7 Temples, including 1 Shrine, in Kyoto to Admire the Spectacular Fall Foliage
March 16, 2019
Despite the popularity of Japan’s beautiful cherry blossoms season, I preferred visiting the country during autumn season for the burst of rich shades of red, yellow and gold. The leaves start changing colours in Kyoto around the beginning of November, and the peak of the fall foliage is sometime between mid November, and lasts till the beginning of December. Of course, due to climate changes, the period of time might change, so please only take my advice as a rough gauge. The fall foliage in Kyoto is not to be missed, so I’ve put together a list of the ultimate seven temples and shrines in Kyoto where you can admire the autumn foliage at its best.
#1 – Tofukuji Temple
Situated in South-eastern Kyoto, Tofukuji Temple was founded in 1236 at the behest of the powerful Fujiwara clan. Its name is a combination of the names of two great temples in Nara that were also associated with the Fujiwara – Todaiji Temple and Kofukuji Temple. In autumn, locals and tourists flood the temple gardens and the Tsutenkyo Bridge to view the valley of lush maple trees. In my opinion, the autumn foliage is the most beautiful at Tofukuji Temple.
Address: 778 Honmachi 15-chōme, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0981, Japan
Opening Hours: Apr-Oct 9am to 4.30pm. Nov-Early Dec 8.30am to 4.30pm. Early Dec-Mar 9am to 4pm.
Admission Fee: Tsutenkyo Bridge and Kaisando Hall ¥400 || Hojo and gardens ¥400 yen
#2 – Daigoji Temple
A designated world heritage site, Daigoji Temple stands southeast of central Kyoto and is surrounded by the mountains. It is an important temple of the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism. There are three areas you can explore within the temple compound, but my favourite view is of the Bentendo Hall, located beside a pond at the back of the Shimo Daigo area. Late November is the most gorgeous time to visit due to the autumn colours surrounding the pond.
Address: 22 Daigohigashiojicho, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, 601-1325, Japan
Opening Hours: 1 March to first Sunday of December 9am to 5pm. From the day after the first Sunday of December to end of February 9am to 4.30pm.
Admission Fee: Please check the website for more details as the fee changes according to the seasons.
#3 – Tenryu-ji Temple
Established in 1339, this ‘Temple of the Heavenly Dragon’ can be found in the Sagano district of Kyoto. In order to finance the temple’s construction, the eminent Zen master, Muso Soseki, commissioned a vessel, known as the Tenryu-ji Ship, on a trade mission to Yuan-dynasty China. Tenryu-ji itself was ranked first of the ‘Five Zen Mountains of Kyoto’. If you’re taking a day trip to Arashiyama, remember to pop into this temple for the autumn foliage.
Address: 68 Sagatenryuji Susukinobabacho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-8385, Japan
Opening Hours: Summer 8.30am to 5.30pm. Winter 8.30am to 5pm.
Admission Fee: Please check the website for more details.
#4 – Kiyomizudera Temple
Kiyomizudera, literally translates to ‘pure water temple’, was founded in 780 on the site of the Otowa Waterfall in the hills east of Kyoto, hence its name is derived from the waterfall’s pure waters. Stepping onto the wooden stage that juts out from its main hall gives you an incredible view of the countless maple trees below that erupt in a sea of colours in autumn. You’ll also be able to take in Kyoto’s cityscape in the distance. It’s one of the most easily accessible temples in the Higashiyama district in Kyoto.
Address: 294 Tatsumicho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0862, Japan
Opening Hours: The temple opens at 6am, but the closing time changes depending on the season. During the special night viewing period, the gate is closed once at the ordinary closing time and later re-opened. Check the website for more details.
#5 – Fushimi Inari Taisha
Fushimi Inari Taisha, a significant Shinto shrine in southern Kyoto, is the most important of several thousands of shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. It is well-known for its thousands of vermilion torii gates, which straddle a network of trails behind its main buildings. You can follow the trails up the forest of the sacred Mount Inari, and a round trip takes approximately 3 hours. Some of the forested areas offer stunning autumn foliage, which make the hike very worthwhile.
Fushimi Inari Taisha
Address: 68 Fukakusa Yabunouchicho, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, 612-0882, Japan
Opening Hours: 24 hours daily
#6 – Shinnyodo Temple (Shinshōgokuraku-ji)
Established in 984 by a priest from the Enryakuji Temple, Shinnyodo is a temple of the Tendai Sect. If you prefer steering away from large crowds and exploring a temple that’s off the beaten path yet offers spectacular autumn foliage, head to Shinnyodo Temple. The colours are at their peak around late November.
Address: 82 Jodoji Shinnyocho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, 606-8414, Japan
Opening Hours: 9am to 4pm daily
Admission Fee: ¥500 (Inner Chamber and Gardens)
#7 – Kodaiji Temple
Kodaiji Temple, formally known as Kodaijusho-zenji Temple, stands on the Higashiyama mountains of eastern Kyoto. It was built in 1605 by the noblewomen Kita-no-Mandokoro in memory of her late husband, Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The temple was ravaged by a series of fires after 1789, and fortunately, all that survived of its original buildings remain in an excellent state of preservation, and have all been designated ‘Important Cultural Properties’ by the Japanese government. Besides admiring the autumn foliage in the day, you should stay for the night-time illumination which enhances the colours and gives the temple a magical vibe. The illumination is only available during autumn season.
Address: 526 Shimokawaracho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0825, Japan
Opening Hours: 9am to 5.30pm daily
Admission Fee: ¥600
There are so many other temples to visit in Kyoto, but I believe I have already gone to the ones showcasing the most breath-taking autumn foliage. Hope you’ll be awed as much as I did.