Spring is big news in Japan. The cherry blossoms are hotly anticipated, and when they hit, the country goes into party mode, with hanami celebrations blooming wherever you find blossoms. You'll see sakura-inspired, or even infused, cake, beer and bentos. If you're visiting Japan during cherry blossom season, you'll also find that everything is a lot busier and can be more expensive.
The alternative is autumn, and it's beautiful. Much like the cherry tree blossom forecasts, each year people in Japan eagerly anticipate koyo, or autumn colours.
If you're headed to Japan from late September to early November, your best best is to plan a country escape, to make sure you see some of the beautiful leaves. Going to the mountains or the countryside to see the leaves has the wonderful name of momijigari. Don't forget to round out your trip by visiting onsens and temples close to where you're going (shout out to our favourite onsen guide book).
From mid to late November, you'll see the colours bursting through the cities, in parks and temple grounds. Our favourite spots in Tokyo include the garden of the small-but-perfectly-formed Nezu Museum and Shinjuku Gyoen.
Popular koyo spots can get really busy. Make sure you plan accordingly, a weekday visit if possible, or maybe an early morning. We were lucky enough to catch koyo at Kyoto's Saihōji Temple, which limits the number of visitors who can be in the garden. Here's how to apply to go.