Fall Roadtrip

Planning fall winter roadtrip in Japan is a great way to experience the beauty of the country during this season. Fall in Japan is a beautiful season with cooler temperatures and changing colors. Japan has two distinct seasons of natural beauty. In spring, cherry blossoms (sakura) symbolize the arrival of spring, while in fall, maple (momiji), gingko, and birch trees paint landscapes across the country in fiery reds, bright yellows, and rich oranges. These spectacles attract visitors locally and internationally, offering unique displays of Japan’s diverse flora. From late September in the north to mid-December in warmer areas, trees change seasonally. Here are some places by region to enjoy fall colors. and think about fall winter roadtrip in Japan.

 

*Note: always check the fall colors forecast which usually comes out at the beginning of September for the most up to date information.

 

Tohoku: northern Japan roadtrip

  • Naruko Valley, Embark on an unforgettable roadtrip through Naruko Valley in Miyagi. Stretching over 2.5 kilometers, this scenic journey unveils spectacular 100-meter high cliffs, each blanketed in an array of vibrant colors. This natural canvas of hues transforms with the seasons, offering a breathtaking view that’s both captivating and serene. The Naruko Valley roadtrip is not just a journey, but an immersion into a world of natural beauty.
  • Zao Onsen, Setting off on a roadtrip to Zao Onsen in Yamagata presents an unparalleled journey. The highlight is the exhilarating ropeway ascent to the peak, offering a unique perspective of the area’s beauty. This aerial journey is an essential part of the adventure, providing breathtaking scenic views as you ascend. The ropeway ride unveils Zao Onsen’s stunning landscapes, making it a gateway to natural charm at every elevation. This experience is a gradual unveiling of the picturesque beauty that Zao Onsen is famous for.
  • Bandai-Azuma Skyline, Begin an unforgettable roadtrip journey on Fukushima’s Bandai-Azuma Skyline. This serpentine mountain road reveals awe-inspiring panoramic views. Marvel at the stunning scenery with each twist and turn of the journey. The Bandai-Azuma Skyline in Fukushima is a true paradise for roadtrip enthusiasts, offering spectacular sightlines.

Bandai-Azuma Skyline

Kanto: the greater Tokyo area

  • Kameiwa Cave, Kameiwa Cave, located in Chiba, offers an enchanting experience akin to stepping into a scene from a Ghibli movie. This fairytale-like destination is perfect for a roadtrip, immersing visitors in a world of natural beauty and wonder. The cave’s serene environment and picturesque scenery echo the mystical atmospheres often depicted in famed Ghibli films. Ideal for travelers seeking a magical escape, Kameiwa Cave promises an unforgettable journey into a realm of whimsical charm.
  • Hakone, Hakone, located in Kanagawa, is a premier destination renowned for its stunning fall foliage. This picturesque area, perfect for a roadtrip, offers a serene escape where visitors can immerse themselves in the natural beauty of Japan. Not only is Hakone famous for its vibrant autumn colors, but it’s also celebrated for its therapeutic hot springs. Hot springs in Hakone offer relaxation and natural beauty, ideal for travelers seeking scenic views and wellness during a roadtrip.
  • Kegon Falls and Lake Chuzenji, Kegon Falls and Lake Chuzenji in Nikko, Tochigi, are scenic treasures for nature lovers. These destinations are ideal for a scenic roadtrip, offering a variety of stunning landscapes. Roadtrip offers diverse natural beauty, from waterfalls to serene lakes, creating a unique visual experience. The area also boasts rich marshlands, adding to the diverse natural tapestry. This variety of beautiful scenes makes Kegon Falls and Lake Chuzenji perfect for explorers seeking natural wonders. One of the best point for fall winter roadtrip in Japan.

Kegon Falls

Chubu: central Japan roadtrip

  • Shuzenji Temple, Shuzenji Temple, located in Shizuoka, is a remarkable destination for any roadtrip. This temple, originating from the 9th century, stands as a testament to historical architecture and cultural significance. Surrounded by the breathtaking beauty of fall colors, the temple offers a stunning display that captivates visitors. Its serene atmosphere and rich history make it an ideal spot for those seeking both tranquility and a glimpse into the past.
  • Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, Embark on a memorable roadtrip along the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route in Toyama, a journey that promises unparalleled mountain road vistas. This route is a must-visit for those seeking breathtaking views and a unique driving experience. The Alpine Route showcases Toyama’s majestic mountains, providing an unforgettable fall winter roadtrip in Japan filled with scenic beauty.
  • Lake Kawaguchi’s Maple Corridor, Set out on a captivating roadtrip to Yamanashi’s Maple Corridor by Lake Kawaguchi, where the iconic Mt. Fuji graces the backdrop. As evening descends, the trees lining the path come to life, bathed in mesmerizing illumination. This blend of nature’s grandeur and artistic lighting creates an enchanting spectacle. Surrounded by a tranquil atmosphere and the legendary silhouette of Mt. Fuji, your journey promises an unforgettable escape into nature’s embrace.

