Summer in Japan is notorious for sweltering days and humid nights. This makes any activity outside of sitting at home blasting airconditioning a sweat-soaked affair. While it seems to go on forever, it’s finally October, so we’ve officially transitioned into cooler weather.
1. Hike Mount Rokko (Kobe)
Mount Rokko looms over the entire city. Its grassy slopes and glades are home to various activities, from wine tasting to botanical gardens. However, these are second place to the hiking on offer. While a few peaks are scattered along the mountain range, the summit offers a panoramic view of Kansai, from Wakayama to Kobe.
The hike to the top takes at least five hours. When making your descent, we recommend continuing down the other side of the mountain as you’ll find yourself in Arima Onsen (hot spring) after only an hour of downhill walking. This picturesque mountain onsen town was perfect for washing the sweat and aches of the hike away before catching your train home.
2. Stop by Kinosaki Onsen (Hyogo)
Now that the weather has cooled, hot springs are officially back on the menu. One particular onsen town hidden on Hyogo’s northern coast trumps all others. Kinosaki Onsen is a small town in a mountain valley east of Toyoka. Visiting Kinosaki, it feels like the entire town comes out every evening to enjoy their evening bathing and relax at their nightly bath.
This onsen town offers a ¥1,200 day pass which includes seven bathhouses. In Kinosaki you’ll also be encouraged to dress up in a yukata (summer kimono) and stroll by the canal while onsen hopping. If you’re looking for a special first onsen of the colder half of the year, Kinoseki is well worth the journey.
3. Cycle Around Lake Biwa (Shiga)
Lake Biwa is Japan’s largest freshwater lake that makes up the bulk of Shiga Prefecture, just to the northeast of Kyoto. Lake Biwa is famous for fishing, camping and swimming, but the best way to enjoy all three is a grand bike trip. This might sound a little challenging, given the almost 200 km distance involved, but it’s quite doable.
Both sides of the lake are easily accessible by JR lines, meaning you can choose to turn back or start wherever you think is best. Or if you’d rather ride the entire time, the average person can make the journey and fit in sightseeing over three days. We recommend stopping for a spell at Hikone Castle, not only for its status as a national treasure but because its park is a great spot to have a packed lunch and experience fall colors.
4. Visit Awaji Island (Hyogo)
Another must-see location for Autumn colors and enjoying the outdoors has got to be Awaji Island. Nestled between Kobe and Tokushima, the island of Awaji has flourished as a domestic tourist destination and is particularly known for its pleasant climate all year rounds. Autumn is no exception.
Hanasajiki Park and Tosan Temple are great spots for relaxing and enjoying the autumn foliage. Awaji is also well known as a bicycle destination, and the tourist center recommends renting bikes for the day and cycling around the island on its designated bike tracks.
5. Explore Kasuga Forest (Nara)
This World Heritage Site has prohibited the felling of trees for over 1,000 years. As such, the limbs of trees sprawl expansively over the skyline, while moss and ferns dominate the undergrowth.
Exploring the forest, even during daylight hours, can feel a little eerie, as the ancient trees try to stamp out the sun. This effect works to the advantage of the forest’s hidden shrines and caves, lending them a sense of reverence whenever you’ll stumble upon a carved Buddha. This is only reinforced by the fact that the public wasn’t permitted entry until after World War II, making experiencing Kasuga not just an adventure but a privilege.
Do you have a must-do adventure for the colder weather? Let us know in the comments below!