Get your outdoorsy fix with hiking in the Japanese Alps and the real "castle in the sky" in central Japan.
Packed full of hillside landscapes, mountainous terrains, and quiet castle towns, the Chubu region throws visitors right into the heart of Japan’s natural landscapes. This central area of the country is often overlooked by travelers jetting from Tokyo to Osaka on the shinkansen, but that whir of green you see through the train windows is ripe for exploration.
Nine prefectures comprise the Chubu region, including Yamanashi, Aichi, Shizuoka, Gifu, Nagano, Niigata, Fukui, Ishikawa, and Toyama. From the Northern Japan Alps stretching across Toyama and Nagano to the valiant Mount Fuji in Yamanashi, a trip to Chubu will leave you in awe.
Korankei is one of the most popular autumn foliage viewing spots in Aichi Prefecture with the red Taigetsukyo Bridge being the place to capture the best photo. Catch the Momiji Matsuri (Maple Leaf Festival) along the Tomoe Riverbank when glowing yellow and orange trees are reflected on the water at night.
Learn the way of the samurai at this popular koyo (autumn leaves) spot in Nagoya where members of the Tokugawa clan (1603 to 1867) retired in peace. The garden was curated in 1695 in honor of the infamous feudal lords, who were the last of Japan’s Shoguns. The 44-hectare garden has a lake, waterfall, and zen rock formations in addition to a tea house that will take you back in time. At night, the landscape is illuminated for the Autumn Leaves Festival.
No, there’s nothing wrong with your screen, at Fureai Park maple trees and cherry blossoms flourish at the same time. Take the rare chance to see Japan’s shikizakura (four-season cherry trees) and autumn leaves harmoniously painting Toyota City in red, white, and orange gradients. Fureai Park hosts a month-long festival every November in honor of this occasion with food stalls and music performances.
Blazing red trees and leaves falling gently atop moss-covered bridges make Yokokura Temple the perfect autumn foliage and hiking spot in Gifu Prefecture. The hills the temple lies in are a network of trails and paths that will lead you over streams and through mini forests hiding a three-storied pagoda. Oh, and there’s also an 18th-century mummified monk inside the temple walls. Learn a slightly morbid, but fascinating part of Japanese Buddhist history, or just enjoy the peaceful stroll.
A high mountain valley in the Northern Japan Alps, Kamikochi boasts one of the best hikes in Japan. This one is for the nature lovers, with 18 kilometers of highlands to be explored. For a leisure hike with the best autumn colors, take the Taisho Pond-Myojin Bridge trail that runs alongside Asuza River. The crystal clear river with a tint of true blue provides a sparkling contrast to the burnt orange leaves.
Southern Niigata’s towering cliffs and clear flowing streams populate the Kioyotsuko Gorge located in Joshinetsu Kogen National Park. Walkthrough the Kiyotsukyo Gorge Tunnel, which has four scenic viewpoints, the last of which will give you the best panoramic view of the area’s volcanic rock formations peppered with autumn colors.
Take a gentle ride over the koyo trees at Daikanbo via the Tateyama Ropeway. The ropeway is part of the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route which stretches across the Northern Japan Alps from Toyama Prefecture to Nagano. There are several scenic spots along the route including Kurobe Gorge, and Symomo Falls which bloom with fall colors from September to early November depending on the altitude. The views of the alpine scenery overflowing with bursting autumn foliage are the best Toyama has to offer.
The gateway to the Fuji Five Lakes area, Lake Kagwaguchiko provides the quintessential views of Mount Fuji we’ve all seen on the postcards. For an elevated view over the lake and the autumn leaves take the Kachi Kachi Ropeway to the summit of Mount Tenjo.
The rickety suspension bridge crossing Sumataikyo Gorge over the crystal-blue water may as well be an advertisement for adventure travel in Japan. Nestled in the Southern Alps of Shizuoka Prefecture, the area is full of hiking paths lined with blazing red colors. Relax in any of the surrounding hot springs after your hike for the ultimate fall experience.
One of the Three Great Gardens of Japan, Kenroku-en sees the autumn colors lit up at night around mid-November. Located in Kanazawa, which is often referred to as “Little Kyoto,” the historical garden is packed with traditional teahouses and a gorgeous pond dotted with stone lanterns.
When conditions are right, low hanging clouds cover the mountain Echizen Ono Castle sits on, making it appear as if it were floating. This phenomenon, which has earned it the nickname “The Castle in the Sky,” is straight out of a Studio Ghibli movie. Catch the floating castle surrounded by mixed shades of red and yellow on a cloudy November morning from dawn until about 9 a.m. Head to the “Echizen Ono Castle Viewing Spot,” nearby Ono City’s Inuyama Castle ruins for your chance to catch the fleeting scene. If you miss it, seeing the bright trees on the castle grounds themselves is still a photo-worthy autumn experience.
If you travel to one of these spots, use #GaijinPotTravel on your Instagram photos for a chance to be featured in our Top 10 Reader’s Photos of the Month!