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12 of the best places in Kyoto to enjoy autumn colors

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By Preston Phro

September means the approach of autumn – that glorious time of year when all the leaves explode into yellow and red hues. Though many think of sakura blossoms when they think of Japan’s beautiful trees, the country is no less proud of its fall colors. And Kyoto boasts more than a few excellent destinations for autumnal sightseeing. Here are 12 of Kyoto’s best places to enjoy the fall leaves.

Daitoku Temple

As you can probably tell from the picture, this Buddhist temple is overflowing with trees, making for a stunning display in autumn. Founded in the 14th century, Daitoku Temple has a number of religious buildings, rock gardens, and national treasures on the premises to check out once you’ve finished staring at the trees and enjoying the cool fall air.

Admission prices differ depending on the buildings you enter, but the compound can be found at 53 Murasakino Daitokuji-cho, Kita-ku, Kyoto.

Eikan Hall

When it comes to autumn leaves in Kyoto, Eikan Hall is the place to be. It’s so famous for beautiful fall foliage that it also goes by the name “Eikan Hall of the Autumn Leaves.” The Buddhist temple is the head temple of the Seizen sect of Pure Land Buddhism and holds a famous statue of Amida Buddha.

The temple has an English webpage here. In case you’ll be in Kyoto in the next few months, and you want to check out the scenery, the address is Eikando-cho 48, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto. Admission is 600 yen.

Kodai Temple

This temple was built by Kita-no-Mandokoro, the legal wife of famous warrior and leader Hideyoshi Toyotomi and was, at one point, a place renowned for its poetry recital contest. Now, the temple not only features beautiful natural scenery but also a dazzling light show. Admission is 600 yen, but it is possible to try out zen mediation for an extra 1,000 yen or tea ceremony for 2,000 yen.

The temple’s English website can be found here, and their address is 526 Shimogawara-cho Kodaiji, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto.

Kiyomizu Temple

If we’re really being honest, this temple sits squarely at the top of any list of places to visit in Kyoto – and with good reason. The view from the temple balcony is simply one of the best in Japan, and every inch of the grounds is worth experiencing. It’s like gazing over an ocean of red leaves. Of course, once you finally pull yourself away from the view, you still have to check out the rest of the temple, which features numerous statues and a gorgeous garden, as well as a few special views higher up the side of the mountain.

You can learn more about Kiyomizu Temple on their English website. Admission is only 300 yen, so be sure to head up to the temple no matter what time of year it is. The address is 1-294 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto.

Tofuku Temple

Famous for its autumn leaves, this temple was actually inspired by the great temples of Nara. In addition to its superb fall scenery, the temple is also the site of one of the oldest Zen gates in Japan, which has been designated a national treasure. Additionally, there are a number of gardens on the grounds, including a rock garden with moss-covered boulders symbolizing mountains.

You can learn more about the temple’s history on its website. Admission is only 400 yen, and their address is 15-778 Honmachi, Higayshiyama-ku, Kyoto.

Genkoan

The temple, originally established in 1346 and reformed in 1694, is a Soto Zen temple which has Sakyamuni, another name for the Buddha, as the main object of worship.

If you’re interested in visiting, admission is only 400 yen and their address is 47 Takagamine kitatakagamine-cho, Kita-ku, Kyoto.

Mount Arashiyama

Like Kiyomizu Temple, Arashiyama is one of the most well-known sight-seeing spots in Kyoto. The mountain is beloved for its sterling natural scenery and quiet atmosphere. And when the red leaves fill the trees, the area takes on a whole new look, making it a great destination even for those who’ve already visited before. The mountain is so famous it has been designated as both a Historic Site and a Place of Scenic Beauty.

Jingo Temple

This Buddhist temple is actually close to the center of Kyoto and is one of the oldest temples in the city, containing numerous historic treasures including statues and writings by the warrior Yoritomo Minamoto, a military leader made famous by the Tale of the Heike. It is also one of the best places in Kyoto to sit back and enjoy the changing of the leaves!

Admission is 500 yen, and you can find the temple at 5 Umegahata Takaocho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto.

Senyu Temple

Founded in the 9th century, this temple is the resting place of many deceased emperors and also provides lovely scenery for every season. The temple grounds hold a large, beautiful garden and a hall dedicated to the Kukai, the founder of Shingon Buddhism in addition to a number of statues and religious buildings.

The entrance fee is 500 yen and the temple’s address is 27 Sennyuji Yamanouchicho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto.

Kitano Grand Shrine

This Shinto shrine is known as a holy place for academics and as the site of several hundred trees that burst into brilliant reds and yellows in the autumn months. Michizane Sugawara, a scholar close to the emperor in the 9th century, was enshrined here to pacify his spirit, which was believed to be setting natural disasters upon Japan after his death in exile in 903.

Entrance is only 300 yen, and you can learn more about the shrine on their website. Their address is Bakuro-cho, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto.

Shimogamo Shrine

In addition to the stunning scenery and red leaves of autumn, the protector of Kyoto is enshrined at Shimogamo Temple, making it a must-see stop for any Kyoto traveler. The shrine also has numerous events throughout the year, including yabusame, or horseback archery, in May.

You can learn more about the shrine’s history and festivals on their English website. The cost of admittance is 500 yen, and you can find the shrine at 59 Shimogamo Izumigawa-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto.

Gio Temple

Gio Temple is famous for its scenery that remains gorgeous no matter the season. The temple is located just at the foot of the mountains and its hundreds of trees transform the grounds into a place of otherworldly beauty with the changing of the colors.

Admission is 600 yen, and the temple’s address is 32 Sagatoriimotokozaka-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto.

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4 Comments
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Have had the great fortune to have visited all of these, though not always in the fall.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

As someone who's lived in Kyoto for fifteen years, I strongly recommend that if you want to visit one of these temples/shrines in leaf-viewing season, get there first thing in the morning, before opening time. Otherwise, what you will mostly be viewing is other tourists like yourself.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Surely this is not for another 5-6 weeks? Its still seems like Summer here in Osaka with air conditioners on full blast.

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Kyoto is blessed with maple trees and the changing of the leaves during fall is spectacular. When the temperature changes between afternoon and evening the tree colors change from green to red and yellow. During the daylight the colors of the leaves may seem brilliant but illuminated against the night sky they produce a totally different atmosphere almost magical in appearance. Be sure to visit the temples and shrines during the evening when the fall leaves are illuminated in light up displays. It's such a beautiful, unforgettable sight and a must see and I love it . The maple tree is certainly a symbol of elegance, beauty, and grace.

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