Kyoto has hundreds of temple and shrine gardens spread out across the city, making it Japan’s most popular location to watch autumn foliage. During fall, these places will show some striking colors (see my favorites on Google Maps).
Depending on the weather and the situation, intensity and progress of the colors will vary greatly. Generally, the second half of November offers the best chances to see plenty of crimson-colored maple leaves (momiji). When planning your itinerary, just check out the autumn color reports from japan-guide.com for more details.
Kyoto’s Small Town Feel
Until Tokyo took over in 1868, Kyoto had been the capital of Japan for more than thousand years. This explains the great number of historic landmarks within the city (many of them acknowledged as UNESCO World Heritage Sites). During World War II, the city was mostly spared from air raids so many of its structures survived.
Kyoto was successful in preserving its traditional appearance until today. It did so by imposing strict restrictions on new developments such as defined height limits. Being nearly totally free of any high-rise buildings, it looks a lot different from other Japanese cities of similar size. With a population of about 1.5 million, Kyoto is in the Top Ten of Japan’s most populous cities. Yet, it retains a decidedly “small town” feel in its temple districts and historic quarters.