Viewing the changing colors of fall leaves or foliage, called koyo in Japanese, is autumn’s answer to spring’s more famous cherry blossom viewing; a traditional opportunity to get outdoors to live in the moment of the season and reflect on the impermanence of it all. Appreciation of the beauty of the changing seasons has been a Japanese characteristic since ancient times, and is even referenced in the novel “The Tale of the Genji;” one of the world’s first novels, written during the Heian Period (794 to 1185).
Starting in mid September the “koyo front” slowly moves its bands of color south from Hokkaido to central and southern Japan and the end of November where it turns to winter, and many families will head to local parks, or to the mountains and countryside to enjoy the cooling temperatures and spectacular views of changing leaves.
While some people celebrate the leaves much like they do the flower petals of spring, by spreading out a blanket beneath them for feasting and much drinking, it is more common for koyo to be celebrated by taking a short hike or walk through the mountains, or often in certain areas of the city, where the trees can be found.
Sometimes, the trees are further beautified by “illumination,” or the use of lights to create an even more beautiful and striking scene. Every region and location has its share of scenic spots from which to enjoy the explosion of color fall brings to Japan. If you are interested in getting out and experiencing this quintessential Japanese tradition we have collected some options for you.