November is a perfect time of the year to see the gorgeous fall foliage in Japan, especially on Honshu, the largest island of Japan. It can be overwhelming to decide which places to visit in Japan on your upcoming trip in November. We are here to help you!
If you are wondering where to go to see the changing leaves this autumn, this guide would help you plan your Japan trip the best possible way.
We have selected the following destinations based on their popularity, and sensational seasonal beauty in November. So, if you ever plan on visiting Japan in November, be sure to include one of these places on your itinerary.
After reading this article you will be able to decide exactly where to go and see the incredible autumn leaves in Japan in November and other places that are worth visiting.
1. Shirakawago (Ogimachi) in Gifu Prefecture
Shirakawago is one of Japan’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It’s a historic Japanese village in central Japan known for its traditional farmhouses (gassho-zukuri) with steep, thatched roofs surrounded by mountains and nature.
Home to several dozen well preserved gassho-zukuri farmhouses, Ogimachi is the largest village in Shirakawago. Ainokura village in Gokayama area is also a nice farmhouse village you should discover.
Shirakawago is beautiful in all seasons, though a trip to this iconic place would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience during autumn leaves season. To experience the best views of autumn foliage in the area, you have to visit the village between late October and early November.
You will visit Shirakawago in early November not only for its beautiful autumn scenery, but also to avoid the harsh winter. It snows a lot there during the winter months.
If you are afraid of cold weather, November is the perfect time to embark on a trip to this village and stay a night at one of the authentic Japanese farmhouses. If you fail to make a reservation, consider staying a night in this beautiful farmhouse.
Enjoy a walk along the walking trail heading towards the Shiroyama Viewpoint. This is from where you can see the entire village and its farmhouses and surrounding mountains in the distance.
Shirakawago makes a great day trip from Takayama city. So, those who are looking forward to exploring a breathtaking place on the outskirts of Takayama must go there and have a great day.
2. Kurobe Gorge in Toyama Prefecture
The Northern Japan Alps is a place of scenic beauty in Japan, offering plenty of attractions to discover for travelers that appreciate nature. One of the most iconic spots of the Japan Alps is Kurobe Gorge.
Located in the rugged mountains of the Japan Alps, Kurobe Gorge boasts one of the deepest and most beautiful gorges in Japan. It is beautiful no matter what time of year you visit, but autumn is particularly breathtaking.
This is such an interesting place where anyone would get amazed by the stunning views that surround them all day every day. Every autumn between late October and mid November, Kurobe Gorge offers the best fall foliage views.
Visitors mostly come to Kurobe Gorge to enjoy a scenic train ride, known as Kurobe Gorge Railway. The track is about 20 kilometers, which stretches between Unazuki station and Keyakidaira station.
This scenic train journey takes about 80 minutes (one way). You can experience a relaxing rail ride along the way and admire the sensational seasonal beauty of the gorge.
Make sure to get off at each station along the way to the final station, and explore the surroundings including the hot springs, hiking trails, and observation platforms for panoramic views of the gorge.
Want to take a photograph of a train crossing the Shin-Yamabiko Bridge over Kurobe River? To do so you can either head over to the Yamabiko Observation Platform or the pedestrian bridge, located next to Yamabiko Bridge. Now just wait for the train to pass through the bridge!
In fact, Yamabiko Bridge is the first bridge that passengers of the Torokko electric train cross when leaving Unazuki Station towards Keyakidaira Station.
A train journey in Japan would be memorable if you experience one of these popular scenic train rides which include the Kurobe Gorge Railway. Check out the route guide including timetable, online reservation and more.
3. Central Nikko in Tochigi Prefecture
Nikko can be divided into two areas: the town of Nikko (central Nikko), and Okunikko. The whole Nikko appeals to its visitors with lots of attractions including outdoor activities. Note that it becomes one of the busiest tourist spots in Japan when autumn rolls in.
If your plan is to admire the gorgeous fall foliage in Okunikko, including the area around Lake Chuzenji and the Irohazaka road, be sure to visit Nikko from mid October through late October.
One the other hand, The World Heritage site Shrines and Temples of Nikko is located in central Nikko where visitors can see the best foliage between early November and mid November.
This area of Nikko is very famous not only because it is a World Heritage Site but also for offering an authentic vibe of Japanese traditional culture, lifestyle and food. In fact, the area is a sacred place for many Shinto and Buddhist followers.
This Japanese World Heritage Site consists of 103 buildings and structures. One of the most amazing structures is Toshogu Shrine, which is the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the powerful Tokugawa Shogunate.
