After the intense heat and humidity of the Japanese summer, everyone looks forward to the cool, crisp air of autumn. The mosquitoes relent with the fading heat, and the leaves begin to turn. The most beloved of all fall sights in Japan are the bright-red momiji, the Japanese maple. You’ve never seen a brighter red. Travel destinations around Japan are centered around the best places and times to view this breath-taking phenomenon.
The mountains are sure to be full of leaves turning around October and November, and because of the cooler, dryer weather, hiking one of Japan’s numerous mountain trails is a popular and nearly fool-proof way to enjoy them. The weather over the Japanese archipelago is particularly temperamental, however, so, true to general mountaineering practice, it’s best-advised to start earlier in the day. If you, by chance, find yourself on top of a mountain later in the day, the Japanese sunset is indescribable.
Another locale you’re sure to find beautiful fall foliage is around the temples and shrines. The surrounding gardens are filled with Japan’s favorite plants, as many of them are symbolic of the Japanese aesthetic of beauty in nature. The ginkgo tree is set aflame in yellow leaves at its autumnal peak, and can also be found lining many city streets.
The fall harvest in Japan is also cherished and highly-anticipated, yielding sweet pumpkins, chestnuts, and persimmons, in deep colors reflecting the autumn leaves. From these, pies, stews, salads, soups and stir-fries are made.
In the coastal cities and towns, people look forward to eating a fish called “sanma”, also known as Pacific saury or mackerel pike. This silvery, slender fish is typically served grilled, and can be found canned, but is, of course, best enjoyed fresh at your local izakaya.
So before the chill of the winter wind blows down from the mountains, be sure to wrap a scarf around and take a tour of Japan in autumn. Kyoto and Nara among the most popular destinations, but the beauty of the fall in Japan is easily accessible anywhere you go, especially outside the larger cities.