Cherry blossom season in Japan is almost a case of “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia”.

Every accolade is merited of this bucket-list experience, but as the leaves dissipate in ethereal pearl-hued showers, attention turns to the lesser known, but arguably as stunning sibling of the flora world  – leaf peeping.

Known asKoyo’, autumn leaf viewing lasts for nearly three months, the ‘Koyo front’ descending the length of Japan from October. Palettes of warm colour spark around Tokyo and Kyoto into early December and although overlooked by western travellers for the pink blossom, the vermillion leaves are just as impressive, creating a blaze of colour up mountainsides and temple gardens across Japan.

Co-founder of InsideJapan Tours, Alastair Donnelly, says, “The spectacle is arguably more enjoyable than the cherry blossom as although very popular with Japanese, the Koyo period is not so well known abroad and a lot less busy. During the peak Koyo period, the weather is more often than not, dry, sunny and quite warm during the day making it a great time of year to travel to Japan.” 

To further tempt, here are InsideJapan Tour’s top reasons to enjoy one of Japan’s most spectacular natural phenomena.


Lovely leaves – The mountains, canyons and temples are already impressive, only enhanced by the blazing Japanese Acer (maple) trees.  Japan is 70% mountains, but many visitors head to the cities of Tokyo and Kyoto over the mountains. Autumn is perfect for venturing into the Japanese Alps with the leaves cutting kaleidoscopic swathes to mountain peaks.

Lose the crowd – Less people visit Japan in autumn than spring for the cherry blossom. Although not as quiet as winter, noticeably fewer people travel in November and December to Kyoto with the leaves turning late in the year.

Benign Weather – Autumn weather is generally good in Japan – dry, sunny and quite warm during the day. There is less unpredictability with weather during the season offering picture perfect scenery….a lot of the time.

Autumn Feasting – The food often reflects the seasons in Japan. A good bowl of hot Nabe accompanied by a special autumn beer is the perfect leaf peeping recovery. There are other foods that come into season during autumn such as sweet potato, Matsutake mushrooms and ‘Saba’ Mackerel is at its best.

Festival Season – Apart from leaf-arama, you’ll also catch major cultural festivals (matsuri) such as Kyoto’s Jidai Matsuri (22 October) , a celebration of Japan’s feudal history with processions of performers dressed in samurai costume parading through the streets. Also in Kyoto, witness the beautiful Gion Geisha dances from 1-10 November, each telling a story to the accompaniment of the shamisen (Japanese guitar). On 15 November, children across the country dress up in kimonos to celebrate the Shichi-go-san festival that marks a coming of age at 3, 5 and 7 years.

InsideJapan Tours Top Leaf Peeping Itineraries

The 13 night ‘Autumn Splendour’ self-guided adventure heads from Tokyo to Kyoto, via Nikko and the Japanese Alps and the Kamikochi national park. The best done from late October right through November to catch the best of the leaves. 13 nights of traditional and modern accommodation is included with all transport between all destinations in Japan, breakfast every day, some evening meals, private guiding in Tokyo and Kyoto, a tea ceremony experience in Kyoto a cycle tour in Takayama and more. Costs from AUD$4810pp (based on two sharing and excluding international flights).

The 13 night Classic Japan small group tour heads into the Kamikochi National Park and takes in Tokyo, Kyoto and beyond. All accommodation and transport between destinations within Japan are included, with daily breakfast and seven evening meals, afternoon tea with a Geisha in Kyoto, Tokyo and Hakone transport passes, luggage forwarding, the full time services of a tour leader and much more. It costs AUD$6640pp (excluding international flights).

Source: Inside Japan Tours