Where to Find Autumn Leaves in Tokyo (2020) | Maple & Ginkgo

From about mid November to first week of December, the autumn reds, oranges, and yellows color the city of Tokyo. There are many places you can find autumn foliage, and this isn't the first time I've introduced locations. After moving permanently to Tokyo this year, we finished quarantine just in time for the autumn leaves to start, and I researched a lot of new places I've never been before to visit. 

How I found these locations: I searched for autumn foliage forecasts in Japanese and browse through all of the spots in and around Tokyo. Here are two example websites that give really good real-time updates on how the leaves are looking (from still green, time to see, to leaves falling etc): site 1, site 2. After I pick a few places I'd like to go, I'll evaluate the distance from me on google maps. I'll then also go onto Instagram to see example photos and geo-tagged locations of exactly where to spot the autumn leaves. 

A lot of these places within Tokyo are very popular, so we usually arrive just before opening to avoid the crowds. I know it's not possible for everyone, however if you are able to, I would suggest to do weekday visits to the super popular locations such as Showa Kinen Park or Mt. Takao. 

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden 新宿御苑
  • Location: Shinjuku Gyoenmae or Shinjuku Sanchome Station
  • Hours: 9am ~ 4pm
  • Entry fee: ¥500 adults, Children under 15 ¥0
  • Suggested time required: 1hr ~
  • Stroller friendly: yes
  • What to see: Maple and Ginkgo
  • Tips: bring a blanket and picnic basket, grab a garden map guide at the entrance
This is a perfect place for couples or families to do a weekend picnic at. The garden features a wide variety of flora and is a huge 144 acres. If you are looking for Ginkgo (Maidenhair tree) and Maple, after entering from the Shinjuku Gate, go straight for the East side of the garden and then work your way south. The last photo below shows the spots I took photos circled in red. 

Jingu Gaien 神宮外苑
  • Location: Gaiemmae Station
  • Hours: 24hrs
  • Entry: FREE
  • Suggested time required: 30min
  • Stroller friendly: yes
  • What to see: Ginkgo
  • Tips: bring breakfast or a snack and sit on one of the benches. There's also a Shake Shack you can get some food from! 

Koishikawa Korakuen 小石川後楽園
  • Location: Korakuen Station, Suidobashi Station
  • Hours: 9am – 5pm
  • Entry: ¥300, FREE for children
  • Suggested time required: 30min ~ 1hr
  • Stroller friendly: kind of (Rocky/sandy ground with steps)
  • What to see: Maple, traditional Japanese garden
  • Tip: If your child doesn't know how to walk well yet, bring a carrier just in case as using a stroller inside will be difficult and will limit you to certain locations. 
There's only one entrance to the garden, so if you get off at Korakuen Station for example you'll need to circle around the south side of the garden before getting to the entrance. After you enter, you can leave your stroller right by the ticketing booth if you have one, and going in start from the left hand side, that's where the red bridge and beautiful maple by the water is. After that, follow the path in a clockwise direction to see the rest of the park, you'll pass by a small waterfall as well as a traditional hut, and ending with a direct view of the garden by the large pond. If you stroll leisurely, you can easily spend half the morning here enjoying the view. The steps aren't too big so they won't be challenging for the little ones who know how to walk. 

Link to detailed English map here

Mejiro Gardens 豊島区立目白庭園
  • Location: Mejiro Station (JR Yamanote Line, close to Ikebukuro)
  • Hours: 9am – 5pm, night time light up 17:30 - 21:00 (only Nov 21 ~ 29)
  • Entry: FREE for day time, night time light up ¥300 for adults
  • Suggested time required: 15-20min
  • Stroller friendly: no
  • What to see: Maple, traditional Japanese garden
The light up period is very short and each year will have a different schedule so do search it on google before going. When you get to the Garden, if it's near night time opening at 17:30, approach the staff at the front who is handing out number tickets, this is just the order in which you are allowed in. They will let people in 10 at a time. 

The garden is mostly rock or stone steps and stairs so a stroller is definitely a no-go. Park it outside the entrance on the street to the left where there's space for bikes. Use a carrier if bringing a small child who cannot walk well yet. I actually wore my son even though he does walk, I didn't want to risk him slipping and falling into the pond in the middle. 

The garden just a short circular walkway surrounding a small pond, so it doesn't take long to go all the way around, but the light up is incredible and surreal. I shot the photos with my Huawei P30 Pro Camera and didn't edit it much, so what you see below is pretty much the photos as is. 

Showa Kinen Park 昭和記念公園
  • Location: JR Nishi Tachikawa Station
  • Hours: 9:30am ~ 16:30 for day visits, 16:30 ~ 21:00 for night light up (Nov 3 ~ Nov 29 only)
  • Entry: ¥450 for adults, FREE for kids, Japanese garden entry ¥1,000
  • Suggested time required: 1 ~ 2hrs
  • Stroller friendly: yes
  • What to see: Ginkgo, Maple, traditional Japanese garden
This is one of the most popular places to see Ginkgo trees in Tokyo area, so you'll find it pretty packed if you go there even 1hr past opening time. A lot of Japanese family will spend the whole day here with picnic gear, flying kites, and even doing BBQ (there is a BBQ pit area in the park). 

To get to the famous picturesque line up of Ginkgo trees, use the Nishi Tachikawa entrance and heads towards the left to find it. I've uploaded a photo below. We made the mistake of using the entrance on the bottom right corner which means a loooong walk to the Ginkgo trees (also has to do with which train station we got off at). 

There's also a Japanese garden which has a night time light up, but you do need to pay extra to get in (¥1,000)

Mt Takao 高尾山
  • Location: Takaosanguchi Station KO53 (Keio Line from Shinjuku Station)Hours: No entry restrictions on the mountain, however the Cable Car and Chair lift operate from 8:00am ~ 17:15 or 18:30 depending on time of year.
  • Entry: FREE entry, cable car and chair lift cost ¥490 one way or ¥950 round trip. Children under 3yo ¥0
  • Suggested time required: 3hrs at least
  • Stroller friendly: no
  • What to see: maple, temple, Mt. Fuji
I will be blogging separately about the Mt. Takao experience as there's quite a lot to cover. In short, the base of the mountain is about a 1hr train ride west on the Keio Line from Shinjuku Station. Once you get out the Takaosanguchi station, grab a pocket map because you'll need it to navigate the many options to get up the mountain. There are 7 hiking trails in total. 

To cut the hike short you can use the cable car and/or chair lift up and down the mountain. I used the chair lift up and the cable car down. One thing to note is that the chair lift does not have safety guard rails in front of the swing, so it's just open the whole way up. I don't know what I was thinking taking a 1.6yo toddler on the chairlift but the staff said it was ok. Thankfully he didn't try to jump off. There's nets to catch you below but the highest drop was a good 3 meters. 

The easiest and most picturesque hike is trail 1, which is the path most people take. You'll hike through the Yukuo-in temple (several flights of stairs). From the top of the cable car/chair lift station to Yakuo-in Temple is a 20min hike, from the temple to the peak is another 20min hike. There's restrooms and food stalls along the way as well as the peak! The best thing is, on a sunny day you can see Mount Fuji from the top of Mt. Takao! 

Link to the schedule and pricing of chair lift and cable car: 

Sensoji 浅草寺
While Sensoji Temple isn't listed as an autumn leaves location, they do have one beautiful Ginkgo tree right beside the Pagoda. You can go as early as 6am, but anytime before the shops open at 10am will be low-crowds. 

Previously I already blogged about 3 other autumn leaves locations in Tokyo. You can check out more details in my blog post here

Follow me on instagram @ariel.land for more stories 

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