Japan is as magical in the Autumn as it is in the Spring, so here’s an Autumn Guide to Japan — what to see and do during this beautiful time of year. While many know about Japan’s cherry blossoms in the Spring, you may not be aware that there are actually winter varieties of the very same tress—and they bloom in late November!
Autumn Guide to Japan
In this Autumn Guide to Japan, you’ll learn that autumn in Japan is a blissful cacophony of colors. The iconic maple trees bloom in at least five different colors: greens, yellows, purples, oranges, reds, and even pinks. It’s not often that you see amazing nature—there are a handful of places around the world famous for their autumn colors, and Japan is up near the top of that list.
Below, a mini guide to some of the places I visited on this autumn trip to Japan—some of the amazing areas where the colors were as vibrant as the culture, where the weather was good, the scenery breathtaking. Before visiting Japan, I always imagined an island full of crowded cities, skyscrapers, and neon lights. But to my surprise, there are many beautiful and natural landscapes throughout Japan’s countryside.
Central Japan, or the Shoryudo region (made up of nine different prefectures), offers incredible landscapes and scenery through mountains regions and sweeping coastlines. But it’s also an important historical home to much of Japanese culture. So many aspects of that stereotypically Japanese perception we’ve got back home—they can be found in the Shoryudo. Samurais, paper-making crafts, seafood, saunas (onsen), big cities (Nagoya) and more.
If you’re looking for a taste of “authentic” Japan, it’s in the Shoryudo. This Autumn Guide to Japan is largely focused on the Shoryudo Region. There’s no better time to visit than during autumn when the landscapes are more vibrant and colorful than you can even imagine.
My trip to Japan included visits through the Aichi and Gifu Prefectures, part of the Shoryudo region. See some of my highlights here—those places that really stood out for their natural beauty. Let’s start with our first pick on this Autumn Guide to Japan — Asuke Old Town and Mt. Iimori.
Asuke Old Town & Mt. Iimori
One of the most famous spots in the Aichi Prefecture for autumn, Asuke is a small town in the shadow of a beautiful mountain. A local market and picturesque streets make it a pleasant town to walk through. There’s even an historic village where you’ll find people working on various Japanese crafts. It’s an informative and fun way to experience a bit of Japanese culture. And the hike up Mt. Iimori is absolutely stunning. Asuke is a small part of the larger Toyota city, so it’s fairly easy to find.
A short ride from the Asuke Old Town, the historic Asuke Castle dates back to at least the 15th century. Set on top of a mountain, the Castle is easily accessible by walking and offers panoramic views over the Asuke Old Town below and the greater Toyota region. Set amongst a forest, the autumn colors from the Japanese maple trees make this an absolutely stunning destination during the season. Our third pick on this Autumn Guide to Japan is Obara.
Another part of the Toyota city is the Obara town. This is an absolutely incredible and truly special place to visit in the autumn because it’s one spot in Japan where you can see both cherry blossoms (sakura) and the fall foliage at once. The cherry blossoms in Obara bloom in the winter, so with that and the Japanese maples, it’s a truly beautiful mix of colors.
Located still in the Aichi Prefecture, Okazaki Castle was built in the 15th century though it’s gone through several renovations and updates.
The nearby river makes up part of the moat around Okazaki Castle, so the small lakes and open spaces make it a perfect place for seeing a bit of the fall foliage. The property is quite large and from above, there’s a nice panoramic view out over the countryside and nearby city.
Our fifth pick on this Autumn Guide to Japan is the ever so beautiful Nakasendo Trail.
The Nakasendo trail was once a highway that ran from Tokyo to Kyoto during the Edo Period. Samurais and others used the Nakasendo route to move between the two cities and would stay over in stations, or small villages and towns, along the route.
The town of Nakatsugawa was once an important station along the Nakasendo trail and today it offers a glimpse into Japanese daily life. It’s a good place to start along the Nakasendo trail and is easily accessible via train from Nagoya. From Nakatsugawa, you can also visit Magome—an equally beautiful hill-town famous for its picturesque streets and local culture..
Today, the Nakasendo is a hiking path that offers a glimpse of Japanese life through these station-towns as well as beautiful scenery through the mountains and countryside. Because much of it goes through the nature, you’ll find many beautiful spots during the fall. Next up on this Autumn Guide to Japan is the Hachiman Castle.
Gujo (Hachiman Castle)
Located in Gifu Prefecture, Gujo is a beautiful little town set within a valley. On one end, the Gujo Hachiman Castle overlooks the town.
In the city itself, you’ll find a peaceful river lined with trees, that small-town mountain village feeling with cute cafés, shops, and restaurants, and plenty of fun and interesting activities and things to do.
Looking down on the city from Gujo Hachiman Castle, the city is in the shape of a fish—there’s no end to the beauty of this city whether it’s in the natural surroundings or the man-made effect! While Gujo is famous for its summertime dance festival, the city’s true colors come out in the autumn when the city is alive with color, surrounded by beautiful mountains and hiking trails.
For something totally fun and original, the city of Gujo is famous for its food replica business. Many Japanese restaurants and businesses have food replicas or food samples on display and the tradition can be traced back to this town. You can visit a food replica factory and make your own through an easy-to-follow, family-friendly workshop!
I can’t miss Mino on this Autumn Guide to Japan, largely because it is SO serene and beautiful, nature lovers will be in pure heaven.
A small, quiet town in Gifu Prefecture, Mino is a picturesque place to visit during autumn in Japan. The town is famous for the production of Japanese washi paper and an annual light festival. The main street of the town is still in the same style and build as during the Edo Period, and a few historical homes offer insight into Japanese history and culture.
The largest city in the Shoryudo central Japan region, and Japan’s fourth largest city by population, Nagoya is an important hub for the region. Arguably the city’s most important historical tourist attraction is the Nagoya Castle—built in the 17th century, though largely destroyed in the 1940’s during the war. It’s recently been renovated and rebuilt (with more renovations coming), but its incredible height and gardens make it a great place for scenic views in the city center.
Autumn in Japan: The Details
I hope this Autumn guide to Japan provided you with some great tips for a future visit. It’s easy to visit Shoryudo during autumn in Japan. The region is easily accessible from Japan’s other major tourist hotspots; Kyoto and Tokyo are both within reach via bullet trains. Chubu Centrair International Airport also services the region. From the airport to downtown Nagoya is a quick and affordable train ride.
Note: my visit to the Shoryudo region was sponsored and hosted by the regional tourism offices and JTB. Follow @travelsofadam on Instagram for more travel updates!
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