See the earliest autumn leaves in Japan at Hokkaido's billowing onsen towns and quiet parks.
This northernmost region of Japan is known for heavy snowfall during the winter which attracts skiers and snowboarders every year. Though popular in winter, Hokkaido’s vast wilderness comes alive in autumn with countless national parks perfect for hiking and camping—aka quintessential autumn activities.
Hokkaido is the only prefecture in Japan that has its own region all to itself due to the wide landmass it covers. The prefecture has some of the earliest changing leaves in Japan with peak times ranging from mid-September to early November.
The whole Jozankei Onsen area is widely famous for its beautiful autumn foliage. The Hoheikyo Dam is a popular destination to catch a memorable view of koyo (autumn leaves). Jozankei also has a local Koyo Kappa Bus Tour which takes you around to the most magnificent views in the Jokanzei area.
The famous Odori Park in the capital city of Sapporo is home to the iconic Sapporo Tv Tower. The park extends 1.5 kilometers from east to west and has about 4,700 trees which start turning colors as early as the beginning of October.
Filled with towering cedars, magnolia, and lush maple trees, you do not want to miss the koyo at Sapporo’s Maruyama Park. The best time to see the colorful transformation of trees and leaves is usually mid-to-late October. Take a nice long walk around the beautiful park and watch squirrels and small birds chirp about before the snow sets in—it’s honestly like Snow White in real life.
Kosetsuen, formerly Iwafune Garden, located in Miharashi Park, is the only garden in Hokkaido that’s a designated cultural property of Japan. That means it’s really important. With about 150 kinds of trees in the park and unique buildings built during the Meiji and Taisho eras, Kosetsuen takes you on a historical journey alongside the koyo beauty. During the Hakodate Festival in October and November, the garden lights up creating a fantasy-like scenery.
Famous for its cherry blossoms, which attract hordes of tourists during springtime, this star-shaped park can also be enjoyed during the quieter period of autumn. On sunny days, the koyo leaves reflect on the surface of the moat which circles the whole garden.
With nearly 1000 square kilometers of lakes, volcanoes, hiking trails, and onsen, the Shikotsu-Toya National Park boasts some of the most spectacular scenery in the entire prefecture. Taking full advantage of the hugeness, you should actually take a koyo drive for the best views. Probably the most unique autumn scenery comes from the Noboribetsu area where billowing hot spring smoke weaves through the bright colors.
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!