Autumn is here, and it’s the season where I throw caution – and commitments – to the wind and spend my time galivanting around Japan in search of the perfect fall foliage. Yes, it’s an addiction. But knowing is half the battle, right? 😉
A few years ago, I wrote about my favorite lesser-known Tokyo foliage spots. With the benefit of a few more autumns in the city, I’m ready to expand the list. As before, I’m avoiding some of the more tried-and-true spots (or is that trod-and-true? … they’re simply too busy these days). While they all became popular for a reason, in the era of Covid and crowd avoidance, it’s nice to have some alternatives to fall back on.
For those of you used to autumn in other places in the northern hemisphere, Japan’s leaves turn quite late. Tokyo doesn’t get good and golden with its ginkgos until at least mid-late November, and the maple leaves are often at their prime in the first week of December.
I’ve visited all of these sites in person, but I am heading back to catch a few of them in their prime foliage glory in just a few weeks. For any new discoveries, you can always catch me on Facebook or IG.
This temple on the southern edge of Tokyo is really named Joshinji, but it takes its nickname from the nine impressive Buddha statues housed in three separate halls. The grounds are free to wander, and filled with numerous maples and ginkgoes.
2. Otaguro Park
One of my favorite places for fall foliage in Tokyo is Otaguro Park, the former home of a music critic turned public green space near Ogikubo Station. While it has been “discovered” in recent years, I still found it worth the trip, if only to see the grounds painted in their autumn colors. There is also a ginkgo-lined avenue at the entrance. The park often holds light-up events in late November and early December.
3. Hibiya Park
Hibiya Park is not generally a spot one thinks of for foliage, but the park’s southwestern corner boasts an oft-overlooked (and free) Japanese garden with ginkgo and maple trees aplenty. Also nearby is the “risky ginkgo”, a 400-year-old ginkgo with an intriguing backstory that showers the grounds with saffron-colored leaves every November.
4. Okuma Garden
This garden/lawn near the campus of Waseda University hides a strangely crescent-shaped Japanese garden and a host of colorful trees in autumn. Entrance to the park is free and a nearby student coffee shop offers cheap eats and beverages. The campus also has a street of ginkgo trees just a few hundred meters away.