Hakuba is the mountain resort that keeps on giving year-round. When Summer is spent and the heat has passed, Autumn arrives in Japan to set the mountains on fire. Whether you want to look down on the leaves from the mountaintops, gaze up at a canopy of red, or see the colors reflected in the water, Hakuba has it all.
September 30th, 2020 | by April Eve Day
When is Autumn in Japan
As the hot days of Japan’s summer fade, the cool nights and sunny days of autumn in Japan offer the perfect weather for outdoor adventures. From mid-October to early November Hakuba offers some of the most spectacular fall sights in all of Japan. The vivid colors of autumn and cool weather make the Hakuba Valley a popular fall travel destination. If you are lucky and time your travel right, you may even see Hakuba’s famed three-tiered autumn leaves (白馬三段紅葉) – crystal clear blue skies, the changing fall leaves on the peaks, and the green leaves that have yet to change in the valley. Read on for the best places to view the Fall leaves in all their glory.
Tsugaike Nature Park
Take the Tsugaike gondola and ropeway up to the otherworldly paradise that is Tsugaike Nature Park. Beech trees with their silvery bark and golden leaves march down the slopes to the still green undergrowth amid pops of bright red foliage. It’s so impossibly beautiful you almost expect to see fairies peeking around the tree trunks.
Iwatake Mountain Harbour
Head to Iwatake Mountain Harbour to take in the three colors of Autumn. First is the verdant green in the valley, then a little further up, the fiery reds and yellows of the turning leaves, and then the icing on the cake, the alps with their dusting of snow. After partaking in the visual feast, a literal feast awaits you at the City Bakery! This world-renowned bakery at the top of Iwatake is a real treat. What better way to spend a fall day than sipping a delicious coffee and taking in the beautiful sights.
Happo Ike (Happo Pond)
Being a decent hike above the treeline, Happo Ike is the place to see the Autumn leaves in Japan from above. Go on a clear day and you’ll be treated to blue sky fading into white snow, melting into a riot of Autumn color. Be sure to take a page from your fellow Japanese hikers and pack a thermos of green tea and an obento. Enjoying a warm tea and a small lunch on the mountain is a long-held past time in Japan and a true experience during the fall.
Oide park, with its suspension bridge, crystal clear stream, and panoramic view of the alps is a local favorite. When Autumn rolls in and paints the landscape in shades of burnished gold and red, you have a photographer’s dream. Found at the valley bottom Oide park is best-visited mid-autumn in Japan. The area is great for picnics and offers amazing panoramic views of the Japanese Alps. This is a favorite spot for those iconic “Autumn in Japan photos”. If you head up past the grassy area to the hill at the back of the park you will find a hidden photo spot known to Japanese photographers as the ideal location for Hakuba sunset photos. This is well worth checking out for anyone looking for breathtaking Hakuba photographs.
Woodchip Road, Tsugaike
If you’re looking to escape the tourists and see some foliage close up, the Woodchip Road is the place for you. This trail winds through a thickly forested area where you can look up into a canopy rich with shades of red and yellow. Best of all, you probably won’t see another soul. Located up the hill from the Tsugaike gondola on the way to Cortina, this hidden gem offers a true Autumn experience for anyone in Hakuba at the tail end the Fall season. With family-friendly walking paths, the Woodchip Road offers a great spot to see the fall leaves for both young and old.
Kama-ike (Kama Pond)
Nestled in the Amakazari mountain area, Kama-ike is a little further afield but is one the Hakuba Valley’s best-kept Autumn secrets. Take a short hike around the pond and you’ll be rewarded with some of the best Fall leaves the area has to offer times two, as the view is perfectly reflected in the water. Afterward, treat yourself to lunch in the nearby Nakatsuchi restaurant, which boasts truly mouthwatering soba.
Autumn Leaves in Hakuba Map
Now is the time to come to Hakuba and see the valley decked out in all its Fall finery. From mountain meadows to fiery red forests, there’s no better place to celebrate the changing of the seasons!
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