Autumn in Kyoto

Zenrin-ji Eikan-do Temple Garden, Kyoto, Japan.

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 for more details.

Kyoto’s Small Town Feel

Until Tokyo took over this role in 1868, Kyoto had been the capital of Japan for more than thousand years. This may explain the great number of historic landmarks within the city (many of them acknowledged as UNESCO World Heritage Sites). The city was mostly spared from air raids during World War II, so many of its structures survived.

The Japanese put a lot of effort into in preserving their former capital’s traditional appearance. Tellingly, its urban landscape is characterized by an almost complete absense of high-rise structures, quite a contrast to similarly-sized other Japanese cities (it was achieved by imposing height restrictions on new developments). Even though it is home to about 1.5 million people, Kyoto retains a true “small town” feel in some of its temple districts and historic quarters. 

Daihikaku Senko-ji Temple and Saginomori Shrine Approach, Kyoto, Japan.

Komyo-ji temple garden, Nagaokakyo, Kyoto, Japan.