kyoto Blossoming Cherry Tree by the Yasaka Pagoda in Kyoto, Japan
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Autumn in Kyoto 2023: Best Guide to Enjoying kyoto Fall Foliage Season


Kyoto, Japan

by Coco Tran On November 1, 2023

Are you planning an autumn in Kyoto to see Kyoto Foliage? Kyoto autumn leaves With brilliant red maple leaves, golden ginkgo trees, and ancient temples set against colorful mountain backdrops, autumn is one of the best times to visit this historic city!

The Stage of Kiyomizu Among the Trees, Kyoto, Japan

In this kyoto Fall travel guide, I’ll tell you everything you need to know to plan the perfect fall trip to Kyoto, including when to visit, top sights, what to pack, where to stay, and more. Whether it’s your first or fifth time, this article has all the tips to make your autumn 2023 visit to Kyoto truly memorable.

Autumn in Kyoto 2023: Best Guide to Enjoying kyoto Fall Foliage Season

When to Visit Kyoto for Fall Foliage? Best time to visit Kyoto Autumn

The best time to see autumn colors in Kyoto is from late November to early December. Here are the key dates for 2023:

  • Kyoto japan in November: Colors start to emerge in the northern mountains around Takao and Kurama.Trees in central Kyoto still mostly green.
  • Mid-November: Colors approaching peak around Takao and Ohara. Central Kyoto trees just starting to turn.
  • Late November (around Nov 26 – Dec 2): Peak autumn foliage in central Kyoto. Bright red maples and golden ginkgo trees color the city.
  • Early December (around Dec 3 – 8): december colors on Leaves starting to fall but still excellent color.
  • Mid-December: Most leaves have fallen, end of autumn foliage season.

I recommend visiting Kyoto between November 26 and December 8 for the most brilliant fall scenery. However, if you come earlier or later, you can still find nice foliage by heading to higher elevations north/south of the city center. 

So for the most stunning fall scenery in Kyoto’s top spots, late November into early December is best. However, you can find nice colors earlier/later by exploring areas north or south of the city center.

I’d recommend spending at least 3 full days in Kyoto to fully experience the autumn magic. Many tourists combine Kyoto foliage viewing with visits to nearby autumn hotspots like Nara, Osaka, Himeji, and Hiroshima.

Check Kyoto’s fall foliage forecast for updates on the best viewing times. The colors can vary slightly from year to year depending on weather.

how long does fall last in kyoto

In Kyoto, the autumn foliage season typically lasts around 6 weeks, though it can vary slightly from year to year.

So while the most brilliant colors are seen during the 2 week peak from late November to early December, beautiful fall hues grace Kyoto for a total of around 6 weeks from early November to mid December.

The foliage emerges earlier in Kyoto’s northern mountain areas and lasts later in southern cities like Nara. So you can extend the autumn magic by travelling around the Kansai region during your trip!

Top 10 Kyoto best autumn Spots for Kyoto Fall Foliage: places to visit kyoto in Fall in kyoto 

With over 2,000 temples, shrines, and gardens, Kyoto offers endless choices for beautiful autumn leaves colors viewing. Here are ten top spots to catch the stunning maple and ginkgo leaf momiji kyoto displays:

1. Tofukuji Temple ( golden pavilion)

The Golden Pavilion, Kinkaku-ji, Zen Buddhist Temple in Kyoto, Japan

Famous for its blazing red maple trees, Tofukuji’s Tsutenkyo Bridge provides a breathtaking aerial view over a sea of fall foliage. For beautiful photos, head down to the maple-lined gorge on the north end.

Best time: Late November – early December

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2. Eikando Temple

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The glowing crimson maples framing Eikando’s pagoda make it one of Kyoto’s best fall foliage spots. Special night illuminations from November 3 – December 3 create a must see autumn atmosphere.

3. Philosopher’s Path

Take a calming stroll along the canal lined with maple trees turning bright red and orange. Stop at temples and cafes along the way.

4. Nanzenji Temple

Brilliant red maple leaves against a backdrop of moss and giant temple grounds. Don’t miss the trees around Sanmon gate and the aqueduct.

  • Best time: Late November – early December
  • Website / Map

5. Arashiyama

See the colorful mountainside with Togetsukyo Bridge in the foreground. Ride a rented rowboat for 360 degree fall scenery.

kyoto Japan Momiji Japan Autumn leavesWhite Boat on Body of Water near Green and Orange Leaf Tree
  • Best time: Late November – early December
  •  Website / Map

6. Kiyomizu dera Temple

Get the iconic view over Kyoto from the main hall as the trees below ignite into reds, oranges, and yellows. Special night illuminations from November 18-30.

