The autumn foliage ("momiji") is one the most charming features of fall in Japan. Because it's surrounded by mountains, Kyoto is known for extreme temperature differences between day and night. This phenomenon, however, only makes the colors of the autumn leaves more beautiful. Here are five restaurants in Kyoto where you can enjoy a view of the autumn leaves.
1. Japanese hotel Momiji-ya The main building
Kyoto’s Takao area has long been known for its autumn leaves. The Japanese maple trees with their gorgeous colors, are also known as “Takao Momiji”. This grand view of the autumn leaves is overwhelming! Momiji-ya is a Japanese-style hotel with a history that dates back more than 100 years, but it also has meal packages for travelers visiting just for the day. From October 1 (Sat.) through November 30 (Wed.) in 2016, you will get to enjoy lunch sets such as the Yuba Shabu Gozen (5,500 JPY (excl. tax)) set (“yuba” is tofu skin) while relaxing on kawadoko river terrace seats.
*Photo is for illustration purposes
Maruyama Park, which is one of the more famous parks in Kyoto, is a place where you can enjoy the vivid colors of foliage during fall. Standing right next to the park is Chourakukan, a guesthouse that was built in 1909 whose building and furnishings have been designated as tangible cultural assets by the city of Kyoto. If you eat at the restaurant in this place, you will be able to take a tour inside. There’s even an Italian and a French restaurant here. Enjoy a tranquil moment at Dessert Cafe Chourakukan. Check out the Kifujin-no-ma (Noblewoman Room), too, and marvel at the gorgeous Maruyama Park view from there.
Located near the famous Nanzenji Temple, Kikusui used to be the home of a thriving kimono fabrics trader. Its garden is an outstanding garden to those who know, having been designed by Jihee Ogawa, the pioneer of modern Japanese gardens. One of this garden's claims to fame is its momiji scene. When you come for lunch between 11:00 am and 4:00 pm, it is recommended to try the yudofu (boiled tofu) course Yudofuzen (4,000 JPY (excl. tax)) and the mini-kaiseki (traditional course cuisine) Kyo no Aji (6,000 JPY (excl. tax)). Please note, though, that you need to make a reservation for the Yudofuzen in April and November.
Moan is a well-kept secret spot for momiji that locals just love. This cafe is at the top of Mt. Yoshida, so you would need to walk. But in the forest going to the cafe, the greens of the evergreen trees are sprinkled by yellow and red leaves, thereby creating a superb contrast of colors. And halfway up the mountain, you will pass by the historic Yoshida Shrine that was built in 859. There are four courses that lead to the mountain peak. Don’t worry, even though it is considered a mountain, it actually has the elevation of a hill. Go up to the cafe on the second floor and you will feel time pass very slowly, as if you are in a different world.
Arashiyama is one the best spots for foliage in all of Kyoto. The autumn leaves here are so overwhelmingly beautiful that the sight will almost take your breath away. If you go there, you must drop by the long-established Hiranoya, a teahouse that has been open for about 400 years which is located about 10 minutes away from JR Saga-Arashiyama Station by car, right next to the ichinotorii (first torii gate) of Atago Shrine. As you can see from photos of this place, it is filled with an emotional atmosphere. You can relish various dishes every season, but if you ask for its famous specialty, then it would have to be shinko (840 JPY (incl. tax)), which is only available from spring through fall. This delicacy of twisted dumplings made from special ground rice comes with green tea.
Kyoto is overflowing with the halcyon days of Japanese culture. So if you go there during the autumn season, try to take in the magnificent views while savoring the delicious food that this place has to offer.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.