Sep. 14 2017

When Autumn Comes Around


In Japan, there’s a common saying when autumn comes around, “geijutsu no aki”(芸術の秋), meaning “autumn is for art”. As the humidity drops and the leaves are dyed with vibrant reds and yellows, people get into the artistic mood, and many arts festivals are held during this time. In fact, haikus, which traditionally describe the passing seasons are very popular in autumn.

It is easy to see why, as the entire nation is swept with such a wide color palette, the sentimental, nostalgia often gets the better with us. One particular factor is kouyou (紅葉) or specifically the Autumn leaves.

Here in Hokkaido, the season begins from mid-September to the end of October and is the earliest place to enjoy kouyou in Japan. Depending where you are, you can see the famous bright yellow Gingko Avenue in Sapporo, or enjoy the cliffside foliage at Jozankei onsen. The trees to watch are for are the momiji (Maple), icho (ginkgo), nanakamado (Japanese Rowan), and the karamatsu (Japanese Larch).


There are around 7 spots famous for kouyou, spanning from Shiretoko National Park in the east to Hakodate Park in the southwest. For 2017, the forecast has been released:

Starting from the right:

  • Shiretoko: 10/16
  • Akan Lake Onsen: 10/14
  • Daisetsuzan: 9/17
  • Jozankei: 10/14
  • Hoheikyo Dam: 10/14
  • Onuma: 10/24
  • Hakodate: 11/2

Other popular destinations include Noboribetsu, which is famous for its natural volcanic hot springs and sulfuric onsen, and Lake Shikotsu the second deepest lake and second largest caldera lake in Japan.

If you’re in Sapporo, you can take the enjoy the scenery from a gondola at Sapporo Kokusai, which is holding its annual akimatsuri (秋祭り, Autumn Festival) from September 23rd to October 15th.

Of course, food is also a crucial point in enjoying season, such as sanma (pacific saury), kuri (Japanese chestnuts), kaki (persimmon), or yakiimo (grilled sweet potato) and, of course, fresh seafood.

If you are into Japanese rice wine (sake) make sure to get your hands on some Hiyaoroshi or Akiagari sake, a special kind of sake that is only available in autumn, so try asking for some when you’re out for drinks.

Dokusho no aki (autumn for reading) and shokuyoku no aki (autumn for eating), are some other ways people mark the coming of autumn. How do you spend autumn? What is your aki?

More info:

  • Autumn leaves prediction 2017 (Japanese):
  • When do trees turn color:
  • What trees turn colors:
  • Sapporo Kokusai Aki Matsuri (Japanese):

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