Last Updated: July 10, 2019

10 Best Places to See Fall Foliage in Kyoto

1. Katsura Imperial Villa

Katsura Imperial Villa features what is said to be the most beautiful Japanese garden. The villa and the garden were started by Prince Toshihito and eventually completed by his son in 1645. It was constructed for the Katsura Family, who were members of Japan’s Imperial Family. The villa remains in its original form, undamaged by fires, war, or any other forms of destruction. Immense care was taken into the construction of the villa and garden, with every stone and tree being purposefully placed with precise detail. Only the best natural materials were used to construct the villa. A garden path winds around a beautiful lake, with diverse scenery that changes with every step you take. The garden is the most gorgeous in the fall.

Spaces are very limited on tours and reserving as far in advance as possible is highly recommended. You can make reservations on their website or in person.

Address: Katsura-misono, Nishikyo-ku
Directions: Take city bus #33 from Kyoto Station. Get off at the Rikyo-mae bus stop. 7 minute walk from bus stop.
Telephone: +81-75-211-1215
Hours: Tours are held 6 times daily Monday-Saturday at 9:00, 10:00, 11:00, 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30.
Admission: Free. Must be at least 18. Reservations are required.
Best time to go: October – December

And don’t forget you can use your Japan Rail Pass to move between cities too.

2. Kodaiji Temple

Kodaiji Temple was founded in 1605 and dedicated to the memory of the great political leader, Toyotomi Hodeyoshi by his wife. The grounds surrounding the temple contain beautiful gardens, teahouses, and a small bamboo grove. The grounds are particularly breathtaking in the fall when they become painted in brilliant hues of red, yellow, and orange. The temple grounds are lit at night, giving the trees a magical look and feel, as if you are in the center of a fairytale.

Address: Shimokawara-cho- 526, Higashiyama-ku
Directions: Take city bus #206 from Kyoto Station to the Higashiyama-yasui bus stop. Temple is a 5-minute walk.
Telephone: 075-561-9966
Best time to go: Mid October – early December

3. Kyoto Imperial Park (Kyoto Gyoen)

Kyoto Imperial Park is an enormous National Garden that stretches 1.3 kilometers from North to South and 0.7 kilometers from East to West. Inside the park is the Imperial Palace (Kyoto Gosho) which housed Japanese emperors for 500 years until the mid-1800’s, when the capital of Japan was moved to Tokyo. The garden surrounds the Imperial Palace and contains literally tens of thousands of native ginkgo trees that change to glorifying shades of yellow in autumn. At the center of the garden is a large pond and gorgeous native trees that add even more fall colors to the scene, including the brilliant Japanese maple.

Address: 3 Kyoto Gyoen Kamigya-ku, Kyoto-city
Directions: Take the subway from central Kyoto to Marutamachi Station
Telephone: 075-211-1215
Hours: Open 24 hours
Admission: Free
Best time to go: November

4. Arashiyama Park
Arashiyama Park

Image courtesy of Emy Lam

Arashiyama Park is a large park that is made up of Kameyama Park, Nakonoshima Park and the area around the Rinzenji Temple. With the combination of mountains, rivers, forests, and the Togetsukyo Bridge, Arashiyama Park makes a particularly beautiful scene in the autumn. Take the 2-hour boat tour that takes you down the Hozu River through unspoiled forests in a valley, eventually ending at the Togetsukyo Bridge. Boat tours run from 9:00-3:30 and cost 3900 yen. Also be sure to check out the Iwatayama Monkey Park located on the slopes of Mount Arashiyama. The monkey park contains over 170 wild monkeys, who have become so accustomed to humans that they will eat out of the palm of your hand.

Address: Arashiyama Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto-city
Directions: Get off at Arashiyama Station
Telephone: 075-861-0012
Best time to go: November

5. Nanzenji Temple

The Nanzenji Temple one of the most famous Zen temples in the world. Emperor Kameyama founded the temple in 1291. It was built as the emperor’s retirement home, but was later dedicated as a Zen temple after his death. The grounds surrounding the temple contain several smaller temples that are often overlooked by the crowds. Among these is the Nanzen-in Temple which is located directly behind the aqueduct on the grounds. The Nanzen-in contains a beautiful and quaint little creek, and a mausoleum and garden that dates back to the 14th century. The garden is absolutely mesmerizing in the fall with it’s vibrant display of autumn leaves.

