Skip Japan's cherry blossom season and come for the autumn maples instead

By Katie Lockhart
October 09, 2018, 1:00:39 PM EDT

Travelers flock to Japan in droves from March to April to see pink cherry blossoms dot the trees. But for locals, the best and most underrated time of the year to explore Japan is autumn, when the leaves on the maples turn into a technicolor rainbow.

Leaf peeping, as it’s called in the States, is known as koyo or momiji-gari in Japan. Just like cherry blossom trees, the red maple and Japanese maple leaves start to change at different times depending on where you are in the country. The mountainous regions and northern areas like Hokkaido will see the leaves begin to turn in September. For other areas like Kyoto, Tokyo, and Osaka mid-October to early-December is a safe bet. Prime viewing areas last for about two weeks. See the chart for the 2018 fall foliage forecast.

1. Niseko

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(Photo:Shutterstock)


For those up north, take a train to the famous ski resort area of Niseko. Stunning during winter, the trees turn a deep red in autumn from mid-October to late-October. Surrounded by trees, Zaborin Ryokanis an outstanding place to see the foliage of Hanazono Forest and the nearby volcano. The 15-room hotel is a complete luxury experience with your own private indoor and outdoor onsen and award-winning dining options.

2. Karuizawa

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(Photo:Hoshino Resorts)


From Tokyo, there are a number of overnight excursions to see the leaves change. Head to HOSHINOYA Karuizawa, a contemporary luxury resort in the middle of a forest with a river running through the property, from late-October to early-November. There are fiery maples outside your balcony and a chance to take an eco-tour with Picchio.

3. Nikko

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(Photo:Japan National Tourism Organization)


Another popular destination hidden in between mountain ranges and volcanos is Nikko. Here you’ll see yellows and reds along the lake while sipping tea at the British Embassy Villa Memorial Park. Ryuzu Falls has breathtaking colors. Stay at Kanaya Hotel, the country’s oldest operating Western hotel or wait until the Ritz Carltonopens in time for the 2020 Olympics.

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