Autumn is one of the best times of the year for scenic travel and fun. Enjoying the changing leaves doesn’t have to entail a long bullet train ride and an expensive hotel stay.
These four autumn outings are sure to satisfy your autumn wanderlust without breaking the bank or taking up your whole weekend.

Enjoy Golden Ginkgo Trees in Tachikawa’s Showa Kinen Park

If you haven’t made your way to Tachikawa’s Showa Kinen Park (昭和記念公園), consider visiting during autumn! Located right outside Nishi Tachikawa Station, the expansive park hosts an impressive number of themed gardens catered to each season and blooming period. During autumn, some viewing highlights include red spider lilies, maple trees, cosmos, dahlia, and ginkgo trees.

The most popular location for viewing autumn leaves or kōyō (紅葉) within the park is located in the “Canal,” which bears an impressive 200-meter-long stretch of golden ginkgo trees planted on either side of a breathtaking waterway and fountain. Another point of interest is the beloved 300-meter-long tunnel of ginkgo trees about a 7-minute walk from Nishi Tachikawa Gate or a 23-minute walk from Tachikawa Gate.

Showa Kinen Park has many other amenities, including a dog run, cafe, lakeside restaurant, bicycle path, rentals, plus so much more! Refer to Showa Kinen Park’s official website for access and further information.

Boat Tours, Stunning Rock Formations, and Autumn Leaves in Saitama

If it’s time to take a break from the chaotic crowds of the city, a day trip to Chichibu might be the perfect option. Located in western Saitama, surrounded by lush mountains, changing leaves, and rich culture, Chichibu is one of those hidden gems that pulls tourists back year after year.

On my last visit to Chichibu, I was most excited about the rock formations that surrounded the Arakawa River in the Nagatoro Valley (長瀞渓谷). These rock formations are called “Iwadatami,” because they resemble rock versions of layered tatami mats. Nagatoro is often called the “birthplace of geology” and it’s no wonder why! Iwadatami is truly an incredible site to explore.

Nagatoro has quite a few activities to enjoy especially during autumn! These include camping, apple picking, and for the more daring, river rafting! If rafting is not quite your speed, leisurely riverboat tours are also offered. These tours are especially recommended for viewing the autumn leaves. For more information on travel and fun in Chichibu and Nagatoro, please visit Chichibu’s tourism website.

Take a Scenic Hike and Relax on the Summit of Mt. Takao

If a more active outing is on your radar, a trip to Mt. Takao is a great way to enjoy autumn leaves while breaking a sweat! If you haven’t made it all the way out to West Tokyo yet, this is a great opportunity since it’s only a 50-minute trek from Shinjuku by train. Based in Hachioji and with an altitude of 599 meters, Mt. Takao is ideal for those wanting an immersive encounter with nature.

Depending on your mood, you can either challenge yourself with the 90-minute hike up to the peak or cut your trek in half by taking the ropeway through most of the mountain. Whichever way you choose, this scenic hike will be even more beautiful surrounded by the changing autumn leaves. For souvenirs and food, the base of the mountain has a charming shopping area with markets, restaurants, and sweets. On the way up to the peak, you’ll find the beer garden “Beer Mount,” a monkey park and wild plant garden, as well as Mt. Takao’s mountain shrine, Yakuo-in.

For information on hiking trails, access, and more highlights around Takao, refer to this website here, and happy hiking!

Nestle into Nikko’s Rich Culture and Scenery

One of my first-ever trips in Japan was to Nikko in autumn! It holds a special place in my heart, especially since it was also my first-ever experience visiting a Japanese shrine! I had no idea what to expect, but the ornate Nikko Toshogu Shrine, enveloped with lavish leaves of red, green, and brown, truly made my trip memorable.

Nikko offers quite a lot of history, and it’s no surprise the area was named a World Heritage Site. Lakes, waterfalls, and hiking, all surrounded by complete nature, are some of the biggest appeals of Nikko. Besides its mesmerizing scenery, many tourists come just to see the sculptures scattered throughout Toshogu Shrine. The most famous include the exquisite carvings on Yomeimon Gate and the “Three Wise Monkeys” linked to the famous proverb “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.”

Besides the famous shrines and lavish nature, there are so many things to do in Nikko including hiking, canoeing, rafting, onsen, and even a trick art museum! For more about Nikko check out the official guide and safe travels!