Address: Nanzen-ji Fukuchi-cho, Higashiyama-ku
Directions: From Kyoto or Sanjo Station, take city bus #5 to Eikan-Mae.
Telephone: 075-771-0365
Hours: 8:40-5:00
Admission: 400 yen
Best time to go: November

6.Philosopher’s Walk (Tetsugaku-No-Michi)

The Philosopher’s Walk is a 2 kilometer path that runs from Nanzenji to Ginkakujin. The path is named for the 20th century philosopher, Nishida Kitaro who took his daily strolls down this path. Along the scenic path are many temples, including the Silver Pavilion and the Golden temple of Kinkakuji. Also along the path are several cafes and unique shops. However, most spectacular of all are the brilliant leaves that paint the path with color.

Address: Ginkaku-ji, Sakyo-ku
Directions: Take city bus #5 or #17 from Kyoto Station and get off at the Ginkaku-ji-Michi bus stop.
Best time to go: November

7. Eikando

Eikando

Eikando is a temple that was founded in 863 AD. It was destroyed in the Onin War in the 15th century and was rebuilt by the start of the 16th century. Eikando is a popular spot for viewing autumn colors due to the vibrant red maples which surround the temple, which is why Eikando is often known as “The Temple of Maple Trees”. At the southern end of the complex a unique statue of Mikaeri Amida Buddha glancing backwards. The trees are illuminated with lights at night in November, which makes the grounds feel delightfully otherworldly.

Address: Eikando-cho 48, Sakyo-ku
Directions: From Kyoto Station, take city bus #5 and get off at Nanzen-ji Eikando-michi.
Telephone: +81-75-761-0007
Hours: 9:00-5:30 (last entrance is at 4:00)
Admission: 600 yen for adults
Best time to go: Mid – Late November

8. Kiyomizu Temple

Kiyomizu Temple is over 1,200 years old. It was one of the 21 finalist candidates in a campaign to choose the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007. The temple is well known for its breathtaking views afforded from its main hall. The main hall sits on top of a giant 15-meter high veranda that sits on top of a hill, where you can view the entire city center. Below the main hall is the Otowa-no-taki spring and waterfall filled with sacred water believed to have healing properties. Drinking the water is believed to grant good health, a long life, and academic success.

Address: 1-294 Kiyomizu Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-city
Directions: Take bus from JR Kyoto Station to Gojo-zaka bus stop
Telephone: 075-551-1234
Hours: 6:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Admission: 300 yen (adults)/200 yen (children)
Best time to go: Mid November – early December

9. Chion-in Temple

Chionin Temple

Chion-in Temple was built in 1234 on the site where Honen fasted to death in 1212. The main entrance expresses the massive scale of the temple, with a gate standing 2-storeys high–the largest in Japan. The temple also houses the largest bell in Japan, weighing at 80 tons and measuring 2.7 meters in diameter. It takes 17 monks to ring the bell every ceremony at New Year’s. The Chion-in Temple was featured in “The Last Sumurai”, a film starring Tom Cruise. It was used as a stand-in for Edo Castle.

Address: Yamatoo-ji Higashi iru 3, Rinka-cho- 400, Higashiyama-ku
Telephone: 075-531-2111
Best time to go: mid November – early December

10. Sanzen-in Temple

Located in the rural town of Ohara, Sanzen-in Temple was founded in 985 AD by the Tendai priest Genshin. It is famous for its gorgeous display of red maples in the fall. The grounds also contains a serene pond filled with carp, stone statues of Jizu, and a hillside with beautiful rocks, shrubs and trees. Be sure to hike up to the Soundless Waterfall near the temple. The waterfall’s resonance is thought to have inspired Sho-myo-Buddhist chanting.

Address: 540 Ohara-Raigoin-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi
Directions: Take a city bus from Kyoto Station to Ohara stop. The temple is a 10-minute walk.
Hours: 8:30-5:00
Admission: 700 yen
Best time to go: Mid November – early December

About the Author Roger Timbrook

Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!

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