Let’s Explore Japan: Autumn in Kyoto

Autumn leaf viewing

Autumn is a fantastic season to head to Japan’s former capital, as the rainy and humid weather makes way for clear skies and stunning autumn foliage starts to bloom. Similar to cherry blossom viewing season in spring, autumn is a popular time to explore the parks, gardens and temples of Kyoto to appreciate the colourful autumn leaves (koyo).

Kiyomizu-dera temple is top of our list for a spot of leaf viewing, where the temples grounds are filled with foliage and ablaze with vibrant autumnal colours. But with over 1600 temples you’ll be sure to find plenty more to explore!

Onsen (hot springs) are another major Kyoto attraction, and autumn is a prime time for bathing outdoors. The city is filled with traditional ryokan (traditional Japanese inn lodgings) where you can enjoy a seasonal kaiseki-ryori (multi-course) meal, before retiring to your comfortable room after a hard day’s sightseeing.

Cooler weather is also the perfect excuse to head to one of Kyoto’s many interesting and unique museums. Whether you’re interested in art, history, archaeology or pop culture, there’s something for everyone!

With so much to do in Kyoto (and beyond) purchasing a JR Rail Pass before you visit Japan is a cost effective way to explore, especially if you’re travelling to and from Tokyo. The pass will also save you bags of time – which you’ll definitely want to spend soaking up the autumnal atmosphere in Kyoto.


Kyoto for foodies

Kyoto is known for regional specialities such as traditional Japanese confectionary (wagashi) delicious locally brewed sake, Kyoto-grown green tea and tasty artisan pickles and preserves.


Wagashi sweets are made by a skilled artisan who will use the season and occasion to inspire their intricate designs. With their subtle sweetness, wagashi are served during tea ceremonies to offset the bitterness of the matcha.

During autumn, confectionary shops or tea rooms may serve wagashi in autumnal designs such as maple leaves, and use seasonal ingredients such as chestnut. Explore the art of Japanese confectionary by reading this beautifully illustrated book.


Japanese sake is a beverage that can vary massively in flavour, mouth-feel and quality depending on the brewing techniques used, the purity of the rice, and the location in which the ingredients have been sourced. Kyoto produces large amounts of high quality boutique sake, and Japan Centre has a fantastic variety of these sake available.

Try a delicious sake from Gekkeikan Sake Company. Founded in Fushimi, Kyoto, Gekkeikan is one of the world’s oldest companies (founded in 1637) and their sake offerings include sweet nigori, or ‘cloudy’, brews; drier, sharper flavoured premium daiginjo brews; and sparkling sake.

Pickles and Seasoning

Pickling, although originally a way to prevent fresh produce from spoiling, has long been recognised as a way to lock in and emphasise the best flavours of the produce. The local cuisine of Kyoto is particularly well known for using simple cooking methods and minimal seasoning to bring out the natural flavour of the amazing local produce.  

Why not try shibazuke mixed vegetable pickles, a speciality of Kyoto, combining the sour sweetness typical in Japanese tsukemono pickles with the strong herbal aroma and flavour of purple perilla.

Kyoto is home to Japan’s most specialised tea growing regions, the most famous of which being Uji; one of the first places in Japan to start cultivating Japanese green tea and home to arguably the finest green tea in the country today. Japan Centre has a large selection of green teas, from deliciously fresh sencha to vibrant green matcha, which can be whisked into frothy lattes with milk.

Have you visited Kyoto during autumn leaf season? We’d love to hear about your experience! Leave a comment below and tell us some of the foods or experiences you would like to try the most.

Enjoy all this and more by shopping in-store at Japan Centre Leicester Square, Westfield London and Westfield Stratford City. Alternatively you can get fresh produce delivered straight to your door by shopping online at the Japan Centre website.

Image credits

Kiyomizu temple: Emi Lan. https://flic.kr/p/PochVz
Autumn leaves: bethom33. https://flic.kr/p/qbpwA4
Wagashi: Kanesure: https://flic.kr/p/2khcyxJ
Onsen by Raita Futo. Flickr Creative Commons