Momijigari - When to Enjoy Niseko's Autumnal Colours
One of the most visually stunning times of year to visit Japan is the period where leaves transition from their summer greens into dazzling autumnal foliage. The exciting feeling that Momijigari season and the change it inevitably brings is coming is almost palpable; and when it does arrive, the contrast is absolutely breathtaking.
Unlike the spring, where the bloom of sakura (cherry blossom) begins in the warmer southern areas of Japan and then moves north; Japan’s autumnal turn begins in Hokkaido — the milder, northernmost part of country — before gradually moving down towards warmer areas like Kanto’s Tokyo, or Kansai’s Osaka.
Japanese Momijigari Season Forecast, 2017 - Image credit © weathernews.jp
In much the same fashion as the local fascination and coverage of the Hanami season, the colours of autumn are eagerly anticipated, with fall forecasts reported across the country on tv and weather shows, websites (such as the popular weathernews.jp), and published in newspapers and local guides.
The location and timing of the turn relies on a lot of factors, from the temperature and humidity of an area to the volume of trees and plantlife, and even the elevation. As a result, it’s possible to narrow down in advance (with good accuracy) when and where the best spots for enjoying nature’s display will be.
Examples of local viewing spots
In 2017, the best time to view the incredible autumnal colours in Niseko and its surrounding areas will be at the tail-end of September, peaking in early-to-mid October.
Hokkaido Momijigari Season Forecast, 2017 - Image credit © weathernews.jp
Niseko Panorama line
Driving on the Panorama Line is a truly unique pleasure that brings together the joy of Hokkaido's mountain roads with a glorious backdrop of fall colours — and for this reason it is one of domestic travellers' favourite pastimes. Enjoy the 60 minute journey from Niseko to coastal Iwanai while taking in sights of mountains, the sea of Japan, and picture-perfect landscapes.
The road’s highest point lies in the Chisenupuri Pass (partway between Kyowa and Rankoshi) with many beautiful destinations to visit as you ebb and flow along Route 66’s gentle winding roads.
The starting point for a variety of nature hikes and one of the Panorama line’s many convenient pit-stops, the Shinsen numa marshes and wetlands provide an eclectic canvas of colour, wildlife, and plantlife unseen in the winter months.
Lake Toya (Toyako)
Just a short drive away from the Niseko area, Lake Toya lies on the opposite side of Mount Yotei. During the autumn months, Toya is framed by rolling forests of vivid colours by day, with daily firework displays of equally impressive colours reflecting off the rippling surface by night.
Lake Shikotsu (Shikotsuko)
Located in the Shikotsu-Toya National Park and well-known for its abundant red salmon and lined by 4 separate volcanoes, a journey to Lake Shikotsu is well worth the trip.
As Japan’s second deepest and the nation’s northernmost ice-free lake, Shikotsu makes for perfect viewing of crystal clear water surrounded by contrasting colours of nature, well into the colder months.
Blanketed in white in the winter, pulsing with colourful blossom in the spring, awash with green in the summer, and covered in powerful reds and golds in the fall; the four distinct seasons make the local area feel like a completely different destination every few months.
With AYA Niseko sitting at its base, Annupuri is absolutely stunning in the autumn time: Set ablaze by crimson, umber and gold and providing 360 degree views of the majestic Mount Yotei and the surrounding regions, hiking Annupuri during this season has to be experienced first-hand to be believed.