy gifts and snacks. Be sure to visit the teahouse, which was built in 1640.

In autumn, schedule your visit to see the night time illuminations that transform the vibrant leaves into something magical. These can be best seen on the boat tour at Nanko South Pond. Entry costs 410 yen for adults and 170 yen for children up to 15.

To get to Ritsurin Garden, take the JR Kotoku line, then get off at Ritsurin Koen Kitaguchi Station. The garden is a three-minute walk from the station.

3. Kotohiragu Shrine, Kagawa

Autumn leaves at Kotohira-gu.

The path to this shrine consists of 758 stone steps, up the 521-meter-high Zouzu mountain. It’s well worth the climb, though. Note that Kotohiragu Shrine is also known as Konpira Shrine.

Once at the shrine, you’ll find the largest shrine complex on Shikoku, surrounded by maidenhair trees that turn golden in autumn.

There are not only the main fascinating and beautiful shrines to be found here, but also many shops and cafes for visitors. You can purchase popular souvenirs like yellow amulets for happiness and konpira dog figurines.

You can also continue up many more steps to a mountaintop shrine. If you head back down, there is also the delightful town of Kotohira to explore. This is a great place to try local delicacies and do some more shopping.

To get to Kotohira town and shrine, take the Sanyo Shinkansen bullet train from Takamatsuto Kotohira Station.

4. Mount Tsurugi, Tokushima

Mount Tsurugi’s fall colors.

This sacred mountain is the second-highest mountain on Shikoku, rising 1955 meters above sea level. It is believed to be the origin of the spiritual practice of Shugendo.

The hike up the mountain is very easy and can be done by visitors with varying degrees of athletic prowess. This is thanks to a chairlift that can take visitors very near the summit. From there, a well-marked and easy trail leads visitors through the 30-minute hike to the very top of the mountain.

There you will find a small Shinto shrine and a few other structures as well as an amazing panoramic view of the surrounding area from the mountain’s viewing platform.

The alpine vegetation turns red in autumn, making for a beautiful and pleasant hike in dry and warm weather.

To get to Mount Tsurugi, head to Tokushima JR station, and reach the site by a car. A rental car is highly recommended as public transport facilities are few.

5. Iya Valley, Tokushima

Iya valley located deep in the mountains offers a perfect place to view autumn colors in the serene wilderness.

Visitors can hike the steep area and cross the valley on a 45-meter-long vine suspension bridge (Kazurabashi Bridge), a thrilling experience.

For a calmer time, visit the hot spring onsen baths in the area, though you’ll still get to wander a bit as Hotel Iyaonsen’s open-air bath is only accessible by cable car.

To get to Iya Valley, take a train from Awa-Ikeda Station to Oboke station.

6. Yasui Gorge, Kochi

Photo Credit: Kochi Visitors & Convention Association.

The water at Yasui Gorge is so clear you can see the stones of the riverbed. Surrounded by craggy boulders and wild forest, this is one of the best places to see the water glow a shade of vibrant blue known as “Niyodo Blue”.

When the surrounding trees are in their brilliant autumn colors, it is especially spectacular. The gorge is ten kilometers long.

Along its length, you can see various sights such as the Mikaeri no Taki and Hiryu no Taki waterfalls, as well as the water pool called Suishobuchi (“crystal deep”), where the blue water looks like crystal.

Yasui Gorge is located about 1 hour and ten minutes drive from Ino IC on Kochi Expressway.

7. Nakatsu Gorge, Kochi

The river here cuts through jagged boulders and a lively forest. In the right weather, you can see the water turn “Niyodo Blue”.

No matter what, though, the river and rocks form a beautiful contrast with the surrounding forest’s bright autumn leaves. A gentle 2.3-kilometer trail runs alongside the river here, occasionally crossing the river either by bridges or stepping stones.

Stone statues of the shichifukujin (Seven Gods of Fortune) can be found dotted along the trail if you have a keen eye. If you’d like to stay a little longer, there is a nearby inn that also offers hot spring baths.

You can get to Nakatsu Gorge from Kochi city by driving for about an hour. The trip by train takes a bit under two hours to Sagawa and then via Kurokawa Kanko bus to Nanogawa bus stop.

8. Oboke & Koboke Gorges, Tokushima

Oboke Gorge Pleasure Cruise. Photo Credit:

These two gorges were both carved by the Yoshino River near the western edge of Tokushima Prefecture.

Autumn brings fiery colors to the trees around the gorges and seeing them by water is a treat. Koboke is a great place for thrilling rafting, while Oboke is better suited to leisurely cruises in tour boats.

Both gorges are best reached on the JR Dosan line, where you can take the train to either Oboke station (express train) or Koboke station (local lines).

For “Oboke Gorge Sightseeing Pleasure Boat” ride, visit here.

9. Okuboji Temple, Kagawa

Photo Credit:

This is the 88th temple on the pilgrimage route of the 88 Shikoku Holy Places, an ancient route traveled to get rid of bad luck.

In autumn, the trees all around the temple turn color, transforming the landscape into a magical fairy-tale forest.

Inside the temple, you’ll find many walking sticks and umbrellas dedicated to the temple by pilgrims who completed their route. It’s a beautiful place to learn about and explore.

Outside the temple grounds, you can find a restaurant called Yasoba-an that uses local foods and even temple holy water to make great dishes for visitors.

Admission is free. Okuboji Temple is about a 30-minute drive from Kotoden Nagao Station.

10. Nametoko Gorge, Ehime

Photo Credit: ForestCanyon Inc.

Here, the river has cut its way through smooth granite. A highlight of the area is water gushing through large rocks.

Yukiwa Falls, which streams down a gigantic monolith, is the icon of the gorge.

The surrounding forest turns from green to bright and fiery color in autumn, and the availability of canyoning, hiking, climbing, sliding, rafting, and more available at Nametoko Gorge makes it a great destination to see those autumn leaves.

Visit here to see how to enjoy canyoning and other outdoor fun activities at Nametoko Gorge.

To get here, take a train to Matsumaru Station, then take a taxi to the gorge.

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