Ritsurin Garden (Photo: lilacandhoney / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Ritsurin Garden (Photo: lilacandhoney / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
- 5 min read

10 Autumn Leaf Spots Across Shikoku

Plan a visit to coincide with the fall foliage

If you haven't heard of Shikoku before, that's likely to change very quickly. This region of Japan comprises of four prefectures – Tokushima, Ehime, Kagawa, and Kochi – and it was named by Lonely Planet on their Best in Travel 2022 list. The nature-filled island makes for a fantastic destination to appreciate the best of autumn's color, and this guide covers 10 places to explore if you visit.

Kankakei Gorge

Ranked as one of the three most spectacular gorges in Japan, Kagawa's Kankakei Gorge certainly packs a punch when it comes to autumn color. One of the best ways to take it all in is via the Kankakei Ropeway, which affords visitors views of the gorge and the Seto Inland Sea at the same time.

⏰ Best time to visit: Early to late November

Otsu 168 Kankakedori, Shodoshima, Shozu District, Kagawa 761-4433

Photo: 663highland / CC BY-SA 3.0

Okuboji Temple

Okuboji Temple is the last temple on the Shikoku 88 temples pilgrimage route, and it's a place where people come and pray to rid themselves of bad luck. The grounds are home to both ginkgo and Japanese maple trees, with the vibrant yellows and deep reds adding some wonderful pops of color during the autumn season.

⏰ Best time to visit: Late October to late November

96 Tawakanwari, Sanuki City, Kagawa Prefecture 769-2306

Okuboji Temple
Okuboji Temple (Photo: kennejima / CC BY 2.0)

Ritsurin Garden

With a total area of around 75 hectares, Kagawa's Ritsurin Garden is the largest Cultural Property Garden in all of Japan. It's renowned for having some incredibly picturesque landscapes, and they become even more stunning with pops of color in the form of fall foliage. The garden typically holds an illumination event when the trees are looking their best, and you can get an idea of what to expect via this Japan Travel photo story.

⏰ Best time to visit: Mid-November until early December

1-chōme-20-16 Ritsurinchō, Takamatsu, Kagawa 760-0073

Photo: lilacandhoney / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Unpenji Temple

Part of the Shikoku Pilgrimage route, Unpenji Temple is home to plenty of natural beauty year-round. The temple is famous for its hydrangeas in early summer, and is often referred to as the temple in the clouds as it sits 911 meters above sea level. During autumn, around 300 maple trees add some vibrant seasonal color as you can see in the photo below.

⏰ Best time to visit: Late October to mid-November

Norochi-763 Ikedacho Hakuchi, Miyoshi, Tokushima 778-5251

The grounds of Unpenji
The grounds of Unpenji (Photo: Dokudami / CC BY-SA 4.0)

Konose Gorge

Fearuting on the list of Tokushima Prefecture's top 100 sightseeing spots, Konose Gorge is regarded as one of the best places in Shikoku to enjoy blazing red maple leaves. The V-shaped valley is surrounded by large limestone rocks, adding a charming ruggedness to your fall foliage experience.

⏰ Best time to visit: Late October to late November

Taira Kitokitagawa, Naka, Naka District, Tokushima 771-6512

Early signs of autumn at Konose Gorge
Early signs of autumn at Konose Gorge (Photo: r18 INO / CC BY 3.0)

Hashikura Temple

Originally built in 828, the grounds of Hashikura Temple contain several buildings which have been designated as Important Cultural Properties. The temple is known as a beautiful sakura spot during the spring months, but autumn delivers plenty of seasonal beauty as well. Part of the appeal here is that the changing leaves can be enjoyed for a long period of time, thanks to the elevation difference between the Niomon gate to the main shrine building.

⏰ Best time to visit: Late October to mid-November

Kuratani-1006 Ikedacho Shuzu, Miyoshi, Tokushima 778-0020

The grounds of Hashikura Temple during autumn
The grounds of Hashikura Temple during autumn (Photo: Dokudami / CC BY-SA 4.0)

Kotohira Shrine

Kotohira Shrine packs a whopping 800 maple trees and 100 ginkgo trees onto its precincts, ensuring there is plenty of autumnal color for visitors to enjoy. On the approach to the shrine there are various souvenir stores and restaurants, including a number of them which specialize in udon noodles – they're one of Kagawa's best known dishes.

⏰ Best time to visit: Mid-October to mid-November

892-1, Kotohira, Nakatado District, Kagawa 766-8501

Kotohira Shrine
Kotohira Shrine (Photo: juson.tw / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Matsuyama Castle

As one of Japan's 12 remaining original castles, Ehime's Matsuyama Castle is a must-visit for culture vultures and history buffs. It's located in the heart of Matsuyama City, and provides some spectacular views out over the Matsuyama Plain and the Seto Inland Sea. During autumn, visitors can enjoy autumn foliage at the Honmaru Square at the castle's summit, plus at the Ninomaru Historical Garden on the hillside.

⏰ Best time to visit: Late November to early December

1 Marunouchi, Matsuyama, Ehime 790-0008

Matsuyama Castle during fall
Matsuyama Castle during fall (Photo: Takeo Kunishima / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Iya Valley

One of Japan's best examples of secluded nature, the Iya Valley is a place where autumn foliage just pops. Set against the emerald green waters of the Iya River, the myriad of colors is nothing short of breathtaking. If you intend to plan a stay in the area, Hotel Kazurabashi is one accommodation option to check out.

⏰ Best time to visit: Mid to late November

33-1 Nishiiyayamamura Zentoku, Miyoshi, Tokushima 778-0102

Photo: KimonBerlin / CC BY-SA 2.0

Nishiyama Koryu-ji Temple

Affectionately referred to as the momiji temple, Nishiyama Koryu-ji has around 300 maple trees across its grounds. Located at the eastern foot of the Takanawa mountain range, part of the temple's beauty lies in how enhances the surrounding scenery. Because of how picturesque the temple is during autumn, photographers from across the country are known to flock here when the leaves are at their peak.

⏰ Best time to visit: Mid-November to early December

1657 Saijo, Ehime 791-0505

Nishiyama Koryu-ji Temple
Nishiyama Koryu-ji Temple (Photo: Dokudami / CC BY-SA 4.0)
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