HOW TO: Find and Enjoy Autumn Leaves (紅葉) in Japan

You may remember a post earlier this year about how to find a good hanami spot (cherry blossom viewing). Yet spring isn't the only time of year in Japan with lovely colors. In the Fall (or Autumn), trees all over Japan turn lovely hues of yellow, orange, and red for a short time before the coldest weather sets in.

Though it's likely you'll have some trees with colored leaves in your local neighborhood (some more than others), various spots exist around the country that are particularly known for beautiful foliage this time of year.

So, how do you find those spots?

Some travel info sites have English listings, especially in well-traveled areas such as Kyoto and Hakone, but if you want to try someplace, there are sites in Japanese that allow you to check things out all over Japan and also see what status the leaves are (such as if they're still green, yellow, red, have fallen off, etc.). Some of these sites include:

Walkerplus (we used this site for Fireworks [花火, hanabi] listings earlier this summer.)

Mapple (I mentioned this site for hanami spots as well.)




I'm going to go over how to navigate Walkerplus  for anyone who needs a walkthrough, but first, some helpful terms to know:

青葉 あおば aoba fresh/green leaves
色づき始め いろづきはじめ irozuki hajime beginning to change color
見頃 or 見ごろ みごろ migoro best time to see
色あせ始め いろあせはじめ iroase hajime beginning to fade
落葉始まる あちばはじまる achiba hajimaru beginning to fall
落葉 おちば achiba fallen leaves

Finding 紅葉 (kouyou) via Walkerplus

1. Go to their site, as shown below:

2. Choose your desired region from the red bar at the top with white text or from the map, shown by the arrows below:

3. I chose the Tokai region (東海), so the next page will show the prefectures in that region. In this case I have 4 possible options, indicated in each light yellow/white box. The text links to the prefectures are also listed in light blue below the boxes, as shown below. Click on the desired prefecture.

4. I chose Shizuoka prefecture (静岡県), and a list comes up with various places around the prefecture. A photo of the place (if available) is in the first column, the name of the place and average time the leaves change color and when they are best viewed in the second column, the location in the third column, and the current status of the leaves in the last column. Click on the name of a place for more detailed info (light blue link in the second column).

5. The next page to come up has the name and location at the top in the yellow bar. The current status of the leaves, average time of color change, best time to view and description are to the right of the photo. The grid below that talks about the types of trees at that spot, recommended spots in the area, festival info if applicable (in this case there is a festival), and things in the area (in this case a hotel/onsen).

The last part is the access and contact info. I've written the English translations in small black text below each item on the left side (click the image to enlarge).

Of course, the location-specific information will vary depending on the listing.

For smartphone users comfortable navigating in Japanese, some of the sites above have free apps that allow you to find kouyou spots as well, although the number of spots may vary from their web counterparts.

Yahoo has 紅葉カメラ, Jalan has じゃらん紅葉特集 and Rurubu るるぶ紅葉特集2011. All three are available on the iPhone or Android.

Where do you like to go to check out Fall foliage?

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