The Best Spots to See Autumn Leaves in Kansai

From Kyoto to Mie, the Kansai region is flourishing with colorful foliage.

Also known as the Kinki Region, Kansai is sometimes seen as the more quirky counter to its eastern neighbor, Kanto.

The Kansai region is made up of seven prefectures: Mie, Nara, Wakayama, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo and Shiga. People in these prefectures are known for their humor, love of food and riding on the other side of the escalator.

Depending on the location within the region, the peak times for Koyo will be slightly different, but most leaves will change throughout November. Many of the popular tourist spots have a special nighttime illumination which will really enhance the power of the koyo aesthetic. They’re highly worth seeing despite the crowds—especially in Kyoto.

Nara Prefecture

Nara Park

Even the deer are fans of the autumn leaves.

Known for their hungry wild deer, Nara city is dotted with numerous shrines and cultural facilities such as Todaiji Temple, Kofukuji Temple, the National Museum and more. You’ll find the majority of Nara’s attractions, spread throughout the picturesque, tree-lined Nara Park. As well as a stunning view of the Wakakusa mountain, in late autumn, numerous golden leaf trees are lit up in a variety of spots around the beautiful park.

  • Peak season: Mid November to early December
  • Nara city, Nara - Map

Wakayama Prefecture

Mount Koya

Autumn leaves at Mount Koya in Wakayama Japan

Photo by: welldone_dasha Take the cable car up Mount Koya for a leisure view of Wakayama’s autumn foliage.

This sacred mountain range is covered in a dense cedar forest dotted with numerous temples dedicated to Shingon Buddhism. Take an enchanting walk through a misty autumn forest along the stone lantern path at Okunoin or Kongobu-ji Temple.

  • Peak season: Late October to early November
  • Ito, Wakayama - Map

Kyoto Prefecture

Tofuku-Ji Temple

Hojo (Abbot Hall) of Tofuku-ji Temple.

Hojo (Abbot Hall) of Tofuku-ji Temple.

It is hard to surpass the impact of Tofuku-ji Temple’s maple garden, which stretches across a valley connected by iconic bridges. The viewing route takes you not just through the trees but up above them too, to peer down on a blanket of color. During the crowded peak season, photography from the Tsuten Bridge is forbidden because there just isn’t enough space. You can take pictures anywhere else in the garden, but tripods are not allowed. The temple opens at 8:30 a.m. so best to get there as early as possible.

  • Peak season: Mid November to early December
  • Higashiyama, Kyoto - Map

Kiyomizudera

Kiyomizu Temple of Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto’s iconic temple.

One of Kyoto’s most iconic temples, Kiyomizudera never fails to impress. In autumn, its main building sits atop a blaze of fiery maple trees. Take advantage of its early opening hours (6 a.m. to 6 p.m.) to avoid the worst of the crowds. In the latter half of November, Kiyomizudera holds a glorious nighttime illumination ending at 9 p.m.

  • Peak season:  late November to early December
  • Autumn Light-up: 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. (Nov. 16 to Dec. 1)
  • Kyoto - Map

Daigo-ji

Daigoji, Kyoto, Japan

Textbook autumn leaf beauty.

Key views at this Unesco World Heritage Site include a maple tree “tunnel” along the temple’s approach and the red-trimmed Bentendo Hall at the pond’s edge. Somewhat shrouded in secrecy is the Sanboin and its garden, which features bright maple trees, but where photography is also not allowed. For an extra fee, you can hike the forest path to the original temple grounds on the mountainside for a panoramic view that stretches as far as Osaka.

  • Peak season:  Mid-November to early December
  • Autumn light up: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. (Nov. 15 to Dec. 1)
  • Kyoto - Map

Osaka Prefecture

Mino Park

Mino Park Autumn Leaves Osaka

A scenic hike to Mino Falls in Osaka.

Located about 30 minutes from the center of Osaka is Mino Park, which is brimming with hiking trails, waterfalls, temples, and diverse wildlife. Autumn is the best time to sample Mino’s famous delicacy, momiji tempura (deep-fried maple leaves). It’s a lot tastier than it sounds!

  • Peak season: Late November to early December
  • Mino, Osaka - Map

Mie Prefecture

Ise Grand Shrine

Ise Jingu Shrine Autumn Leaves

Photo by: Ise Jingu The bridge leading up to Ise Grand Shrine during koyo season.

Ise Jingu is the geographical and spiritual heart of Ise, making up around a fifth of the town’s total area. This Shinto shrine is dedicated to the sun goddess Amaterasu and is located on the Isuzu River where you can see the vibrant red maple leaves reflected during koyo season.

  • Peak season: late November to early December
  • Ise, Mie Prefecture - Map

Hyogo Prefecture

Kogen-ji Temple

Kogenji Temple Koyo Hyogo

Photo by: akio_2410 Kogen-ji Temple in Hyogo Prefecture.

Known as the historical temple of Zen, Kogen-ji is one of the most famous koyo viewing spots in Kansai. Amongst the many maple trees, the temple is home to the Tenmoku Maple, which is said to have been brought here from Mt. Tenmoku in Hangzhou, China. It’s the center of attention during this season.

  • Peak season: Early to late November
  • Tamba City, Hyogo - Map

Shiga Prefecture

Metasequoia Namiki Avenue

Metasequoia Namiki Avenue Autumn leaves in Shiga Japan

Photo by: colbyrs_2_8newt A quiet reprieve in Shiga Prefecture.

A charming koyo street made up of about 500 metasequoia trees along a straight long road. This superb 2.4-kilometer road is considered as one of Japan’s top 100 roadside sceneries. From around mid-November, these beautifully-aligned trees slowly transition from green to deep yellow to and earthy reddish-brown.

  • Peak season: Mid November to early December
  • Takashima, Shiga - Map