5 reasons to swap Kyoto’s cherry blossoms for autumn leaves

The vivid colours of autumn will keep you coming back to Kyoto. Photo: Japan National Tourism Organization

It’s goodbye cherry blossoms and hello fall foliage in Kyoto — and we’re smitten with the new season. Spectacular, compelling, and deeply romantic, autumn sees this enchanting city transformed into a sea of amber, scarlet and crimson. It’s also go-time for a tempting calendar of exhibitions, festivals and events perfect for cultural discovery. We’re calling it: autumn is our new favourite time to go to Kyoto!

1. Chase the autumn leaves

Kyoto’s temples and gardens offer a memorable autumn show as thousands of maple trees take on the deep, rich glow of the season. Look out for the Eikan-do Temple, its glorious maples are illuminated at night during autumn, and Buddhist temple Jingo-ji where you can marvel at the colours and throw small clay discs into the valley below to bring good luck. Win, win. We’ve also shortlisted ancient hidden gem Bishamon-do Temple (circa 8th century AD) and tranquil Honen-in Temple for their spectacular displays.

When: October, November & December
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Don’t miss your chance to see Hokusai’s iconic ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa’ (1830-32) at the Museum of Kyoto. Photo: Tokyo Fuji Art Museum

2. Catch the wave

This is Japan In Kyoto – From the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum Collection

The chance to see Hokusai’s incredible woodblock print The Great Wave off Kanagawa would be reason enough to visit Kyoto for this standout September exhibition. From its vast archives of 30,000 pieces, the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum has selected a diverse and powerful collection of famous Japanese artworks to help celebrate the 2019 Kyoto ICOM (International Conference of Museums) Conference.

When & Where: 25 Aug-29 September, 2019. The Museum of Kyoto.
Find out more here

Take a ‘jikkoku-bune’ boat ride through Fushimi sake brewery country.

3. Say yes to sake

Jikkoku-bune Boat Ride Through Fushimi, Sake Brewery District

Once a vessel that carried rice, sake and travellers along the Yodo River during the Edo Period (1603-1868) the jikkoku-bune is now back in commission as a sightseeing boat. Hop aboard for a leisurely 50-minute round-trip along the Uji River, soaking up the enchanting scenery of sake breweries and willow trees.

When: until 08 December, 2019.
Find out more here

Jidai Matsuri is an historic parade of epic proportions. Photo: © Kyoto City Tourism Association

4. Step back in time
Jidai Matsuri – Festival of the Ages

If you’re travelling in October, don’t miss the pageantry of one of Kyoto’s biggest and most fascinating festivals: Jidai Matsuri. This “festival of the ages” transforms the city streets into a living showcase of Japanese history as hundreds of participants, adorned in exquisite costumes from various historical periods, parade their way from the Old Imperial Palace to Heian-jingu Shrine. Look out for Samurai warriors, warlords, and Imperial princesses (and opt for a paid reserved seat to nab the best vantage point).

When & Where: 26 October 2019. Kyoto Imperial Palace-Karasuma Oike-Heian-jingu Shrine.
Find out more here

Hop aboard the Sagano Romantic Train for a scenic tour through the Hozu River Valley.

5. Experience old-fashioned romance

Sagano Romantic Train (Sagano Scenic Railway)

Romantic rail? How could we resist! Embrace the nostalgia of open carriages, wooden benches and stunning scenery on this brief but memorable journey along the Hozugawa River between Arashiyama and Kameoka. Over November and December, the leisurely half-hour trip is especially beautiful as the leaves of the ravine take on their autumnal tones.

Find out more here

Discover more Kyoto events here

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