8 beautiful places during Autumn in and around Osaka

Katsuoji temple Minoo

An expat who lived in Japan for 6 years, I have had countless experiences and encounters while navigating the country and its culture. At many occasions, I was left humbled and bewildered at the same time. Take a sneak peek into my black box, through the Ichigo Ichie lens to witness the land… unknown… unexperienced…

Also, I want to dedicate this blog to Takayama sensei, a teacher, a friend, a larger than life human being, without whom many of my Japanese travel journeys would not have been fun and insightful. 

“Arigatou sensei. Watashi wa hanatani totemo kansha shiteimasu.”
“Thank you, dear teacher. I am very grateful to you.”

Sensei kimono night
Sensei and I having a great night out at Grand Front Osaka, the traditional way

Autumn in Japan

My first Aki (autumn or fall) experience in 2012 and many more thereafter left me awestruck. Often felt like a kid in a candy shop gaping at the riot of colours stretched as far as my eyes could see. The distant mountains, the backdrop of the temples, the rows of Momiji (maple trees) along the path I walked and the path itself, all would gleam with plush shades of the Tuscan palette. Here are some of my favourite spots in and around Osaka (where I lived) to enjoy ‘kouyou’ (autumn foliage) with a dash of ‘rakuyou’ (fallen leaves).

Japan looks chic in all the seasons. In spring, she wears elegant shades of pink and white. In summers, numerous shades of green with gorgeous colourful posey tucked neatly in her high bun is her go-to look. In autumn she flaunts her cheerful russet palette while in winter she wraps herself in a soft white mink blanket.

Pro-Tip: Best time to view Kouyou is the end of November-beginning of December. But, it is always a good idea to check the forecast on Japan Travel before planning the trip. 

Minoo Waterfall (Osaka)

A beautiful valley with mesmerising green spread during summer and hues of red and yellow in autumn.

Been to Minoo Waterfall many times but my favourite memory is of the day I hiked to the waterfall during Aki. The sun rays filtering through the mossy branches of the tall dense trees and the misty out-of-focus silhouettes of houses felt dream-like while I was catching my breath on the trail.  The sound of trickling water from the minuscule streams along the path and distant calling birds kept me enticed throughout. I also tried the maple leaf tempura snack (highly recommend) from one of the shops alongside the path; totemo oishikatta (was very delicious).

1. Part of the hike is super dense so start a bit early to experience the dreamy misty forest in autumn, especially if it has rained a day before.
2. Also, before you start the hike, buy some water, sake, lemon CC (I loveeeee it) or coffee with something to snack on to like a sandwich, onigiri and some crisps from the combini (convenient store/pop-up shop) near the station.

Katsuoji Temple (Osaka)

Katsuoji temple osaka

From the Minoo waterfall, a 4 km further hike into the forest leads to Katsuo-Ji temple, also known as the temple for winners’ luck.

Katsuoji daruma
daruma dolls at unexpected places :0

A striking presence of small vermillion coloured dolls called Daruma in the nooks and crannies of the temple can’t be missed. Each Daruma is a wish wished by someone. I too wished something (and it is a secret!). My favourite part was the short trail from the base of the temple to the top of a mountain from where I saw a mesmerising vista. It felt as if I was standing in the middle of a colossal paintball battle zone; splotches of colour everywhere.

1. If possible hike to the temple from Minoo waterfall.
2. Otherwise, a taxi (from Minoo Station) or bus service (from Senri-Chuo Station) is also possible.
3. Minoo Waterfall and Katsuoji Temple can be done on the same day.

Daisen Park (Osaka)

Daisen Park is an off-beat, loved by locals, stunning park in the city of Sakai. Recommended by my Japanese friend, I went there with her family. A short walk from Mozu station, I entered a huge green space smudged with cheerful colour all around. Walked past the Heiwa-to (tower of peace) where few Japanese folks, old and wrinkly but happy were playing Shigo (an old traditional game similar to chess but not chess as told by my friend). I waved and shouted “Tanoshi desk ka?”( Are you having fun?). They laughed.

Daisen park – looks like a painting!

ichigo ichie moment – After a relaxing stroll, we went to the Japanese garden which is one of the attractions in the park. The serene landscape artistically designed with simple elements like water, stones, lanterns, pines, autumn flowers, maple trees and bridges was a sight to behold. Sitting down overlooking the pond, feeding Koi (fish: Carp) while enjoying my hot matcha and traditional sweet from the tea house in the garden made the whole experience special, an Ichigo Ichie encounter.
Click here to view Daisen Park map.

Daisen Park Sakai
my view while sipping the hot matcha with sweet snack from the tea house

Osaka Castle (Osaka)

Osaka Castle was not very far from where I lived so it was one of my favourite picnic spots. The iconic castle surrounded by rows of marigold yellow Ginko trees was always a pretty sight to gaze on to during Aki. I would sit and admire the beauty of fallen leaves while enjoying the autumn-inspired food, sushi and onigiri with sake. Also, since it is in the heart of Osaka, the majestic structure of bygone times juxtapositioned to the new high rise buildings was interesting to me.

