Even though it’s almost Christmas, early to mid-December is actually the best time to see peak autumn colours in Tokyo and Yokohama. The colours that stand out the most in these iconic Japanese cities are the yellow ginkgo and bright red maple leaves.
There is a surprisingly small number of parks and gardens in Tokyo that hold a special autumn light-up, given that momiji time is so popular in Japan. These are two of the best gardens for celebrating autumn leaves in Tokyo:
- Rikugien Garden – a public Japanese garden which hosts a special night time light-up in late November to mid December. In 2022, the entrance fee was ¥1,000 and you had to make an online reservation in advance as they are limiting the number of visitors.
- Showa Kinen Park – a huge public park in Tachikawa which features an area with autumn colour trees which are lit up at night. We visited a few years ago and it was both crowded and quite far from Tokyo’s city centre.
We had visited Rikugien Garden a few years prior in summer time and decided to finally see its special autumn illuminations this year. Visitors could only enter this special event by pre-booking tickets on their website. We were extremely lucky that we read about this somewhere online beforehand and eventually found out how to book the tickets, as it was a hard to find the right page, even in Japanese!
As we arrived just before 6 p.m. when the garden opened its doors for the autumn light-up event, our ticket QR code was scanned and we were given a set of beautiful postcards. This was a nice surprise and we greatly appreciated having professional photos of the light-up, as it was challenging to take good photos in the dark. As you would expect in Japan, everything was very well managed and orderly with lots of staff guiding us into the right direction.
It takes about 1 hour to slowly walk the long route around the park while stopping at the special showcases and throughout there were stalls with seasonal food and drinks. At the end of the route, the tea house offered the opportunity to have a hot red bean soup with mochi while relaxing and watching a creative video projection onto an old barn.
We loved visiting Rikugien Garden – counted as one of the two great gardens of Edo – and highly recommend a visit in any season!