Lake  Kawaguchi’s Maple Corridor

Kansai: south-central Japan roadtrip

  • Ise Grand Shrine, Embark on a roadtrip to the Ise Grand Shrine, located in Mie, Japan. Often regarded as the nation’s spiritual heart, this impressive shrine complex captivates visitors, especially during the autumn season. The nearby river adds to the serene and picturesque setting, making it a must-see destination. The fall scenery, with the shrine’s grandeur, creates a breathtaking experience. This revered site in Mie is not just a shrine, but a journey into the essence of Japan’s rich cultural and spiritual heritage.
  • Genkyu-En Garden and Hikone Castle, n Shiga, the Genkyu-En Garden and Hikone Castle come alive at night. The night illumination adds a touch of magic to these historic sites. If you’re planning a roadtrip, don’t miss the opportunity to experience the splendid atmosphere they offer. The combination of the beautifully lit garden and the majestic castle is a sight to behold. It’s a perfect destination for those seeking a memorable and romantic journey. So, set out on your roadtrip adventure to Genkyu-En Garden and Hikone Castle in Shiga for an enchanting adventure.
  • Kyoto: the pinnacle of Japan’s fall colors as the beautiful blend of the natural with the cultural can be seen at its finest. Numerous temples, shrines and other spots will provide a feast for your eyes not only during the day, but also at night with many sights illuminated.

Kiyomizu Temple, Kyoto

Chugoku: western Japan roadtrip

  • Okutsu Valley, Okayama hosts a fall-colors festival from late October to early November. The festival offers a festive atmosphere, allowing visitors to enjoy the vibrant autumn hues. It’s a great time for a road trip to Okayama!
  • Miyajima, Hiroshima: home to Itsukushima Shrine and its floating torii gate, Miyajima is well worth the trip to capture that postcard worthy picture
  • Kikko Park, Kintai Bridge and Iwakuni Castle, Yamaguchi: traditional architecture and fall colors beautifully meet

 

Shikoku Island

  • Kankakei Gorge, Kagawa: considered to be one of the top three gorges in Japan no matter the time of year, Kankakei will leave you mesmerized by the fall colors as you enjoy the view from above the trees via the ropeway
  • Iya Valley, Tokushima: is a picturesque rural mountain valley that comes alive with vibrant colors during the fall season. It’s an ideal destination for a roadtrip, allowing you to immerse yourself in the beauty of nature. As you journey through this remote valley, you’ll be captivated by the rich palette of autumn hues that adorn the landscape. The lush greenery transforms into a fiery spectacle of reds, oranges, and yellows, creating a breathtaking sight. The winding roads of Iya Valley provide a unique and unforgettable roadtrip experience, making it a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike.
  • Matsuyama Castle, Ehime: the fall foliage at this hilltop castle creates a quintessential Japanese scene and can be reached by ropeway or a hike

 

Kyushu Island

  • Unzen Onsen, Nagsaki: enjoy a hot spring along with the fall colors in this picturesque setting
  • Takachiho Gorge, Miyazaki: this mystical place where you can rent a rowboat and journey into the heart of the gorge becomes otherworldly with the fall colors
  • Mifuneyama, Saga: with the hillside ablaze and nearby Mifuneyama Rakuen Park illuminated at night, this great place to take in Japan’s fall colors

 

Winter Roadtrip

Winter roadtrip in Japan has a lot to offer. Snow is usually plentiful in the mountains and northern areas with abundant skiing and snowboarding opportunities, while many of the metropolitan areas tend to be drier and receive little snow. It can be quite cold in many places, but there are often spots within an hour or two (usually near the coast) where the temperature can be several degrees warmer at night. Below, we will introduce some unique experiences that can make a fall winter roadtrip in Japan a source of many wonderful memories.

 

Snow Monkeys:

Jigokudani Monkey Park, in north eastern Nagano Prefecture, is home to a troop of hot spring loving Japanese monkeys. To see them, a short hike through the woods is required, so make sure you have proper footwear.

Illuminations:

In Japan, winter means illuminations – cities, malls, and parks light up with colorful lights. While there is often an entrance fee for the more extravagant illuminations such as Ashikaga Flower Park in Tochigi Prefecture, there are many displays that you can find that are free of charge like the Festival of Lights in Osaka.

Ashikaga Flower Park

Shirakawa-go:

Located in the Tokyo Area Road Trip itinerary, Shirakawa-go  is a world heritage site that holds its charm throughout the year. However, in winter, it takes on a magical feel. The snow-covered thatched-roofed farmhouses create a scene that seems straight out of a fairytale.

Kenrokuen Garden:

Kenrokuen, located in Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Prefecture, is one of Japan’s three great gardens. Year-round, it’s worth visiting. Winter adds charm with snow-covered stone lanterns, bridges, and manicured trees on this delightful road trip.

 

Hot Springs (Onsen):

Enjoy a hot onsen in Japan. Many places offer this soothing experience due to the country’s love for onsens. And above all, winter is ideal for enjoying a Japanese hot spring (onsen) during a road trip, with snow adding to the charm. It truly is a wonderful experience. Visit our blog on Hot Spring (Onsen) Areas/Towns Worth Visiting for more information.

About the Author

Sayuri

I have been travelling by campervan to various areas all over Japan for more than 5 years. My goal is to visit all 47 prefectures in Japan! Just 12 more prefectures to go and I'll have accomplished it! I hope I can share some of information of wonderful places in Japan.

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