As we in Australia are enjoying spring and looking to a long hot summer, those in the northern hemisphere are preparing for the opposite. In Japan, the Obon Festivals of summer are well and truly over, the country has survived another typhoon season and now, cool and gusty northwesterly winds begin to blow, heralding autumn and the inevitable return of winter.
When most people think of Japan, they think of the enchanting cherry blossoms of spring and while these hold a deep cultural significance, the autumn colour season (kouyou) is equally as impressive and just as important culturally.
In a country full of quirks, weather forecasts are no exception and in Japan, forecasting includes cherry blossoms and autumn leaves. The Japan Meteorological Corporation (a private weather provider not to be confused with the government agency Japan Meteorological Authority), has recently updated its Autumn Foliage Forecast. This forecast aims to give tourists and locals the best guidance possible for where and when the stunning autumn leaves can be viewed.
The cherry blossom season follows the progression of warmth across the country. Conversely, autumn leaves follow the progression of cold conditions across the Japanese archipelago. This starts from Hokkaido in the north and moves southwards across the country during November. Mountainous areas also tend to see autumn foliage earlier than low lying areas.
The forecast also includes two separate forecasts for two main types of trees. The traditional Japanese maple (momiji) briefly turns yellow before developing a breathtaking shade of red and is well documented in centuries of Japanese art as well as modern landscape photography. These are currently set to peak in the Tokyo area on Dec 1st , three days later than average.
Forecast Map for Japanese Maple 2023 – Japan Meteorological Corporation.
The golden yellow gingko (ichyou) trees warrant their own forecast and are expected to peak in Tokyo on November 26th, also three days later than average.
Forecast Map for Gingko 2023 – Japan Meteorological Corporation.
Jingu Gaien Gingko Avenue on Nov 19th 2022, a few days before peak colour. Packed with tourists and instagrammers in an otherwise quiet area of Tokyo (photo provided by author).
Tourism in Japan has returned to pre-pandemic levels. For anyone travelling to Japan in the next few weeks, be sure to check the forecast. Keep in mind that the autumn colour as well as the night time illuminations are very popular with local and international tourists and that big crowds can be expected. Also consider heading out of the big cities for a more peaceful experience.
An example of a Japanese Maple in the Shinjuku National Garden on Nov 27th 2022 around peak colour (photo provided by author).
© Weatherzone 2023