Every year, hordes of Tokyoites make the exodus out of town to classic autumn leaf watching spots like Kamakura, Nikko and Hakone.
However, for those with no time to travel, there are plenty of gardens, parks and museums right here in the city to get your koyo fill from mid-to-late November.
Here are our top picks of nightly light-ups, historic retreats and lesser-known viewing locations, all in or close to Tokyo. And for particularly energetic foliage-watchers, we recommend these scenic bike routes and these highlight hikes.
Hotel Chinzanso Autumn Garden Lightup
The opulent Hotel Chinzanso in Mejiro opens up its gorgeously decorated garden during the autumn leaves season, lighting up the lush grounds at night to produce one of the city's most beautiful foliage shows. Head over a little bit later in the evening if you want to escape the crowds – the garden stays open until midnight.
Location: Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo, Meijidori
Until Friday, December 15
Mt. Takao Maple Festival
Various happenings will be taking place around Mount Takao in November, including kokeshi doll demonstrations and sales of masuzake, the curious boxed beverage (on weekends and holidays).
The main attraction is of course the autumn foliage, with the maple trees around the area turning fiery red and yellow. Primary event locations include the Takao Forest Center at the foot of the mountain, Kiyotaki Station and the Ju-Itchome tea house on the hillside. Check out the official website for further details, and consider heading over by train – finding parking here can be a nightmare.
Location: Mt. Takao, Takaosan
Until Monday, November 30
Edo-Tokyo Open-Air Architectural Museum Light-up
Visitors can see Koganei's Edo-Tokyo Open-Air Architectural Museum in a different, er, light over November's second long weekend, as the historical theme park opens its gates for three evenings of illuminations. Admire the autumn leaves in all their finery, and find out about the lighting methods used in the Edo, Meiji and Taisho eras. The eastern plaza will be lit up with candles, making for a romantic atmosphere.
Location: Edo-Tokyo Open-Air Architectural Museum, Koganei
Until Saturday, November 21
Hachioji Ginko Festival
It's one of the most popular spots in the whole of Tokyo for autumn leaves: the 4km stretch of road leading from Hachioji's Oiwakecho to the foot of Mt. Takao is lined with 770 ginkgo trees (known as icho in Japanese), and they look rather splendid at this time of year.
The autumnal colors provide an excuse for all kinds of activities at the annual Hachioji Ginkgo Festival, which is returning for its 36th edition this year, ranging from a classic car parade (Sunday only) to music and yosakoi dance performances. The wealth of kid-friendly attractions make it a good option if you're looking for something to do with the family, and naturally there'll be plenty of food stalls to keep everybody well sated.
Location: Kobotokeseki, Takaosan
Until Thursday, September 17
Rikugien Autumn Leaves Lightup
Rikugien's annual lightup returns again for when the park's trees turn red and golden in the autumn night. The view reflects beautifully off the water, creating a magical and unforgettable atmosphere. The park stays open until 9pm for the duration of the event, and the cozy teahouses are open throughout.
Location: Rikugien, Komagome
Until Thursday, November 19
Autumn Leaves Festival
The ginkgo and maple leaves turn beautifully yellow and red at Showa Kinen Park, with the 300-metre stretch of ginkgo trees lining the street toward Tachikawa going first (usually from the very end of October). The momiji and kaede maple trees in the Japanese garden take on a fiery appearance from around the middle of November, so head on down to the park for a relaxing walk under the colorful autumn leaves before winter takes over.
Location:ShowaKinen Park, Tachikawa
Until Monday, November 23
Sankeien Autumn Opening
Yokohama's spacious Sankeien is home to several priceless structures, including a three-story pagoda from Kyoto, historical teahouses and a feudal lord’s residence. These treasures will be opened to the public over a few autumn weeks, coinciding with the golden red autumn foliage. Should make for a nice opportunity to experience the season the traditional way.
Location: Sankeien, Yokohama
Until Saturday, November 21
Mejiro Teien Autumn Light-up
This small but gorgeous Japanese garden will be lit up for those dark autumn evenings, installing lighting designed by students from a vocational school nearby. The colors are meant to reflect off the park's pond, creating an illusion of greater space and providing for a pretty spectacular sight. Performances of traditional music are scheduled for Fridays and Saturdays, while open-air tea ceremonies take place on November 22 and 29 (from 6.30pm, 500 yen).
Location: Mejiro Teien, Mejiro
Until Thursday, October 29
Jingu Gaien Ginko Festival
This festival begins as autumn turns the surrounding icho (ginkgo) leaves yellow. Adding to the event’s popularity are temporary stalls selling noted products from different regions of Japan, and street performers giving live shows for the duration of the festival.
Icho Namiki-dori & Meiji Jingu Gaien, Shinanomachi
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