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Koyo, the magical display of colours

Japan’s green interior is at its most beautiful in autumn when the trees briefly turn bright yellow, orange and red. This ‘front of colours’ (koyo) begins in the north during September and reaches Kyoto by mid-November, transforming the region into a dazzling array of colours. Follow the highlights of this autumn front from north to south!

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Pristine wilderness in Daisetsuzan

Travel to Hokkaido, Japan’s most northern island, and be the first to welcome the Japanese autumn. By mid-September this is where the leaves start to change colour in the pristine wilderness of Daisetsuzan National Park. The rule of thumb is that the higher you go, the earlier the leaves change colour. Hike along the slopes of the 2,290-metre-high Asahidake volcano and follow the path to the top. However, as this path takes you above the tree line, don’t expect to find much colourful foliage here.

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Extra tip:

Hot springs in Asahidake

After a brisk walk, reward your tired limbs with a soothing soak in the hot springs of Asahidake Onsen. Then hop on the Asahidake cable car that begins at the top of the spa village and takes you 500 metres up. From here, it’s only a two-hour hike to the top of the volcano.

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Extra tip:

Walking through Yasumiya

Take a walk or stop for lunch along the promenade of Yasumiya, the only sizeable village along Lake Towada. This village not only boasts the one bus stop along the lake, but also a temple and a small museum.


Autumn splendour at deep blue Towada

Halfway through October the autumn front reaches the northeastern tip of Honshu. Here lies the enormous Towada crater lake, one of the most popular spots in Japan to enjoy the autumn splendour. Many visitors prefer to go out on a small boat, however the road around the lake also provides many spectacular views. Besides the red, orange and yellow leaves, the deep blue water of the lake also attracts a crowd. For a great hike, follow the trail along the Oirase mountain stream, which flows from the lake through a ravine with many stunning waterfalls.

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Late October

Mount Fuji in a red frame

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By the end of October the palette of autumn colours spreads to Tokyo and its surroundings. The five-lake region around Mount Fuji is especially famous for its display of blazing shades of red. Japan’s most famous and highest volcano is breathtakingly beautiful no matter what season, but in autumn the reflection of Mount Fuji’s snowy peak in Lake Kawaguchi framed by bright colours makes the area even more photogenic.

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The other lakes are harder to reach but are certainly worth a visit, especially if you are trying to escape the crowds.

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Amusement park in Fujiyoshida

Looking for an adrenaline rush after all these serene views? Head to Fuji-Q Highland, an amusement park with record-breaking rollercoasters located in the small town of Fujiyoshida. Make sure to visit the Haunted Hospital, the world’s second largest haunted house.

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STEPHEN FLEMING / Alamy Stock Photo

Extra tip:

Unique rock garden in Kyoto

Take a moment to visit the Hasso-no-niwa rock garden surrounding the Hojo (the former abbot’s residence). The design of this garden is the only one of its kind in Japan, and, according to the master gardener, symbolises the path to enlightenment.


Kyoto: autumn at its best

During the last two weeks of November, the autumn colour front meets the magnificent traditional temples of Kyoto, a match made in heaven. One location stands out above everything else: the Tofukuji Temple, built in 1236. The sanctuaries and surrounding gardens are the finest examples of Japanese perfection. In high season, it can get very crowded on the deep red Tsutenkyo Bridge, which spans a valley full of maple trees. And rightly so. As it would be difficult to find a better background for those magnificent autumn selfies!

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Jon Bower Japan / Alamy Stock Photo
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