Pagoda Tower at Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Kyoto, Japan

Best time: Late November – early December

Kiyomizu-Dera Temple /Map
6am – 6pm (extended opening times in summer).
¥400

7. Nijo Castle

Take a stroll through the castle grounds surrounded by moats filled with reflective foliage. Don’t miss the maples in Ninomaru Garden.

8. Bishamondo Temple

Autumn foliage Bishamondo Temple

This hidden gem is not well known yet. If you want to see the scarlet color light up the scene you have to climb the steps carpeted with vibrant fallen maple leaves. Nearby mountains also glow with rich autumn hues.

9. Ryoanji Temple

See Kyoto’s most famous zen rock garden backed by kyoto fall colors on the gorgeous red maple leaves. The pond area also has beautiful colors.

  • Best time: Late November to early December
  • Website / Map

10. Kyoto Botanical Gardens

Over 12,000 trees from around Japan and the world put on a dazzling autumn display. Special night illuminations in mid to late November. A perfect place to stroll at night !

11. genko-an Temple

A hidden gem where you can sde the foliage through a beautiful round window . Also known as “The Window of confusion”. You will see a magnificient garden with autumn foliage and take in the serene views. It’s a bit further north from the Golden Pavilion. A must visit if you have the extra time.

12. Tofuku-ji Temple

This temple has the longest hall with bright red and yellow maple leaves you can see. It’s also home to Japans oldest temple gate.

13. Shinnyodo

A beautiful Pagoda near the Philosopher trail with crimson red maple trees. A beautiful place to stroll.

kyoto autumn temperature

  • Daytime Highs: Kyoto’s average daily high temperatures in November range from around 15°C/59°F at the beginning of the month to 12°C/54°F by the end of November.
  • Nighttime Lows: Average overnight lows fall from 8°C/46°F to 3°C/37°F from early to late November.
  • Rainfall: Kyoto gets an average of around 7 rainy days in November, most bringing light showers. However, heavier typhoon rains can occasionally occur.
  • What to Wear: Light jackets and sweaters for daytime and warmer coats, gloves and scarves for colder mornings/evenings. Bring rain gear.
  • Sunshine: Kyoto enjoys clear, sunny weather on many November days, ideal for fall foliage viewing. But skies can also be cloudier and gloomier at times.
  • Humidity: The autumn air is drier than Japan’s summer monsoon season. However, Kyoto’s inland climate remains somewhat more humid than other major cities.
  • Unpredictability: Temperatures and weather can be quite variable from day to day in November. Keep checking forecasts and dress in layers.

The nice thing about Kyoto’s fall weather is that while days can be occasionally wet or chilly, it provides both sunny days to enjoy the autumn leaves and cool nights to see beautiful illuminations. Just come prepared with proper clothing and raingear and you can comfortably experience the full range of Kyoto’s autumn beauty.

What to Wear and Pack for Kyoto Fall Travel

Kyoto’s autumn weather can be quite variable. Days are pleasant but temperatures drop quickly in the evenings. Here are some tips on what to wear and pack:

Clothing

  • Light jackets – bring a layers like sweaters and cardigans to mix and match as the weather changes
  • Scarves, hats, gloves – nights can get quite cold
  • Comfortable walking shoes – you’ll be on your feet sightseeing all day
  • Sock – be ready for colder temple and tatami flooring
  • Kimono/yukata – fun to wear while viewing fall foliage

Other Items

  • Portable phone charger/power bank – stay juiced up for taking photos
  • Extra camera batteries – capture all the stunning scenery
  • Rain gear – be prepared for occasional showers
  • Masks – handy to have when visiting crowded temples
  • Hand warmers – pop in your pockets or gloves for cold mornings/evenings
  • Moisturizer – prevent chapping or drying in the crisp air

Also make sure to check forecasts and pack accordingly if you spot any extra cold or warm spells coming.

