10 Spots to See Autumn Foliage in Kyoto
The foliage is the best-known part about autumn. The foliage that decorates mountains and other areas of nature is so beautiful it's often emotionally moving. Here are 10 famous areas in Kyoto where you can enjoy the sight of the foliage from above, from below, or even lit up.
Eikando Zenrinji is so famous for autumnal foliage that it's been called "Eikando of fall colors" since ancient times. There are about 3,000 maple trees on the grounds, so when autumn arrives, the entire area of the temple looks as though it's been set aflame. The recommended spot is the view from the two-storied pagoda (built as a symbol of Buddhist faith). The vibrant foliage below the pagoda looks like a sea of colors.
Sanzen-in is a quiet temple that was once known as a secluded place for Buddhist practitioners and noblemen, but it's now famous for its two gardens, Shuuhekien and the beautifully mossy Yuuseien. In the fall, only the moss stays green as the trees turn red and yellow, and you can enjoy the contrast. It's a recommended spot where you can enjoy fresh air and beautiful scenery.
Official name: Enichisan Tofukuzenji Tofuku-ji is called Kyoto's best spot for autumn foliage. On the grounds, there's a ravine named Sengyokukan, and along it are different types of maple trees, so once autumn comes it becomes filled with people. Across Sengyokukan are three bridges, Gaunkyou, Tsuutenkyou, and Engetsukyou, but the view from Tsuutenkyou is the most beautiful. It'll take your breath away. Don't forget to see it!
The Philosopher's Walk is a 1.5km path from Kinkakuji to Kumano Nyakuouji Jinja along the banks of the canal that transports water from Lake Biwa. It's famous for its cherry blossoms, but the fiery red foliage in the autumn is also a must-see. If you walk down the Philosopher's Walk in the fall, you'll feel as though you're walking through a tunnel of colors. There are plenty of stylish cafes along the way, so it might be nice to stop by during your walk.
Genkouan, in the verdant northern area of Takagamine, is a temple famous for the square window, Mayoi no Mado ("the window of suffering") and the round window, Satori no Mado ("the window of understanding"), that are part of the main building. The view from the 2 windows is beautiful all year round, but it's especially gorgeous in the fall. The colors of the leaves when seen from inside the dark temple are even more prominent, making it extra enchanting.
Official name: Otowazan Kiyomizudera Kiyomizudera is such a popular tourist spot it barely has to be mentioned. Beneath the Kiyomizu no Butai platform are 1,000 maple trees, and during the fall the trees paint the entire area around and under the platform in red. Usually, in the fall they light up the trees for a special night viewing. Don't miss seeing Kiyomizudera in a dramatically different way from what it looks like during the day.
Official name: Kodaiju Seizenji Kodai-ji is a particularly popular spot for autumn foliage in Kyoto. While you can enjoy the leaves everywhere on the grounds, the Japanese garden around the lakes Garyouike and Engetsuchi, where the leaves are reflected on the surface, are so beautiful you'll gasp. They have a special viewing time at night where they use light and videos against the trees to make Kodai-ji a truly magical sight.
Official name: Kachouzan Chionkyou-in Ootanidera Chion-in is a temple with a long history and huge grounds. The grounds as a whole are dignified and worth a look, but the areas around the Sanmon gate (a national treasure) and the lake Yuuzenen are must-sees. The long stone steps that pass spots like the Gobyou, a palatial building where the souls of ancestors and noblemen are enshrined, is a great place to look down at the foliage that decorates the area.
Housen-in is a small temple famous for Bankanen, a garden that's between two pillars so that it looks like a picture frame. It's recommended that you sit in the reception hall and look at the garden from there. The colorful autumn foliage and the 700 year old pine tree make for a beautiful, picture-like scenery that will make you sigh. "Bankan" means "to wander," and it's a garden that will make you want to do just that.
Kifune Shrine, once called "Kyoto's inner parlor," has the trees that begin turning color the earliest in all of the city of Kyoto. When fall comes, the banks of the Kibune River are illuminated, and lanterns are hung along the path leading to the temple so that the entire area is bathed in a soft light. The grounds are also illuminated, so the temple itself feels more mystical than usual.
Many temples and shrines hold special viewing hours to go with the autumn in Kyoto. Make sure you have the proper information so you can make your stay in Kyoto even more special.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.