Autumn Leaf Colors in Japan - November 2024 Tours

Arashiyama autumn leaves Meji Mura Kyoto Gion

Autumn Leaf Colours in Japan - October/November 2024

Our autumn and November tours focus on the beautiful fall leaf colours that occur across the country.  Many of the cherry trees that provided beautiful blossom in spring provide orange hues while the Japanese maple can provide rich red leaves as well as brilliant yellow and browns.

We make the most of the season to capture the best by heading to areas that provide reliable scenery and also interesting locations.  This is covered in our early November tour by heading north of Tokyo to Aomori and Sendai before heading into the Japanese Alps.  For the later tour the best colours are usually further south in many locations around Kyoto and also Tokyo.

If you are interested in a visit to Japan in November, consider joining one of our Japan autumn tours or feel free to contact us if you would like a customised or private tour tailored to your requirements.    You can use the contact us form or email us at admin@japancustomtours.co.nz.

 

Late November Autumn Leaf Viewing Tour

The following is a brief outline of the tour we have designed for the second half of November.  A more detailed schedule is available on request.

Saturday 16th November - Tokyo:  We aim to either meet our guests at the airport and assist with your transfer to our hotel in Tokyo, or provide detailed instructions when that is not possible.  Options for the day depend on your time of arrival, and we can account for guests arriving in the days ahead of the tour as well. Generally the first day is treated as an "arrivals day" with free time to explore the local area.  Typically, we use a centrally located hotel in Shinjuku.

Sunday 17th November - Tokyo: Start the day with a visit to Asukusa and the oldest temple in Tokyo.  The impressive Kaminarimon ("Thunder gate") marks the entrance to the temple along with Hozomon and a five story pagoda. An array of stalls lines Nakamise Street. 

Departing Asakusa we then head to Ueno which provides some good options and variety for lunch adjacent to the expansive Ueno Park. The park also contains several museums (including Tokyo National Museum that we will visit) and Tokyo Zoo (optional, one of the main attractions are the giant pandas) and the beautiful Tōshō-gū shine that enshrines the first Shōgun of the Tokugawa Shogunate. 

Monday 18th November - Tokyo: Commence the day with a visit to the Meiji Shrine. As the Meiji Restoration was an important period in Japan's history we explain some of the historical elements of the change from feudalism to the modern era before visiting the shrine buildings located in a central Tokyo forest. As the shrine is adjacent to Harajuku, we then walk through Takeshita Street, which is a trend-setting shopping area for Tokyo youth. Leaving Harajuku there is a distinct transition as we move to the nearby upmarket shopping district of Omotesando

For the afternoon, a trip across town to Hamamatsucho and a short walk to the Hama Rikyu Gardens (one of the central Tokyo attractions that remains open on Mondays).  As an attractive landscape garden it sits between Tokyo Bay on one side and the skyscrapers of Tokyo on the other. 

Tuesday 19th November - Tokyo to Nagano: Departing from Tokyo by shinkansen (bullet train) head towards the Japanese Alps to Nagano.  Aiming for a midday arrival, sample the local soba noodles before visiting Zenkoji Temple, one of the most important and popular temples in Japan founded in the 7th century and houses the first Buddhist image in Japan (552CE).

For our stay in Nagano we head to the small onsen (hot spring) town of Togura/Kamiyamada for a stay at a traditional Japanese Inn.  This experience is complete with keiseki dinner, onsen (hot spring baths) and futons. 

Wednesday 20th November - Nagano: After breakfast, head to Nagano station and take the express bus to Jigokudani Monkey Park. Depending on the weather it could be cold (maybe snow). There is a walk of approximately 2km to the "snow monkeys".  Those not wanting to visit the rural area around Jigokudani can either have a relaxing day in Togura or additional free time exploring Nagano city.

Thursday 21st November - Nagano to Takayama: Departing Nagano we head to Matsumoto arriving mid-morning to allow time to visit the castle and get lunch before catching the afternoon bus to Takayama.

The Matsumoto Castle is a "flat-land" castle designated a National Historic Site. One of the few remaining original castles in Japan from the Edo Period, it was to be destroyed in 1872 on orders of the Meiji Government but, was saved from destruction by the efforts of the local population.  The six-story main keep includes a display of guns and armour on the second floor.

Departing Matsumoto there is a road connection of approximately 100km to link to the mountain town of Takayama. This scenic route winds though the Japanese Alps, taking approximately 2.5 hours

Friday 22nd November - Takayama: Explore the town and its easy walking courses; enjoy the local morning markets or visit one of the several small museums and temples scattered around the town. Takayama is famous for its woodworking and its biannual floats festival (matsuri). A visit to the Festival Floats Exhibition Hall is a recommended stop on our tours. An additional stop we encourage is to the "Showa" period museum. The Showa period covered December 1926 to Jan 1989 and the museum is a great place for nostalgia and a look back to a period in history many people remember fondly.

After lunch visit the Hida Folk Village, an open air museum featuring gasho style buildings with their unique steep thatched-roofed houses. This provides a different range of historic buildings to those found at the World Heritage site of Shirakawa-go.