Where to Stay in Kyoto for Autumn

With brilliant fall scenery all around, Kyoto’s accommodations fill up fast for autumn. Here are some tips for choosing where to stay:

  • Book at least 2-3 months in advance for the best selection.
  • Central locations like Downtown, Kyoto Station, and Kawaramachi put you close to public transport and autumn color hotspots.
  • Quieter areas like Northwest Kyoto offer scenic temples and nature with fewer tourists.
  • Stay along the Kamo River for beautiful riverside strolls among fall hues.
  • Budget travelers can find nice options in Kyoto’s many modern hostels.
  • For luxury, treat yourself to a luxury hotel or elegant ryokan with kaiseki dining.

Some top-rated picks in different areas include:

Downtown/Central Kyoto: Hotel Kanra Kyoto, Royal Park Hotel, Kyoto Century Hotel

Kyoto Station: Hotel Granvia Kyoto, Hotel Keihan Kyoto, Rihga Royal Hotel Kyoto

Kawaramachi/Gion: Hotel Nikko Princess Kyoto, Hyatt Regency Kyoto, Ritsumeikan Uji-en

Northwest Kyoto: Nishiyama Ryokan, JAM Hostel Kyoto Gion, Bento&co Kyoto

Arashiyama: Hoshinoya Kyoto, Hotel Mume, Sowaka

See my list of best hotels for Kyoto autumn trips for more wonderful places to stay.

How to Get Around Kyoto in Autumn

With the influx of fall foliage tourists, Kyoto’s buses and trains fill up quickly in autumn. Here are some tips for getting around:

  • Use the useful Kyoto City Bus for accessing scenic temples and shrines. Buses towards popular foliage spots can fill up, so take early.
  • The Kyoto subway is quick way to cover north-south distances across the city.
  • Subway 1-day unlimited passes are an affordable option if you’ll be making multiple trips a day.
  • Cycling around Kyoto during fall can be fun, but beware of crowded roads and cooler weather. Look for bike rentals near your hotel.
  • Taxis can also be handy for shorter distances when buses and trains are packed. Look for taxi stands at bus and train stations.

Consider buying a Keihan-Kotsu combination 1 or 2-day bus+train pass which gives unlimited access to Kyoto’s subway, buses and some train lines. Having your transport covered makes foliage viewing less stressful.

Insider Tips for Enjoying Kyoto’s Fall Season

Follow these tips from Kyoto locals for making the most of your autumn trip:

  • Seek out hidden paths along small streams and canals behind temples to find secret autumn color spots away from crowds.
  • Look for night illuminations at temples like Kiyomizudera, Eikando, and Bishamondo to see fall foliage in a magical light.
  • Rent a bicycle and ride slowly along backstreets and riversides to admire Kyoto’s autumn beauty from up close.
  • Climb to top floors of tall structures like Kyoto Tower and high temple gates for bird’s eye views over the fall canopy.
  • Don’t just gaze at the leaves – collect some as souvenirs! Fallen maple leaves especially make beautiful keepsakes.
  • Enjoy delicious fall flavors like chestnut rice, sweet potatoes, matsutake mushroom dishes and mikan oranges.
  • Snap lots of photos but don’t forget to put down the camera and immerse yourself in autumn’s mood.
  • Pair your foliage viewing with other quintessential Kyoto experiences like kabuki shows, Zen meditation, and night strolls through Gion and Pontocho.

Fun Fall things to do in Kyoto in autumn 

In addition to autumn leaf viewing at temples and gardens, try some of these fun activities on your November or December trip:

  • Experience momijigari – hiking into the forested mountains to immerse yourself in the autumn scenery. Popular trails include Kurama/Kibune and Takao.
  • Join a cycling, hiking, or walking tour for a more active way to admire the fall colors.
  • Take a scenic train ride into the northern Hira Mountains aboard the Kurama Line.
  • Savor delicious in-season seafood like matsutake mushrooms, Pacific saury fish, and oysters from nearby Lake Biwa.
  • Shop for autumn-themed souvenirs and treats like Halloween sweets, dried persimmons, and gourd crafts.
  • Relax tired legs from walking with an onsen hot spring soak at Arashiyama’s Tenzan or Fufuno Yu.
  • Try your hand at traditional arts like ikebana flower arranging using colorful autumn maple stems and grasses.
  • Search Kyoto’s markets and department stores for fresh delicacies from around Japan like yuzu citrus, chestnuts, and wild mushrooms.
  • See geisha dance performances, Buddhist rituals, or visit museums and galleries showcasing seasonal exhibits.

No matter how you spend your time, Kyoto’s autumn magic is sure to capture your heart. I hope these tips help you plan an amazing trip this November or December!

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