Kyoto has hundreds of temple and shrine gardens scattered throughout the city, making it Japan’s most popular place to view autumn foliage. During the fall, these places display some striking colors (see my favorites on Google Maps).
Depending on the weather and the situation, the intensity and progress of the colors will vary greatly. In general, the second half of November is the best time to see many crimson-colored maple leaves (momiji). When planning your itinerary, be sure to check out the autumn color reports on japan-guide.com for more details.
Kyoto’s Small Town Feel
Kyoto was the capital of Japan for more than a thousand years until Tokyo took over in 1868. This may explain the large number of historical sites in the city (many of which are acknowledged as UNESCO World Heritage Sites). The city was largely spared from air raids during World War II, so many of its structures survived.
The Japanese have taken great pains to preserve the traditional appearance of their former capital. Significantly, its urban landscape is characterized by an almost complete absence of high-rise structures, quite a contrast to other Japanese cities of similar size (this was achieved by imposing height restrictions on new developments). Although it is home to approximately 1.5 million people, Kyoto retains a true “small town” feel in some of its temple districts and historic neighborhoods.