Koyo: Autumn Leaf Viewing in Tokyo
Koyo is the Japanese word for autumn leaves changing colors, and like Hanami in the spring, it offers a great opportunity to get out and enjoy a picnic on a fall afternoon in Tokyo. For those of you living in the Hiroo, Azabu, or Roppongi areas, there are some great options nearby where you can do just that.
Finding a beautiful display of Japan’s autumn leaves is as close as Hiroo’s backyard, so to speak. Within short walking distance of Hiroo Station is Arisugawa Park, which offers seclusion, tranquility, and many wonderful subjects for landscape photographers. While not as large as some more well-known parks in Tokyo, you will not be disappointed in making this an early stop in your koyo viewing schedule.
Access: From Hiroo Station Exit 1, head south and then turn left at the first main intersection. Follow the curve of the road and the park entrance will be a couple minutes ahead. It’s about an eight-minute walk and there is no admission fee.
More details Arisugawa Park
You are probably familiar with Yoyogi Park, which borders Shibuya and Harajuku. What you may not know is that it is a great place to view the autumn leaves. There’s the ginkgo forest with its leaves that turn a bright gold color, as well as a large collection of maple trees on the southwest side of the park that turn a more traditional red. This is a great place to pack a bento and go sit under the trees and watch the golden leaves tumble down and carpet the ground.
Access : Get off at Harajuku Station and go to the Omotesando Exit. The park is across the bridge on your right. It’s about a 15-minute trip and there is no admission fee.
More details Yoyogi Park
Imperial East Garden
The Imperial East Garden, Kookyo Higashi Gyoen in Japanese, is on the grounds of the Imperial Palace and is open to the public. Along with remnants of the Edo Castle, there are beautiful gardens with numerous varieties of trees to satisfy the most discriminating Koyo enthusiast. The park is open from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. every day except Monday and Friday with slight seasonal adjustments. Also, the last admission is 30 minutes before closing so make sure you get there with sufficient time.
Access : Get off at Otemachi Station. Go to Exit C13b and then up to street level. Turn to the left and you will be facing the moat and the Otemon Gate about half a block in front of you, which is the entrance to the garden. It’s about a 15-minute trip and there is no admission fee.
Shinjuku Park, located not far from the sprawling Shinjuku Station, is one of the largest and most popular parks in Tokyo. It has numerous landscapes that are ideal for Koyo viewing, but two of the best are the Japanese Garden on the southwest side of the park and the “Momijiyama” or Maple Mountain on the southeast side.
Access : Get off at Shinjuku-Gyouenmae Station. Go to Exit 1 and then up to street level. Turn to the right and the park entrance is one block south. It’s about a 25-minute trip and there is a fee of ￥200 for adults and ￥50 for children.
To get to the south side of the park, get off at Kokuritsu-Kyogijo Station. Go to Exit A5 and up to street level. Once you exit, go straight past the police box and then bear right under the train tracks and along the edge of the park. The Sendagaya Gate entrance to the park will be on your right after one block. It’s about a 15-minute trip.
Koyo doesn’t only happen at these three places though they are all great choices and close to home if you live in Hiroo, Azabu, or Roppongi. There are plenty of parks around Tokyo where you can see beautiful autumn colors or even head to the mountains of western Tokyo for more remote and perhaps quieter views. The leaves start to change colors in mid-to-late November and then fall by mid December so make sure to mark your koyo viewing dates on your calendar now so you don’t forget about them during the bustle of the holiday season.