9 Best Autumn Leaves Viewing Spots in Kyoto Including Popular Sites and Rare Finds

We visited Kyoto during October and autumn leaves viewing was our favorite thing to do. Here are nine best spots for fall foliage in Kyoto including famous and lesser-known!

―By Nguyen Oanh

As the brilliant mashup of burgundy red and crimson takes over the streets and ancient temples of Kyoto, hordes of travelers flock to this historical city for leaf-peeping. In this guide below, we will reveal our nine favorite spots to see autumn leaves in Kyoto including temples and shrines for momijis and ginkgo trees. Let’s take a look!

How to Enjoy Fall Foliage in Kyoto to the Fullest? A Few Personal Tips You Need to Know

What months are fall foliage in Kyoto?” seems to be the most asked question for visitors! Depending on the weather, the season transition can come as early as October and hits the peak in mid-November. Mid-December is when autumn comes to an end and makes way for the arrival of winter. 

Even though the weather dramatically drops to around 7.8℃, your autumn vacation will avoid frosty bites thanks to the flaming scene of red, crimson, and gold. 

Autumn leaves forecasting has been increasingly tricky due to the drastic change in temperature within recent years. Our advice is to double-check with the news or Live Japan website to plan your trip accordingly.

Make sure to pack some long-sleeved shirts for a sunny afternoon if you come around October and cardigans for the night. When it’s moving towards the end of autumn, the weather drops dramatically so make sure you have a scarf and beret to keep you warm!

9 Most Famous Temples and Public Spots for Fall Foliage in Kyoto, Japan

Eikan-dō (Zenrin-ji) Temple

Reflecting the pure beauty of a Buddhist temple, Eikan-dō should be the first place to jot down your list when the idea of autumn leaves viewing comes around. 

There’re so many reasons why this peaceful holy shrine becomes our favorite place to recommend to you. The entire site is soaked in the dancing maple leaves which turn into a mashup of red and yellow when autumn comes. 

The temple rests on the foot of Higashiyama hill at the back, which compliments the serene beauty of the holy land. 

While the beauty of the shrine and the landscape itself become a strong hook, Eikan-dō’s authentic reputation comes from the light-up event hosted in late fall. 

You can simply get there by riding the city bus route No.5 from Kyoto Station to Nanzen-ji Eikando-michi Bus Stop and walking for less than five minutes.

Tofukuji Temple

The ancient capital is no short of holy shrines, and Tofukuji is one of the oldest and largest temples standing the test of time.

Sprung in the ocean of crimson and gold, Tofukuji plays host to nearly 2000 maple trees. While you can stroll aimlessly, our favorite spots to rest our cores and snap some shots are the Gaunkyo Bridge and Tsutenkyo Bridge.

View from Tsutenkyo Bridge

During the peak season, there’s a whirlwind of pilgrims and visitors assembling around the bridge and surrounding themselves with a sea of autumn leaves. 

Just like most of the popular temples and shrines in Kyoto, you can attend a night illumination event celebrated at the Shorinji sub-temple.

To arrive at Tofukuji, hail the JR Nara Line to Tōfukuji Station from Kyoto Station before walking for ten minutes further to reach the entrance gate.

Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Next up, put Kiyomizu-dera on your bucket list! We can’t stress enough how awe-inspiring this site is. Lucky for us, we dropped by Kyoto in fall and that’s how we embarked on the autumn leaves hunting journey. 

It features a gigantic wooden hall reaching out from the hillside. Most of the time, the trees blanketing the bottom of the wooded hall turns red in the second half of November. 

You can’t lose the crowds during the peak season. However, it’s totally to give it a shot when the autumn foliage light-up nights are celebrated. 

Kiyomizu-dera Temple is tucked away on the top of the hill so you’ve gotta ride the bus No. 100 from Kyoto Station, get off at Gojo-zaka, and hike uphill for roughly ten minutes.

Rurikoin Temple

Housing a sweeping scene of momiji (maple leaves) reflecting on the mirror-like lacquered table, Rurikoin is gradually stealing the spotlight on social media with its otherworldly beauty when autumn arrives.

