12 Kyoto’s Best Places for Autumn Foliage Sighting

Autumn Foliage in Kyoto: Hokyo-in Temple

If there is one place one should never skip while visiting Japan for the first time it will be Kyoto. It has a long list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, bamboo grove, Gion, traditional Japanese houses and the food, those more than enough to allure traveller to come for a visit in Kyoto.  In autumn like this, temple and autumn foliage are two things we all want to see from Kyoto.

We’ve been to Kyoto several times but never in autumn. This year we were so compelled to visit Kyoto in autumn with one thing in mind: chasing autumn foliage. There were so many places to visit yet so little time. We got to be realistic with the time without losing the quintessential of autumn in Kyoto. So we worked on travel itinerary that jam-packed with list of places to visit.

The great thing about having travel itinerary was that you would be able to manage time wisely without losing the sense of having holiday.

As much as we wanted to visit every popular sites, we were short on time. Two days one night were all we got. So, we divided the list of places to see based on walking distance: Eastern area on the first day and Northwest on the second day. Since it was a peak season, we avoided taking bus, stuck in traffic jam then the time slipped from our hands. Taking trains and walking were the most effective way (and the cheapest) to capture Kyoto’s autumn quintessential even if it meant coming back home with stiff legs.

There are many places for autumn foliage sighting in Kyoto. Some of them are popular in all seasons and some others are only known to the local. To our surprise the local known places are even more stunning than the more popular sights and of course less crowded too. There is no best hours to visit autumn foliage sites because those places will be crowded the minute admission locket opens.

Here are Kyoto’s best places for autumn foliage sighting:

East of Kyoto:

Kiyomizudera Temple 

Autumn Foliage in Kyoto: Kiyomizudera

There’s no place can represent Kyoto better than Kiyomizudera Temple. Needless to say Kiyomizudera is Kyoto’s icon. In autumn, the colourful foliage is lighted up right after the sunset and it’s the highlight of the Temple this season. Taking pictures, however, is a huge challenge because you cannot place a tripod given the size of the crowd.

Admission fee: 400 yen for the nighttime viewing

Byodoin Temple

Autumn Foliage in Kyoto: Byodo-in Temple

“I’ve been to this place” was the first impression I had as soon as I saw the temple. It’s not dejavu but I’ve have seen the place too many times…on a 10 yen coin.

Byodoin Temple is one of Kyoto’s popular UNESCO World Heritage Sites and never quiet from visitors. It is located in suburb area of Kyoto, Uji city. Train from Kyoto Station to JR Uji Station runs only twice in an hour.

Admission fee: 600 yen

Tofukuji Temple

Autumn Foliage in Kyoto: Tofuku-ji Temple

Tofukuji is the most popular place for “kouyou” (autumn foliage) in Kyoto. The Tsutenkyo Bridge overlooking the valley of maple trees is the highlight of the place. It is a place where everyone want to take picture from. There were couple of times people fell down from the bridge while taking picture and it isn’t allowed to take picture from the bridge ever since.

Admission fee: 400 yen for Tsutenkyo Bridge

Ginkaku (Jishoji) Temple 

Autumn Foliage in Kyoto: Jisho-ji (Ginkaku)

The Silver Pavilion, Ginkakuji Temple, is one of must visit World Heritage Sites in Kyoto. “Momiji” (maple trees) colour starts changing colour slightly earlier than many other Kyoto’s autumnal places. Many leaves had gone while in other places colour just started to change by the time we got there.

Admission fee: 500 yen

Honenin Temple  

Autumn Foliage in Kyoto: Honen-in Temple

Unlike many other autumnal sites, Honenin is dominated by yellow colour of ginkgo trees which equally gorgeous as maple trees leaves. Honenin Temple is off the beaten path which make it easy to take pictures. There is no entrance fee to go around this Temple.

Anrakuji Temple 

Autumn Foliage in Kyoto: Anraku-ji Temple

Anrakuji Temple is located adjacent to Philosopher’s Path. Japanese photographers love Anrakuji Temple in autumn. It is one of autumnal most sought after sites in Kyoto. Plus point: it’s a quiet place.

Admission fee: 500 yen

Eikando Zenrinji Temple 

Autumn Foliage in Kyoto: Eikando Zenrin-ji

Temple, five stories pagoda, traditional Japanese garden, pond and of course, autumn foliage are what make Eikando Zenrinji Temple a must visit site in autumn. The crowd within the premise alone tell how popular this site is and, it’s for a strong reason: stunning scenery.

Compare to other autumnal sites, entrance fee of Eikando Zenrinji Temple is the most  expensive but worth every penny spend.

Admission fee: 1,000 yen

Nanzenji Temple

Autumn Foliage in Kyoto: Nanzen-ji

Nanzenji is a place to get temple and autumn foliage in one place. The place may not be as huge as other sites but it is a gorgeous place that should not be missed in autumn. The bonus is no admission fee to enter the place.

Northwest of Kyoto:

Daikakuji Temple 

Autumn Foliage in Kyoto: Daikaku-ji Temple

Daikakuji Temple was used to be a residence of Emperor Saga. The Temple is adorned by exquisite traditional Japanese garden. In November, the garden is bursting the autumnal colour which elevates the beauty of this site.

Admission fee: 500 yen

Hokyoin Temple 

Autumn Foliage in Kyoto: Hokyo-in Temple

Amongst heart captivating autumnal sites in Kyoto, Hokyoin Temple is the most stunning of all. Maple trees burst colour and turn the temple to one of Kyoto’s best sceneries. It forces us to stay like forever. If we visit Kyoto again in autumn, Hokyoin will be the first place to visit on our list. The great thing is Hokyoin Temple is the least crowded place amongst all popular autumnal sites in Kyoto.

There were only small number of visitors by the time we visited the place. Most of the visitors were local which made many gazing in wonder at me, probably thinking “how this foreigner knew about Hokyoin”. Hokyoin Temple was the only place we spent the time most to take pictures (without stranger faces in the frame).

Admission fee: 500 yen

Why Hokyoin Temple is The Best Autumn Foliage Site in Kyoto

Adashino Nenbutsuji Temple

Autumn Foliage in Kyoto: Adashino Nenbutsu-ji

Adashino Nenbutsuji Temple is within walking distance from the Hokyoin Temple. Its location is slightly up the hill and hidden from the passerby of the main road.

Admission fee: 500 yen

Kyoto Bamboo Grove: Adashino Nenbutsuji Temple

Katsuragawa Togetsukyo

Autumn Foliage in Kyoto: Togetsukyo Bridge

Kyoto visitors is no stranger to the Katsuragawa Togetsukyo. This place is located within Arashiyama vicinity where one of Kyoto’s icons the bamboo grove is located. It is beautiful in autumn when the entire maple trees up the hill change colour. Because of its popularity this place is five times more crowded in autumnal foliage season.

Where is your favourite autumn foliage sighting spot in your country?


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