Kyoto in Autumn

There is no doubt that Autumn is one of the best period to visit Kyoto!

The leaves start changing in Kyoto sometime in October. The peak of fall foliage usually comes in mid-November, and you can usually see colors on the trees until mid-December. Thus, in an average year, the foliage season in Kyoto lasts from 15 October to 15 December, with a peak around 15 November.

Keep in mind that you can travel a bit in or near Kyoto to find good colors if you miss the peak in the center of the city. If you arrive too early, you can head up into the Kitayama Mountains to find trees that are already wearing their fall colors. Likewise, if you come too late, you can head to the south, to Uji or even Nara, to see trees at their peak color.

While the cherry blossoms at their peak in April are another of the beauty of Kyoto, the fall foliage is a more restrained beauty that grows on you the more you look at it. And, while catching the cherries in peak blossom takes some luck (because they only peak for a few days a year), the fall foliage lasts up to two months.

Here are a few sites and destinations we recommend for seeing the autumn colors of Kyoto at their finest…

Magical evening at the Byodoin Temple

The Byodoin Temple in Uji is only illuminated and open to the public a few evenings a year. We were quite lucky to find out about it and see the amazing Phoenix Hall under such conditions.   
Byodoin Temple is a striking example of Buddhist Pure Land (Jodo) architecture.

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Kôyô – The Fall Foliage in Kyoto

Kôyô, the Japanese term for the fall foliage season, is a beautiful and magical time in and around Kyoto. Starting from the surrounding mountains and hills, every temple, every garden burst with a combination of yellow, orange and red colors. This photo book, full of suggestions and inspiration,

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Honen-In Temple

This is definitely one of our favorite temples in Kyoto. Honen-in, is small, only fully opens twice a year for a short one-week period, but it is a very special place for its atmosphere and its calm beauty. Its entrance gate is quite spectacular especially...

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Unryû-In Temple Light Up

The Unryû-In Temple is a Buddhist sub-temple of the large Sennyûji Temple. The season night illumination has just started and we enjoyed our time visiting the gardens of this wonderful little temple.

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Light-Ups in Autumn

Enjoy the beautiful Autumn foliage by taking advantage of the evening opening and illumination of these gardens. Here is a list of some of this year’s light ups around Kyoto, together with the dates and opening time.

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Looking back at Fall 2015

2015 has not been a very good year for 紅葉 (Kôyô), the Autumn foliage colors. But we still have visited and enjoyed a number of places. Here is a little series of photos taken in November and the beginning of December around Kyoto.

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Hogon-In Temple & Garden

Arguably the most beautiful garden in the Arashiyama area, Hogon-In Temple is a must-see for every tourist visiting the area. Whether you see the plush greens in the spring or the vibrant reds in the fall, Hogon-In Temple will leave you with some of the most vivid memories from Kyoto.

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Sanzen-In Temple, Ohara

Sanzen-In is a temple of the Tendai sect of Japanese Buddhism and was founded by the revered monk Saicho who introduced Tendai Buddhism to Japan in 804. Sanzen-In Temple is a monzeki temple, one of only a few temples whose head priests used to be members of the imperial family.

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Zuishin-In Temple

This small quiet temple is of a classic style and is a pleasant stop after visiting the nearby Daigo-Ji. We visited in the Fall and the garden was specially beautiful. And I’ve read that the large garden of small plum trees, the “Ono garden” (小野梅庭) is very beautiful if you pick the right time in March to visit it.

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Okochi-Sanso Villa

Okochi-Sanso Villa probably rivals the city’s imperial villas, and you don’t need a reservation to visit. It took us a long time to get to visit the place, but we’re happy we finally did. It’s a gem!

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Kodai-Ji Temple Light-Up

Kodai-ji Temple, located between Kiyomizu Temple and the Maruyama Park, hosts one of the beautiful and fun nighttime illuminations held at the temple in the spring and fall. It is not a mere light-up, but a real Sound and Light show! Usually very crowded, but well worth it!

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Kodai-ji Temple

Kodai-ji Temple is located between the Yasaka no To Pagoda, and the Maruyama Park. It is one of the finest temples in the Southern Higashiyama Area. its beautiful garden is a designated national historic and famous scenic place. Specially nice during light-ups!

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Tenryu-Ji Zen Temple

Tenryu-ji (天龍寺) is located in Arashiyama, a scenic area at the foot of the mountains on the western outskirts of Kyoto. It is the main Temple of the area and features one of the finest garden and pond in Kyoto.

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Ryōan-ji, the Zen Rock Garden

The Ryōan-ji (龍安寺) garden is considered one of the (if not the) finest surviving examples of kare-sansui (“dry landscape”), a refined type of Japanese Zen temple garden design generally featuring distinctive larger rock formations . . .

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Ginkakuji, the Silver Pavilion

Ginkakuji (銀閣寺) aka the Silver Pavilion, is a Zen temple located at the Northern part of Kyoto’s eastern mountains (Higashiyama). I found the place is particularly beautiful in Autumn, but it is also a delight at other seasons.

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Tofuku-Ji Temple, Kyoto

Tofukuji (東福寺) is a large Zen temple located around 10-15 minutes away from the house. It is particularly famous for its spectacular autumn colors and people come from all over Japan to visit Tofukuji in Autumn.

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Kokedera – The Moss Temple

The Saihoji Temple belongs to the Rinzai school of Japanese Buddhism.
The temple is more commonly known as Kokedera, the Moss Temple, referring to the temple garden’s estimated

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Kiyomizu Dera in Autumn

Kiyomizu-dera (清水寺), officially Otowa-san Kiyomizu-dera (音羽山清水寺) is an independent Buddhist temple in eastern Kyoto. The temple is a Must-See UNESCO World Heritage site.

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