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Rural Kyoto Autumn Leaves - 5 Less-Crowded Foliage Spots

Kameoka in fall

Translated by MATCHA_En

Written by Keishi Kawakami

Kyoto 2019.08.20 Bookmark

Kyoto is filled with places to enjoy the fall colors in Japan, with both popular and lesser-known, slightly hidden spots. Take a day trip from Kyoto and Osaka to see nature, hiking, and bright red and yellow leaves. Read to learn about 5 great spots near the ancient capital.

Places In and Near Kyoto For Fall Colors and Outdoors - Great for Day Trips

Greater Kyoto Area Autumn Leaves 2019 - 5 Must-See Rural Fall Foliage Spots

Kyoto, one of Japan's ancient capitals, is known for its temples and seasonal beauty, with visitors flocking to Kiyomizudera in fall to see the vivid red Japanese maple trees and golden foliage. The traditional buildings and nature are gorgeous, but it can get crowded. However, there are lesser-known areas near Kyoto and its major sightseeing spots with more outdoor beauty and fewer people. Brimming with nature and easily accessible via train and bus, these areas make great day trips from central Kyoto and Osaka.

This article introduces five places to visit in and around the ancient capital to experience a more country and tranquil side of Kyoto, and the best time to see the stunning fall colors.

1. Genkoan Temple - Foliage at a Hidden Gem in Northwest Kyoto

Genkoan in fall

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Genkoan Temple is a Zen temple in Kyoto's northwest Takagamine area. Due to its slightly hidden location, this temple receives fewer visitors than popular spots in the city. Those who come usually visit here for its round and square-shaped windows, and bloody footprints on the ceiling's wooden planks, thought to be left from battles in the 1600s.


Photo by pixta
In the fall, the foliage around the grounds turns gorgeous shades of reds and golds, contrasting vividly with the temple. Be sure to take in the view of the garden from the round and square windows to capture the full beauty. The round window is known as the window of enlightenment, and the square-shaped one suggests feelings of bewilderment or being lost.

The best time to see the leaves at Genkoan is around mid-November to late November. It costs around 500 yen to enter the temple during the fall season.


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2. Minami Yamashiro - Fall Leaves and Rich History in Southern Kyoto

Minami Yamashiro

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Located southeast of Kyoto City, the village of Minami Yamashiro is a lesser-known destination known for its historic landmarks and valuable cultural property. It is also has played a long role in the history of tea ceremony in Japan; gorgeous green tea fields are part of the area, and Minami Yamashiro is a major producer of green tea in Kyoto.

A must-visit spot in the area is Gansenji Temple (pictured above), which has a grand pagoda that becomes surrounded by vivid crimson and gold in fall. Be sure to go inside the hall to get a glimpse of the Buddhist statues recognized for their cultural importance nationally, thought to have been created around the 10th century. The serene grounds, artifacts, and stunning colors are an experience unlike any other.

The fall leaves are best enjoyed in the Minami Yamashiro area around mid-November. The area is great to combine with day trips to Uji and also Nara.


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3. Choanji Temple - A Gorgeous Temple by the Coast

Choanji Temple

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Choanji Temple in Kyoto's Tamba area, northwest of the city center, is a stunning Buddhist temple filled with nature. Many of the buildings and structures of the temple date back to around the 17th and 18th centuries, making a stroll here great for anyone interested in history. There is also a garden ideal for a peaceful stroll.

The temple becomes illuminated by the bright rainbow of fall colors around mid-November to late November. It is known for providing a grand seasonal view unlike anything else. Located near Tamba and the coast of Kyoto, Choanji is a great stop to combine with a trip to the prefecture's northern shores, like Amanohashidate.

Address: Kyoto, Fukuchiyama, Okunobe 577
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Official Website: (Japanese)

4. Kameoka - Boundless Nature Just Past Arashiyama

Kameoka in fall

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Kameoka is a small city in Kyoto Prefecture, located west of famous Arashiyama. Acting as a secure passageway between Kyoto and southern Japan for hundreds of years in the past, the city is a lesser-known treasure trove of culture and nature with its temples, a castle remains spot, and hiking trails.

You can see the fall leaves in Kameoka around November. The scenery can be appreciated with hiking or a ride on the Sagano Scenic Railway from Arashiyama. Come here when you want to escape from the bustle of Kyoto and experience the great outdoors.

Part of the town runs along the Hozugawa River, which connects to Arashiyama. There are even river cruises you can take for an especially extravagent view of the fall scenery.

5. Kongoin Temple - A Pagoda and Gorgeous Leaves

Kongoin Temple

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Famous for its impressive three-story pagoda, Kongoin Temple is a Buddhist temple in Kyoto's Maizuru area, north of central Kyoto, by the Sea of Japan. The temple was established around the Heian Period (794 - 1185); the pagoda is designated important cultural property of Japan and blends in with the lush forest surrounding it.

The autumn scenery here is like a breath of fresh air, located away from busy parts of Kyoto. You can see the foliage between early to mid-November. You'll want to take your time here exploring the grounds and taking in the breathtaking scenery; be sure to bring a camera.


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Explore Kyoto's Quiet Side in Fall

There are many places to enjoy autumn colors in the greater Kyoto area in addition to these spots, but if you take these five places as your starting points, you're sure to find some peaceful areas with truly awe-inspiring autumn views during your stay in Kyoto. Be sure to make a visit and experience the seasonal beauty of this area.

This article is a rewritten version of one published originally October 16, 2017.
Main image by pixta

The information presented in this article is based on the time it was written. Note that there may be changes in the merchandise, services, and prices that have occurred after this article was published. Please contact the facility or facilities in this article directly before visiting.

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