Nestled at the base of Mount Hiei, Rurikoin is not the first place springing into our mind when it comes to the best temples and shrines for Kyoto’s momijis. 

Lucky for us, we discovered it when searching for an off-the-radar temple. As it’s only open for the public during spring and autumn, we rushed our way inside. And trust us! The scene is spectacular! Climb to the second floor and you’ll see glossy desks catching the leaves’ reflections. 

We hailed the Eizan Electric Railway from Demachi-yanagi Station to Yase-Hieizanguchi Station before walking for five minutes from the station.

Kodaiji Temple

The best thing about Kodaiji is the spectacular annual evening autumn illumination event. Everything about Kodaiji can be boiled down to one word – “marvelous”!

Even though the temple is lit up at night all year round, autumn brings it a special charm that can outrival any light-up show you have seen before.

What we adore about Kodaiji is the surprise you get every year. Each topic is announced before the event comes and no two years are ever the same. The illumination begins around 5 pm when the sun beams down and stops at around 10 pm. 

We rode the city bus No.100 from Kyoto Station bound for Kiyomizu Michi where we got off and walked to Kodaiji.

Nishi-hongan-ji Temple

The UNESCO World Heritage Site has been around for half a century. While other autumn leaves viewing spots on my list are home to plenty of different trees, the temple of Nishi-hongan-ji is specifically famous for ginkgo viewing.

The best thing about Nishi-hongan-ji is a gigantic 300-year-old reversed ginkgo tree with its upper half pointing horizontally and the lower half going downwards.

To enjoy its beauty to the fullest, make sure to come over somewhere between late October to mid-December. The tree stands at the front of Miedo and reaches over 16 meters in height.

You can get there by walking for 15 minutes from the Nishi Honganji-mae station after hailing a bus from Kyoto Station.

Kifune-jinja Shrine

Get down and serious for the best momiji exhibition of your life! Located in the north of Kyoto, Kifune-jinja is reachable within a 30-minute walk from Demachiyanagi bus stop after you hail the Kyoto municipal bus No.17 from JR Kyoto Station. 

Yes, the shrine is not close but it’s totally spicing up your day if you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path spot. Autumn is usually stacked up against summer as one of the best seasons to visit Kifune-jinja thanks to a mesmerizing scene of scarlet maple leaves. 

Night illumination is a seasonal event that is usually scheduled for up to a month. This adds to your bucket list of things to do at night when visiting this part of Kyoto as well! 

Jojakko-ji Temple

Each of the spots we curated for this list shines in its unique beauty and no places are the same. In the case of Jojakko-ji, the charm of fall lies in the medley of green moss and red, crimson autumn leaves. 

Jojakko-ji is a rare find, a hidden gem tucked away at the foot of Mount Ogura. Maple and ginkgo trees share the same playground. They put on a yellow coat when the chilly breeze of fall sweeps through the site. 

One of the most Instagrammable corners we found at Jojakko-ji is a stoned staircase. It’s sandwiched between two moss-covered hills while autumn leaves are flanking up above. 

This hidden gem is 15-minute-walk from the Saga-Arashiyama Station and you can combine it with a stopover at the bamboo forest as well.

Osaka Castle Park

The reputation of Osaka Castle is so widespread that you don’t need any further introduction from us. If you’ve been to this spot before but not in fall, make sure to come back again during fall to unveil the enchanting beauty of the massive ginkgo trees! 

There’s a giant historic ginkgo tree in front of Osaka Castle serving as a dramatic background for your Instagram shot. 

However, make sure to walk your way just a bit further to the boulevard on the east side of the park. This certain corner plays host to two ranges of century-old ginkgo standing guard during fall. 

The trees are flamed in the fiery color of gold, making it such a temptation for shutterbugs. The castle is within reach of the Osakajokoen Station on the JR Line.

Leaf peeping is fun as always! Make sure to watch out for the weather, keep an eye close for the forecast and pack the right clothes when visiting Kyoto for autumn leaves viewing!