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The Best Autumn Leaf Viewing Spots in Shimane

Mountains, mansions, temples, traditional gardens and more are painted with the colors of autumn.

By 4 min read

Shimane, Japan’s second least-populated prefecture, is renowned for gingko, maple and beech trees that paint the region in a palette of warm colors come autumn.

If you want to experience Japan’s leaf viewing season away from the crowds of more well-known prefectures, here are Shimane’s top ten destinations.

1. Gakuen-ji Temple

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A vibrant red carpet

Gakuen-ji was allegedly founded at the request of Empress Suiko, the first reigning empress in Japan’s recorded history who was instrumental in the country’s adoption of Buddhism. Today, Gakuen-ji is a stop on multiple local pilgrimages and the most famous leaf-viewing spot in Shimane. The grounds’ maple trees transform into a crimson and orange canopy from mid to late November. Later, the leaves fall and create a colorful carpet.

Admission: ¥500
Nearest Station: Unshu-Hirata
148 Besshocho, Izumo, Shimane - Map

2. Yushien Garden

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Catch the light up event after dark.

From mid to late November, this traditional-style garden’s central pond reflects red maples and evergreen pines, making them appear even more numerous. Guests can easily spend a few hours here, exploring meandering paths, relaxing in on-site cafes or buying souvenirs produced by local farms. Yushien is also one of the few gardens in Shimane that opens its doors at night in autumn, hosting an illumination event that enhances the beauty of the maples.

Admission: ¥800~¥1,400
Nearest Station: Matsue
1260-2 Yatsukacho Hanyu, Matsue, Shimane

3. Ichibata Yakushi

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Spend the night at the temple’s cottage after taking in the scenery.

Located 200 meters up a mountainside, Ichibata Yakushi is a temple renowned for its bird’s eye views of Lake Shinji and the Chugoku Mountain Range. From mid-November to early December, autumn leaf hunters visit to enjoy the mountains’ changing colors, join a zazen meditation session or stay overnight in the temple’s cottage.

Nearest station: Ichibataguchi
803 Kozakaicho, Izumo, Shimane - Map

4. Oni no Shitaburui Gorge

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The perfect day trip.

Visit from late October to mid-November, and views of autumn foliage from a 45-meter-high suspension bridge are just the first wonders that await in this prefectural nature park. Further down the trails, otherworldly rock formations with names like Oni no Rakurui Iwa (Demon’s Tears Rock) await. Hiking the gorge only takes about an hour one way, so visitors can take their time traversing the trails (one of which is wheelchair and stroller accessible).

Nearest station: Izumo-Minari
Une Minari, Okuizumo, Nita District, Shimane - Map

5. Itohara Memorial Museum

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Enjoy a stroll through the museum’s walking path, Senshin no Michi.

This museum is the historic estate of the Itohara family—former samurai who were appointed to manage local iron production in the Edo Period (1603-1868). From late October to mid-November, autumn leaves are the museum’s main attraction. Enjoy them while relaxing in the estate’s traditional-style garden or strolling along Senshin no Michi, a walking path through the woods meant to calm the mind.

Admission: ~¥1,000
Nearest station: Izumo-Minari
856 Otani, Okuizumo, Nita District, Shimane - Map

6. Tachikue Gorge

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Looking for a challenge? Head to the gorge.

In addition to towering cliffs and changing leaves, which reach their peak around mid-November, hikers in Tachikue can encounter over 1,000 Buddhist statues scattered throughout the forest. These were built over the years in conjunction with the gorge’s two temples, the oldest of which was founded in the 9th century.

Nearest station: Izumoshi
Otsutachicho, Izumo, Shimane - Map

7. Mount Sanbe

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Explore the different volcanic peaks.

Mount Sanbe is a “family” of ancient volcanic peaks that includes Osanbe (Man Sanbe), Mesanbe (Woman Sanbe) and Kosanbe (Child Sanbe). The tallest is Osanbe, which reaches 1,126 meters above sea level.

Sanbe’s beech forests dress in autumn colors from mid-October to mid-November, and visitors flock here to climb one of the six summit courses or ride the sightseeing chairlift. After a day of hiking, weary climbers can relax in one of the hot springs around the mountain’s base.

Nearest station: Odashi
Sanbecho Shigaku, Oda, Shimane - Map

8. Jozenji Temple

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600 years of tradition framed by a ginkgo tree.

Between mid-November and early December, the grounds of this temple at the foot of Mount Sanbe turn golden. A massive gingko tree that is over 600 years old changes from green to yellow and then slowly covers the ground with its bright leaves as they fall.

Nearest station: Odashi
2146 Sanbecho Ikeda, Oda, Shimane - Map

9. Hori Garden

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A picture perfect scene set against a traditional Japanese background.

This Edo Period (1603-1868) mansion was home to the Hori family, wealthy mine overseers. The estate grounds include a Japanese garden, which from late October to mid-November is highlighted by maple trees and the changing colors of nearby mountains. During November’s peak viewing season, the garden hosts an illumination event.

Admission: ~¥600
Nearest station: Tsuwano
795 Muraki, Tsuwano, Kanoashi District, Shimane - Map

10. Otome Toge Saint Mary’s Chapel

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A historical landmark and an autumn destination.

Built in remembrance of Japanese Christians who were imprisoned in the small town of Tsuwano in the late 19th century, Otome Toge is now a pilgrimage site and historical landmark. The chapel is located in the town’s surrounding forest, which contains evergreens, bamboo and maples that change colors from late October to mid-November.

Nearest station: Tsuwano
Ushiroda, Tsuwano, Kanoashi District, Shimane - Map
What are your favorite seasonal destinations in Shimane? Let us know in the comments!

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