Koyo, is the autumn season in Japan – where the leaves start to lose their green and people across the nation flock to enjoy the last few temperate days and sights of breathtaking foliage before winter sets in. Spending a day indulging in the array of colors brought on by the changing leaves is a pastime as old as the spring counterpart of viewing cherry blossoms. Though many believe you can’t truly enjoy koyo from Tokyo, there are many spots within and just a day-trip away from the metropolis which surprisingly offer koyo viewing unrivaled by countryside areas. Here are a few such areas to enjoy autumn in Tokyo.
With lively vendors and street magic shows, Inokashira Park in Musashino City is a wonderful place to visit anytime of the year, but as a place to enjoy koyo it solidly tops the list of best spots in Tokyo. As the Tokyo autumn sets in, the maple and zelkova trees scattered throughout the evergreens gradually lose their pigment to create a dazzling spatter of greens, yellows and reds. Especially iconic of Inokashira’s autumn scenes are the sunsets, amplifying this orchestra of color to create a sight expected to be seen in an untouched countryside forest. From the central pond, paved and dirt paths stretch all throughout the park, making it ideal for an afternoon stroll with loved ones.
Changing Leaves: Mid November ~ Mid December
Primary foliage: Icho (Ginkgo), Keyaki (Zelkova), Momiji (Maple)
Showa Kinen Park (Memorial Park)
Also in the heart of the capital, Showa Kinen Park in Tachikawa City is a popular picnicking spot to enjoy autumn. This park is well known for its plethora of ginkgo trees, their leaves a glimmer gold in the autumn sun. With large open grassy areas, it is a perfect place to lay out a blanket and either doze away the day or kick a football around with friends. The park also has a barbecuing area for larger groups and a number of moderately priced sports facilities and open to the public. It is the ideal spot for families to spend an autumn afternoon.
Changing Leaves: November
Primary Foliage: Icho (Ginkgo) Momiji (Maple), Hanamizuki (Candleberry)
Though a bit far from Tokyo (about 2.5 hours by public transportation, 1.5 hours by car), Lake Kawaguchi offers one of the most iconic koyo viewing spots in all of Japan. The reason? It has none other than Mount Fuji as a backdrop! This placid lake is often the site of many professional photographer shots of autumn in Japan, offering views of crimson and gold trees from which arises the snowcapped peak of Fuji, all reflected in the calm waters of Lake Kawaguchi. There are a number of tourist spots in the area, including art museums and nature parks, but you could spend an entire afternoon sipping coffee and gazing across the lake and still never tire of its timeless beauty.
There are any number of koyo sites you can access from here, but we recommend the area around the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum in Yamanashi. To access it, from Kawaguchiko station, take the Retrobus Kawaguchiko line bus for about 25 minutes and get off at Itchiku Kubota Art Museum.
Changing Leaves: November
Primary Foliage: Momiji (Maple)