The shrine is lavishly decorated that anyone would get amazed at first sight. You won’t understand the beauty of wood carvings that were done to decorate the buildings until you pay a visit to this shrine.
The five-story pagoda standing at the entrance to the shrine is one of the most notable pagodas in Japan. It is beautiful and unique – a true Japanese architectural masterpiece!
Another beautiful structure in the area is the picture-perfect Shinkyo Bridge, which stands at the entrance to the shrines and temples of Nikko. The surrounding trees of the bridge reach their peak in the second week of November.
4. Mount Takao (Takaosan) in Tokyo
If you really like going on a hike, want to enjoy stunning views of nature and explore beautiful temples, Mount Takao is the best place to visit. On a clear day, you can even see the majestic Mount Fuji peak. How cool is that!
You would love your experience at Mt. Takao which is located about 50 minutes away from Shinjuku by train. Spend the day exploring the great outdoors and have fun while climbing the mountain on foot along the designated hiking trails.
Among the trails to the summit of Mount Takao, trail no 1 is the easiest and favorite for hikers. Rest of the trails can be a bit challenging though. For more info you must check the map with trails.
Not everyone wants to hike, so what is the other best option to reach the summit? Thankfully you have two options to choose from; either you take the chairlift or cable car. If you are afraid of heights and feel unsafe, avoid the chairlift. Please note Takosan has Japan’s steepest cable car.
Takaosan Yakuoin Temple is one of the fascinating and sacred mountain temples in Japan where various traditional events are held throughout the year.
From mid-November through early December is the best time to see fall foliage there.
5. Tofukuji Temple in Kyoto
Tofukuji is a large Zen Buddhist temple in the southeastern part of Kyoto city. Founded in 1236 by a famous Japanese Buddhist monk – Enni Ben’en, this temple is a must-see place in Kyoto in mid-November.
Being one of the Five Great Zen Buddhist temples in Kyoto, it offers not only many historical buildings, but also picturesque gardens, and tons of maple trees on its grounds that are ablaze with colors in every autumn.
Located not far from the Hojo, Tofukuji’s Tsutenkyo Bridge is used as a viewing platform of red maple leaves. This 100 meter long wooden bridge offers the perfect views of the autumn colors.
Note that it gets crowded when the colors reach their peak. It is best if you could refrain yourself from visiting the temple over the weekend.
Besides, I don’t mind spending my time gazing at those beautiful rock gardens of the Hojo, though to enter the Hojo you have to pay some money.
The temple is considered one of the most famous places to see autumn leaves in Kyoto. So, without having any doubt in mind, add this historical landmark on your Kyoto itinerary. It is truly a beautiful place to go and discover wonderful temple buildings!
Tofukuji Temple is a 10-minute walk from Tofukuji Station on the JR Nara Line.
6. Lake Kawaguchi in Yamanashi Prefecture
You can ask someone about their main intention of visiting Lake Kawaguchi, and their answer will be to see the iconic Mt. Fuji. And that’s very true indeed!
It disappoints them greatly if the summit is not visible on the day they visit the area. Therefore, we highly recommend checking these live cameras before you take the bus or train to Lake Kawaguchi.
From early to mid November, Fuji Kawaguchiko Autumn Leaves Festival is held on the northern shores of Lake Kawaguchiko. It is said to be one of the best autumn festivals in Japan, attracting thousands of visitors every day in November.
The autumn leaves corridor (Momiji Kairo) is a great sight to behold. You can take a walk along the corridor early in the morning to avoid the crowds. So staying overnight in this hotel would not be a bad idea.
This will also allow you to see the autumn leaves illumination at night. It is a great experience you should not miss.
The area is a very popular place to go and enjoy autumn leaves with stunning Mt. Fuji view in the distance. Peak foliage season hits between mid-November and late November.
Even though Lake Kawaguchi can easily be visited on a day trip from Tokyo, staying a night there is highly recommended. You can take the Fuji Excursion train to Kawaguchi Station from Shinjuku Station, Tokyo. It is a direct train service. Alternatively, take the highway buses for easy access to Lake Kawaguchi from Tokyo.
When you travel around Lake Kawaguchi, be sure to check these iconic places for the best views of Mount Fuji.
7. Nara Hasedera in Nara Prefecture
Hasedera Temple in Sakurai city of Nara Prefecture is one of the best places to visit in Japan in November. Visitors to this temple can see the best foliage in the third and last weeks of November.