Osaka Castle
iconic castle

MidoSuji street and random parks (Osaka)

Most of the parks or streets, especially Midosuji, in and around Osaka have Ginko trees which meant I could enjoy the autumn beauty in my neighbourhood whenever I wished. Many times I packed or bought lunch from 7-Eleven and went to the nearby park to be with the season.

To-ji temple Kyoto

With a slight dash of cool breeze, hands wrapped around hot coffee from the nearby dispensing machine and the sight of my son going bonkers playing with fallen leaves always filled me with happiness.

Nakatsu park Osaka
beauty in my neighbourhood

Pro-Tip: Visit to the Castle and shopping on Midosuji Street can be done on same day.

Komyoji (Kyoto)

An easy day trip from Osaka, Komyoji temple in Nagaokaykyo City, Kyoto, is one of the busiest temples during autumn. I walked the designated route admiring the earthy and rustic aesthetics of the place, especially the subtle line patterns of zen gardens, contrasted with huge golden hangings along the walking path.

Komyoji temple kyoto

My precious ichigo ichie moment was when I entered Momiji-Sando. The golden yellow canopy above and the crimson red carpet below, I walked the walk of my life. If there was a place called paradise, this would be it.

Momiji Sando Komyoji
imagine walking under this beautiful canopy
Momiji sando Kyoto
colourful carpet

1. There are many temples in Japan with this name, so please pay attention to the address.
2. Bus service from Nagaokaykyo station is available during peak season.

Toji (Kyoto)

Come spring or autumn, Toji temple is beautiful. Its tranquil halls, precious artefacts and iconic pagoda give ample to gaze and wonder. 

Toji temple Kyoto

I went during Aki hence got to view some gorgeous colours in the forecourt as well as around the temple. The pagoda was a highlight for me though. I learnt that it is built using ONLY wood and no nails. Because of which it is earthquake safe but not fire. Also, each of the five roofs represents earth, water, fire, wind and space. The intricate patterns on each roof and locking mechanism of wooden pieces, holding the structure since 1643 (perhaps), is nothing less than state-of-art. Iconic, right?

Pro-Tip: Komyoji temple and Toji temple can be done on the same day either by train (~ 1 hour) or taxi (~30 minutes).

Arashiyama (Kyoto)

It was sunny but freezing cold as I stood with my husband at the forecourt of Sogenchi garden in Tenryuji temple admiring the Momiji on the distant mountains as well as in the serene landscape of the garden. In between the pauses from the conversations, I could hear the wind blowing and bird calling as dusk fell upon us.

Arashiyama Sogenchi garden
my view while chit-chatting with my better half

ichigo ichie moment – The highlight for me was the dinner at Yodofu Sagano, an unbelievable dining experience with varieties of food made from Tofu ONLY. The tatami cabin where I sat, the way food was presented and served, everything about it was unique. It was an Ichigo Ichie encounter I crave for till date. Highly recommend.

What if I told you that night illumination during autumn is a thing in Japan!

After a sumptuous meal, I went to Hōgon-in, a quaint temple popular for statues and its garden. The night display was thoughtfully and artistically designed in order to accentuate the autumn charm. It was beautuuuuuuutiful. Loved it!

1. Reserve 1 full day for this full of life and relaxing district.
2. Board a train till Umahori Station(JR) and from there walk to Kameoka Torokko Station. Buy a one-way ticket for Sagano Romantic Train. Enjoy the ride. Get down at Arashiyama Torokko Station and walk through the bamboo forest and other nearby attractions. 

Sagano Arashiyama station

Click here to find more tourists spots in around the district.
Click here to find access details to Sagano Romantic Train from various locations in Japan.

Sagano train
Sagano romantic train

Insiders’ Travel Tips

Here are some great tips on which, when, where and how in Japan:

  1. Depending upon the start and destination point, check on google maps the best station (and platform) to board the train from.
  2. Then use Hyperdia website to get updated and exact train timetables and travel routes. It also provides ticket cost, travel time and reservation cost (if you are reserving your seat)
  3. Click here to get a rough idea about the various train lines in Japan as well as other means of transportation. This is not-to-be-overwhelmed but good-to-know information.
    I had been using the train system extensively in Japan as they are easier, faster, reliable and always on-time (with few exceptions).
  4. Travel by car is possible but during peak season, parking can be challenging.
  5. Pay good attention to the names of Entry (Iriguchi) and Exit (Deguchi) of the station. For example, in JR Osaka Station there are many entries and exits. For Osaka Castle and Daisen Park, you will need to enter Sakurabashi gate to reach the correct platform.
  6. Pay good attention to the name of the train. For example, there are rapids, local, limited express, express and few more.
  7. To plan your trip in any season, Japan Guide is a good place to start
  8. Another great website to plan your itinerary at any time of the year is Japan Travel

We hope this blog will save your time in planning so that you can enjoy many Ichigo Ichie moments while in Japan. Do drop by to share your moments with us, we will be thrilled.

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