Some say fall is Japan’s greatest season. And don’t you feel like you’re missing most of it holed up in the city? Although nature can feel far away, spectacular displays of koyo (Autumn viewing) foliage and Japan’s native fall flowers, like cosmos, are only an hour or two away by public transit. Make the most of your weekends with day trips out of the city this autumn that won’t break your budget or require you to rent a car to get there.
From photogenic bridges to fields of scarlet kochia (summer cypress) bushes, read on for your next-day trip getaway.
1. Akigawa Valley (Tokyo)
Located about an hour from central Tokyo, Akigawa Valley is the perfect place for a hike, fantastic views and a relaxing soak in a hot spring. Set out from Musashi-Itsukaichi station, the tourism center has plenty of maps and brochures detailing local attractions. If you’re looking to take a trek through mountainous terrain or trace a path along the Akigawa River, the station has a number of routes nearby, with the longest ones taking up to six hours to complete.
One of the highlights of the area is Ishibunebashi Bridge which is accessible via the Jyurigi Bus Stop just outside of the station. Measuring ninety-six meters long, this suspension bridge fully immerses you in the Akigawa River’s natural serenity and provides numerous vantage points to enjoy the valley’s autumn colors.
Looking to soothe your body after a day of hiking? Continue onto the other side of the bridge and find the popular Seoto-no-yu Spa. Whether you only have time for a free foot bath or a full-on dip in the onsen, this hot spring is a lovely way to end your day trip before heading back into Tokyo’s hustle and bustle.
2. Hasedera Temple (Kanagawa)
As one of Japan’s ancient capitals, Kamakura has its fair share of attractions for day trippers from Tokyo. Autumn travelers should make time for Hasedera Temple, a site renowned for its seasonal flora which includes plum blossoms in the winter, cherry blossoms in the spring, hydrangeas in the summer and Japanese maples in the fall.
Constructed in 736, Hasedera Temple, the spiritual sibling of a temple by the same name in Nara, houses a Kannon statue measuring over nine meters tall, hundreds of jizo (small guardian statues protecting children), an inari (fox) shrine and more. If you’re looking to take a break during your exploration of the temple complex, check out Kaikoan Restaurant and enjoy the fantastic view alongside curries and pastas or opt for a snack at Teraya Cafe.
For a rare autumn treat, head to Hasedera between the end of November and the middle of December when the temple and its foliage are illuminated after sunset. Take a walk around the temple grounds and marvel at the orange and red trees seemingly glowing against the night sky and reflected in the waters below.
3. Hitachi National Seaside Park (Ibaraki)
Wondering where to bring the family for an autumn day trip? Hitachi National Seaside Park in Ibaraki prefecture, accessible via direct highway bus from Tokyo station as well as trains, is a great option. Known for its sprawling flower gardens, this park has hills of stunning Kokia bushes which turn from summery greens to fiery red each autumn. Alongside fields of pink and white cosmos flowers and autumn leaves, this park also has a Kokia Carnival in October with fall gourmet delights.
There are also amusement rides for the little ones and other less traveled paths in the park, such as the Hitachinaka Nature Forest and dune area, where you can admire the nearby Pacific Ocean. To get around, get your walking shoes on, rent bicycles or take the kid-friendly seaside train that circles the park’s perimeter stopping at nine locations in its 40-minute route.
4. Lake Okutama (Yamanashi/Tokyo)
Created in 1957 when the Ogouchi Dam was built on the Tawa River, Lake Okutama is a paradise less than two hours away from Shinjuku station. Walking distance from Okutama station, the floating Mugiyama Bridge makes for a stunning first impression of fall foliage and deep blue water.
The lake is part of a larger national park, including great hiking mountains, like Mount Mitake offering panoramic views of the Kanto area’s autumn leaves from its summit. Perhaps the most famous fall route around Lake Okutama is walking the two-hour hiking course around the Hikawa Gorge, where maple, katsura and ginkgo leaves make a fiery contrast to the waters.
Don’t miss a stop at Moegi-no-yu hot springs where you can soak your feet for a mere ¥100 or indulge in the indoor or open-air baths with views of the lake, rivers and mountains.
5. Mount Tenran (Saitama)
Measuring just under two hundred meters, Mount Tenran offers leisurely strolls to the summit and stunning fall vistas. Another solid choice if you’re day-tripping with children (or grandparents), this mountain’s gentle meandering paths lined mostly with Japanese maples and cherry blossom trees are ablaze with glorious autumn colors from late November. From the summit’s observation point, you can see the nearby Hanno City as well as Shinjuku’s skyscrapers and even Tokyo Skytree all bathed in the golden light of fall.
If you’re up for a longer and steeper hike, the Mount Tenran trail connects to nearby Mount Tonosu where you can further enjoy the forests and views. After a day of walking, treat yourself to delicious and healthy fare at the newly opened Hakkou OH! theme park, dedicated to pickled and fermented foods, at the foot of Mount Tenran.