This hillside Buddhist temple is located in a deep forested valley with amazing scenery to experience year-round. It was founded in 686 and serves as the main temple of the Buzan sect of Shingon Buddhism.
Hasedera is also known as the “Flower Temple” as visitors there can see stunning displays of cherry blossoms in spring and other flowers including hydrangeas, and peonies in summer.
One of the highlights of this temple is the long covered staircase (399 steps) which leads you to the main hall of the temple. Climb the stairs at your own pace. Even though you will have to climb many stairs, it’s still well worth doing!
Once you reach the top of the stairs, be sure to check the wooden balcony/observation platform and enjoy panoramic views of the surroundings, including seasonal vistas, temple buildings, and mountains in the distance.
The views are incredible in the fall when the trees scattered on the grounds offer vibrant displays of oranges, reds and yellows foliage.
Nara Hasedera is a 15-minute walk from Hasedera Station on the Kintetsu Osaka Line. Without doubt, this temple makes a great half-day trip from Nara City.
8. Kenrokuen Garden in Kanazawa Prefecture
Kanazawa’s Kenrokuen Garden is considered one of Japan’s “three most beautiful gardens,” along with Korakuen in Okayama and Kairakuen in Mito. It was once a private garden owned by the Maeda family, but it was opened to the public in 1871.
Your Japan trip will not be complete until you pay a visit to one of these most beautiful traditional gardens, and if it is going to be this Kenrokuen then you are very lucky indeed.
For a unique experience in Japan, enjoy a stroll there to admire the scenic landscape that this landscape garden offers throughout the year.
There are more cherry trees than maple trees on its grounds, though the autumn foliage here is absolutely breathtaking. Viewing autumn leaves in a Japanese garden like this one gives a different feeling and experience than enjoying the foliage in the mountains.
The leaves begin to change colors in October and peak around mid November and early December. If possible, visit the garden to see cherry blossoms in abundance in April.
If you are interested in learning about Japanese traditional garden elements, a visit to this garden will surely help you understand each of them.
Take the Kanazawa Loop Bus to access Kenrokuen from Kanazawa Station (20 minutes).
9. Arashiyama in Kyoto
When it comes to visiting the best fall foliage spots in Kyoto, you have to add Arashiyama to your bucket list. It makes a perfect day trip from Kyoto city.
There are a number popular autumn leaves viewing spots in Arashiyama. Most of them are well worth your time! Alongside taking a walk through the famous Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, be sure to pay a visit to Tenryuji Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Tenryuji has a beautiful landscape garden, which looks fabulous in autumn with gorgeous fall foliage. Stunningly beautiful and peacefully quiet, Jajakkoji Temple boasts bountiful red maple leaves where anyone would like to spend hours roaming around the temple.
Hogon-in is truly a remarkable place to visit to see the beautiful display of autumn leaves in Arashiyama. It is a sub-temple of Tenryuji Temple built in 1461 by Yoriyuki Hosokawa.
Togetsukyo Bridge is another iconic spot in Arashiyama, from there you can see lovely views of autumn colors, mountains and river.
When you are in Arashiyama, consider a ride on a sightseeing train, called Sagano Romantic Train, which runs along the Hozugawa (Hozu River). This scenic ride surely offers you some of the best rural views including gorgeous autumn foliage you have ever seen in Japan.
This one day in Arashiyama itinerary guides you on the best places to visit the town in the autumn. Read it and get some useful ideas before you arrive in Arashiyama.
Mid November into early December is the best time to enjoy the vibrant views in Arashiyama.
10. Kiyomizudera Temple in Kyoto
Founded in 778, Kiyomizudera is a World Heritage Site in Kyoto. It is located in the eastern Higashiyama area. It is famous for its large wooden terrace and one of the best autumn foliage viewing spots in Kyoto.
This Buddhist temple is a famous place to visit in Kyoto particularly in spring and autumn. Every year from mid November through late November, many tourists flock to this amazing landmark to see its gorgeous fall foliage.
The big terrace that you find here is actually built to admire the seasonal beauty of each season and panoramic views of Kyoto. In November, especially during the autumn leaves season you can even see spectacular displays of evening illuminations. The night view it highlights is absolutely mind-boggling.
In addition, make sure to check out the Main Temple Hall, the Bell Tower, the Three Story Pagoda, Otawa Waterfall, and finally the shrine, named Jishu Shrine, located behind the back of the main hall.
You can reach the temple from JR Kyoto Station by Kyoto city bus (number 100 or 206). Get off at Gojo-zaka or Kiyomizu-michi bus stop and then take a walk for about 10 minutes.