From November to December every year, it is maple season in Kansai and also the most beautiful season in Kyoto. The combination of red maple leaves, historic sites and Zen-style courtyards. Here are 10 unique places for you to enjoy the sight of maple trees.
- Arashiyama: Viewing Red Maples among The Mountains on A Boat
- Kiyomizu-dera Temple: The Oldest Temple in Kyoto
- Jojakko-ji Temple: Colorful Maple Experience
- Kodai-ji Zen Temple: See The Reflection of Maple Leaves in The Pond
- Tō-ji Temple, Kyoto: No.1 Ancient Pagoda in Japan with Maple Trees
- Shōren-in: Elegant Courtyard with A Mighty Maple Vie
- Nanzen-ji Temple: Maple Leaves Look Even More Beautiful with A Zen Atmosphere
- Ryoan-ji Temple: Enjoying Maple Trees in A Japanese Rock Garden
- Tenryu-ji Temple: The Place where Emperor Daigo became A Monk
Arashiyama: Viewing Red Maples among The Mountains on A Boat
Arashiyama has the reputation of being "the best scenic spot in Kyoto". It is a popular tourist spot in Kyoto to see Cherry Blossoms in spring and maple trees in fall. Normally, Arashiyama’s maple season is in November. Zhou Enlai, who studied in Japan in his early years, wrote a poem named "Arashiyama in the Rain" when he visited Arashiyama. Arashiyama is located on the outskirts of Kyoto. It takes about 15 minutes to get there by JR from Kyoto Station. The Arashiyama scenic area is very big. Usually, you can start with the Sagano Romantic Train or Hozu-gawa River Boat Ride to visit the temples, bamboo forest, and Tenryū-ji Temple in Sagano. You can go all the way south to Togetsukyou Bridge, Arashiyama Park, Nakanoshima Park and other places. I recommend you spend a whole day on this route.
Kiyomizu-dera Temple: The Oldest Temple in Kyoto
Kiyomizu-dera Temple is the name card of Kyoto. It is the oldest temple in Kyoto which was built in 798 A.D. and is mainly dedicated to the Thousand-hand Bodhisattva. Kiyomizu-dera Temple is beautiful all year round, and the Cherry Blossom season and maple season are the most special time. In Cherry Blossom season, you can enjoy the beautiful trees at night in Kiyomizu-dera Temple. In maple season, it is one of the best viewing spots. In Kiyomizu-dera Temple, there is also a shrine for marriage. In addition, it is very close to Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka which you can also go have a look at. There are many stores near Kiyomizu-dera Temple that provide one-day kimono experiences, such as Kimono Rental Pioneer Okamoto. You can wear kimonos to take beautiful photos in Kiyomizu-dera Temple.
Jojakko-ji Temple: Colorful Maple Experience
Jojakko-ji Temple is the temple of Lotus Sutra, the main sect of Japanese Buddhism. The temple built on the mountain is famous for its maples and pagodas on the hillside. Jojakko-ji Temple is located in Arashiyama, about 20 minutes' drive from the urban area of Kyoto. When visiting the temple, you can also go check other landscapes around Arashiyama. During the maple season, there are red maple leaves and yellow Ginkgo leaves, while pines and cypresses are still green. Visitors will all be impressed by the colorful view. If you climb up on a mountain and overlook the area, there are pagodas, mountains and rivers. Wherever you look there is beautiful scenery.
Kodai-ji Zen Temple: See The Reflection of Maple Leaves in The Pond
Kodai-ji Zen Temple was built in 1605 by Nene, wife of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, in memory of her husband. . In addition to the spectacular temple hall, Kodai-ji Zen Temple is also famous for its small bamboo forest and strolling-style landscape garden with the Shiguretei Tea House designed by a famous designer at that time. As a famous place to see maple trees, the biggest feature of Kodai-ji Zen Temple is the reflection of maple leaves in a pond which acts like a mirror. In addition, since paper umbrellas are also a sacred thing in Kodai-ji Zen Temple, you can also see paper umbrellas being placed in the bamboo forest with lights on at the same time, which is very beautiful.
Tō-ji Temple, Kyoto: No.1 Ancient Pagoda in Japan with Maple Trees
Tō-ji Temple, also known as "Kyo-o-gokoku-ji", was founded in 794 A.D. and is a national cultural heritage site of great importance. It used to be the residence of Kūkai, the man who brought Buddhism into Japan. In 823 A.D., Tō-ji Temple was given to Kūkai, and became a place for Shingon Buddhists to hold events. The Five Story Pagoda in the temple is 56.4 meters high. It was rebuilt in 1644 by Tokugawa Iemitsu. It is regarded as the highest pagoda (ancient pagoda) in Japan and the symbol of Kyoto. The treasure house of Tō-ji Temple holds two special exhibitions in spring and fall every year. You can see many Buddhist collections, and it is also a famous place for seeing Cherry Blossoms and maple leaves.
Shōren-in: Elegant Courtyard with A Mighty Maple Vie
Shōren-in is one of the three temples of the Tiantai Faction. The other two are Sanzen-in and Myōhō-in. In 1788, it was used as a temporary imperial palace after the great fire in Kyoto, so it is also known as Awata Palace. The courtyard in Shōren-in is known for its elegant scenery. It is a famous place to see maple trees. It is also famous for its "special night visit" events held every fall. During Shōren-in’s special night visit events, the yard is full of long blue light. The night is full of quiet and has a peaceful atmosphere. It feels like going back to the Kamakura Era.
Nanzen-ji Temple: Maple Leaves Look Even More Beautiful with A Zen Atmosphere
Nanzen-ji Temple is the first Zen temple built by the royal family, so it ranks above Kyōtogozan in Kyoto. It is also the highest temple in Japan. The red leaves and black eaves paint a traditional painting. Nanzen-ji Temple is also famous for its maple garden, one of which is a scenic garden with rocks and a spring pool. It is a great place for appreciating maple trees.
Ryoan-ji Temple: Enjoying Maple Trees in A Japanese Rock Garden
Ryoan-ji Temple is a Buddhist temple. Whether it is a stone garden or a chōzubachi, they all preach Buddhist principles. The stone garden here is an absolute masterpiece of Japanese rock gardens. White stones represent the ocean, other stones represent islands, moss represents forests. There are fifteen rocks in the stone garden. No matter from which angle you stand, there will always be a stone that’s blocked. Only when walking can you see the whole picture of the stone garden. Ryoan-ji Temple is also a famous place for viewing maple trees, and it doesn’t have as many tourists as other popular scenic spots. By avoiding the crowds, you can enjoy the quiet Zen of Kyoto here.
Tenryu-ji Temple: The Place where Emperor Daigo became A Monk
Tenryu-ji Temple is a must-visit temple in Arashiyama. Passing through the famous Togetsukyou Bridge, it is the famous Tenryu-ji Temple where Emperor Daigo became a monk (it is said that he’s Ikkyū’s father). There is also the Hachiman Shrine inside. After buying a ticket, you can go inside to visit. They are all tatami rooms. There are also portraits of the founder of Tenryu-ji Temple. Arashiyama is about 20 minutes from the urban area of Kyoto. You can visit Tenryu-ji Temple and other scenic spots of Arashiyama in one go. Tenryu-ji Temple’s layout is broad, with pavilions, pagodas, gardens and plants. The courtyard under the corridor is beautiful. The Cherry Blossoms look very beautiful here in spring. April is the best time for the flowers to bloom in Tenryu-ji Temple, and November is a good time to see maple trees in the courtyard.