When most visitors think about seasonal beauty in Japan, their minds jump to the delicate fluttering cherry blossom of spring. But there is another season of natural beauty that is all too often missed by new visitors. Autumn leaf viewing, also known as koyo, is one of the best seasonal events in Kyoto. There is no better place to enjoy the bright reds, yellows and oranges of the autumnal maple trees than in the grounds of Kyoto’s temples.
Read on for three of the best places to enjoy the stunning visuals and atmosphere of fall in Kyoto.
If you’re going to visit anywhere this fall, Eikando should not be missed. Known to locals as ‘Eikando of Autumn Leaves’ this temple is a shining example of the most beautiful fiery fall color Kyoto has to offer.
At night the many maple trees surrounding the temple are illuminated in a stunning display. This is one of the most popular spots to take in the autumnal beauty, so remember that crowds are to be expected. But don’t think you have to rush your visit. The light up usually lasts for the whole of November, and a visit during the day can be just as beautiful.
The trees at Eikando are at their best in November – although they don’t tend to reach their full glory until a few weeks into the month.
If you want to miss the crowds this year, dropping into the Imperial Palace gardens is also a great way to enjoy some fall color. The grounds are incredibly spacious, and the bright yellow Ginko trees are particularly beautiful.
No matter the season, the stunning vistas of Kiyomizudera are always worthy of a visit. This temple is famous for its large wooden platform that juts out over a sea of maple and cherry blossom trees. In fall the colors are truly outstanding, and the evening light up is utterly magical.
However, just like Eikando, Kiyomizudera can suffer from a significant crowding issue. Luckily this temple is in one of the most beautiful parts of Kyoto – the Higashiyama district.
If you want to enjoy the maple while avoiding the worst of the crowds, take a relaxed stroll around the cobbled streets and enter the temple slightly later in the evening.
The most magical part of Kodaiji is not the maple trees themselves, but the reflections of those trees cast in its central pond. This temple is often overlooked in favor of the other big-name spots nearby. However, that means it also tends to be less crowded than some of those bigger spots.
That’s not to say it doesn’t get crowded though!
The light up at Kodaiji is particularly special. The lake takes on a whole new majesty as the interplay of color, light and shadow dance on its mirror surface. The silvery bamboo grove is also eerily beautiful under the lights.
This is certainly not a spot to be missed. If you are particularly eager, you can even combine a visit here with trips to some of the other big nighttime illuminations. Just don’t expect to fit in too many visits, you’ll find time flies as you watch the beautiful colors of Kyoto’s autumnal leaves.
Time to Celebrate Autumn!
Any of these places will give you a stunning experience of the best of Kyoto’s autumnal color. Avoiding the crowds can be tough but putting some thought into the timings of your visits will help to minimize the wait time – the sights are truly worth it!