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Japan: 5 places to see in Autumn

Japan in Autumn is a special time — escape to the mountains and forests for something different. We asked the travel experts at Country Holidays to tell us their favourite experiences in the Japanese autumn.

1. Kyoto

Japan in Autumn
Kyoto’s rich history is a tourist drawcard

This old capital of Japan continues to attract travellers with its rich history, refined cultural arts, traditional architecture, lovely gardens and great museums. The city is awash with foliage, too, including maple and ginkgo, and the dramatic colours of autumn generally last for around two months; the first change occurs around mid October, with a peak in November, though most of the time you can still find the colours well into December. Our favourite spots include: Arashiyama district, whose entire mountainside fills spectacularly with red leaves; Kiyomizu Temple for its orchestra of different shades visible on the surrounding hills, gardens and trees; and Nara Park, with pockets of colour scattered around the park – and the chance of seeing a deer resting under the maples.

2. Old Nakasendo

Nakasendo is a great spot for trekking
Nakasendo is a great spot for trekking


Dating back to the Edo period (1603 to 1868), Nakasendo is a historic trade route stretching from Kyoto through the Japanese Alps and on to Tokyo. Today, only a few stretches retain their original form. The best-known section from Magome to Tsumago in the Kiso Valley allows for an enjoyable three-hour trek that takes you through old post towns with cobblestone paths, and to forests and waterfalls.

3. Hida Furukawa Rural Old Town

Getting around by bicycle is one of the best ways to explore the small picturesque town of Hida Furukawa, well known for the high-quality timber found in the region and the high level of local carpentry. Take a trip back in time riding through rice terraces and past traditional farmhouses, and watching local fishermen and farmers at work.

4. Iya Valley

Historic suspension bridges are made of vines in the Iya Valley
Historic suspension bridges are made of vines in the Iya Valley

In the secluded Iya Valley in Shikoku, explore Oboke Gorge on a boat or raft, sailing a calm, emerald green stretch of river through vistas of colourful foliage; challenge your fears walking across historic suspension bridges made of vines – the largest of which stretches 45 metres long and hangs 14 metres above water; and enjoy a fun ride pulling yourself across one such bridge on a suspended wooden cart. You can also visit an old Samurai house and an ancient village of thatched roof houses as you learn about the heritage of the settlements there.

5. Nikko National Park

Located about 2.5 hours from Tokyo, Nikko National Park is one of Japan’s most beautiful nature locales, with plateaus, waterfalls, lakes, forests and rivers. A number of shrines, temples and bridges are also found scattered across the area. The 100m Kegon Falls is ranked as one of Japan’s three most beautiful waterfalls, and in autumn, the surrounding trees change from lush green to vermilion red. The Kegon Falls is also the only exit for the waters of Lake Chuzenji, a 20,000-year-old scenic lake created as a result of volcanic eruption. It’s an especially gorgeous sight when the autumn colours reach their peak along the lake’s shores and surrounding mountains.

Book a family holiday with Country Holidays and your kids will receive complimentary three-month gift subscriptions for a “World Explorer Kit” from Little Passports. Valid for travel until 31 December 2016, for children aged three to 12.

Country Holidays specialises in custom itineraries and private holidays to Japan and beyond. Their travel specialists have personally visited the locations and can recommend everything from charming ryokan accommodation to fine culinary experiences. Call 2525 9199 or visit countryholidays.com.hk.

This article first appeared in the Aug/Sep 2016 issue of Expat Living magazine.

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