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Koyo - Japanese autumn leaves watching

While many know of the Japanese tradition of cherry blossom viewing in the spring, it's not the only time of the year people gather outside to watch the seasons change. As the humid hot summer passes around September people start enjoying the changing colors of the leaves. Momiji (紅葉) or Koyo as it also may be referred to is the Japanese word for autumn leaves watching. It's said to have first started around the Heian-period (794-1185 AD) but the tradition is still very popular today, with many travelers flocking to popular viewing spots all around the country. Many temples have also started with lighted gardens letting you enjoy the view even during evenings.

Colorful Japanese mountain landscape during the Koya season

When and where

Just like the cherry blossom period the Koya watching season starts and ends differently depending on where in Japan. Starting at the northmost Hokkaido prefecture in mid September and gradually sweeping though Japan to the southern Kagoshima prefecture where it starts at the end of November.

Koyo Map 2016 (last updated 2016/12/6)

  • Still green
  • Some coloring
  • Best time to see
  • Starting to fall
  • Leaves fallen

Popular watching spots in Kyoto

Kodaiji

Kodaiji autumn foliage illumination

This impressive temple is located in Kyoto's Higashiyama district, about a 20 minutes walk from Kiyomizudera. From the end of October to early December it offers a spectacular evening illumination of the temple grounds.

Open hours: 09:00-21:30
Admission fee: 600 Yen
Website

Kiyomizudera

Red foliage at Kiyomizudera in autumn

Kiyomizudera temple is located south of Kodaiji. It's large veranda offer a beautiful view over Kyoto, and during autumn the surrounding colorful mountain. From 14 November to 6 December the temple starts a special night opening schedule.

Open hours: 06:00-17:30 18:00-21:00
Admission fee: 400 Yen
Website

Daigo-ji

Momiji beautifully reflecting on the pond at Daigo-ji temple

The Daigo-ji temple area beginning at the base, consist of a whole mountain side. The many sakura trees also makes this a popular spot during the cherry blossom period. Starting from November 14th till the end of the same month, evening opening hours and illumination takes place.

Open hours: 06:00-17:00 (18:00-20:50 during autumn illumination)
Admission fee: 1000 Yen
Website