Saturday 23rd November - Takayama to Kanazawa: Continuing our journey across Japan's biggest island (Honshu), travel along the scenic Miyagawa River to Toyama before a short shinkansen ride to Kanazawa.

The local Omi-cho fresh food market provides a good option for a fresh sushi/sashimi lunch. Time in the city allows for visits to the beautiful Kenrokuen Gardens (one of the top three gardens of Japan) and Kanazawa Castle Park. The city also boasts the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art with an interesting rage of exhibits .

Sunday 24th November - Kanazawa to Hiroshima: Departing Kanazawa, we travel south along the coast before cutting inland though the alps and to Japan's second largest metropolis Osaka. Transferring at Osaka, we re-join the shinkansen network for the trip south to Hiroshima.

With an afternoon arrival there is time to visit the Peace Park and the Peace Museum. An alternative is the Hiroshima Castle (there is a samurai museum inside the rebuilt castle). The city also boasts extensive covered shopping areas, and is famous for its style of okonomiyaki (a type of Japanese pancake).

Monday 25th November - Hiroshima: Taking advantage of our full day in Hiroshima we have time to explore a couple of different destinations. The main attraction for the day is Miyajima Island and its Itsukushima Shrine. This is the location of the famous 'floating' torii gate. Also on the island we can use the ropeway (cable car) and head to the top of Mount Misen for views across the Seto inland sea. If feeling energetic, the walk back down the mountain provides some good viewing and vantage points (otherwise we can get the ropeway back down).

An option for the start of the day is to visit Iwakuni and the famous Kintai-kyo Bridge. Beyond the bridge is an interesting array of attractions including stores selling more than 150 flavours of ice cream (as featured on TV), Kikko shrine and a selections of older style buildings and gardens. We find this area provides an opportunity to see a more 'down-to-earth' side of Japan than the more manicured and established temples and shrines in locations like Kyoto or Nara.  Naturally if the group decides on the Iwakuni visit, it will reduce the time at Miyajima.

Tuesday 26th November - Hiroshima to Kyoto: Leaving Hiroshima, we head north by shinkansen to Kyoto. On the way we have an opportunity to visit Himeji and its world famous castle, one of the finest examples of Japanese castle architecture.

With the stop at Himeji taking a couple of hours, we arrive in Kyoto - the historic old capital of Japan - late afternoon. This still gives us time to visit the very accessible Fushimi Inari Shinto shrine with its famous 10,000 torii gates (there are closer to 32,000). The walk to the top of Inari Yama (to see all 10,000!) takes a couple of hours and is definitely optional.

Wednesday 27th November - Kyoto: The day begins with a visit to Nijo Castle (the palace buildings are one the best surviving examples of castle palace architecture of Japan's feudal era). From Nijo we then head to the "Golden Pavilion" Kinkaku-ji in the north-west of the city.

From Kinkaku-ji, we travel across the city to the beautiful Arashiyama district, a famous autumn leaf viewing location. At Arashiyama we enjoy the view across the Oi River from the Togetsukyō Bridge. Among the famous sights in the area is the Sagano bamboo grove (although the large number of tourists makes it hard to get 'travel brochure' photos.) From the bamboo grove we enter the beautiful Tenryu-ji temple gardens before making our way back to the train and the conclusion of the day at Kyoto Station.

Thursday 28th November - Kyoto - Day trip to Nara:  To experience one of the most important cultural and historic places in Japan, we visit Nara, Japan's first capital. At Nara there is both Todai-ji temple (with the world's largest bronze Buddha), and Kagusa Shinto shrine. There are sacred deer roaming the park and some excellent souvenir shopping options.

Friday 29th November - Kyoto:  Kyoto does have a lot to offer and some people might like to check some of the other sights and sites in the city.  A few suggestions include:

Saturday 30th November - Kyoto to Tokyo: Taking a morning shinkansen back to Tokyo, and depositing luggage at our hotel prior to check-in. 

In the afternoon, we spend time in Shinjuku to see the expansive Shinjuku National Garden with its several distinct areas ranging from a formal European style to a more traditional Japanese area. From the gardens, we head to the Golden Gai area of old style bars before seeing Godzilla towering above the night life area of Kabukicho. 

Sunday 1st December - Tokyo: To allow time for transfers to the airport (either Haneda or Narita), this last day is scheduled as free time for you to complete last minute sightseeing or shopping.

Price Inclusions/exclusions

The tour the price for the sixteen day (accommodation for fifteen nights) is from  JPY745,000 per person share twin/double.  For solo travellers (one person, without a shared room), the cost of accommodation is unable to be shared, but we have a policy to limit the extra cost and have priced our tour for a single person at JPY795,000. 

The price includes:

Exclusions are generally items such as theatre performances, sporting or other special events, theme parks, lunch and evening meals, snacks/drinks and other incidental costs such as hotel room service/laundry.

Bookings and Inquiries

If you are interested in joining this tour, please contact us or email us directly at admin@japancustomtours.co.nz.


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