Located north of Tokyo, Tochigi Prefecture is filled with spectacular nature and fascinating cultural sites. It's also a great place to catch some fall foliage, with numerous destinations showcasing the seasonal colors at their best. This guide covers five of them, but they're really just the tip of the iceberg!

Irohazaka Winding Route

If you'd like a fall foliage spot where you don't even have to leave your vehicle, the Irohazaka Winding Route has you covered. The route stretches from Nikko City to the Lake Chuzenji area, and it has almost 50 hairpin turns along the way. When the leaves are at their peak the road does get quite congested, so do bear that in mind if you're planning a visit.

National Highway 120, Hosoomachi, Nikko, Tochigi 321-1445

The Irohazaka Winding Route has almost 50 hairpin turns - and plenty of color to enjoy
The Irohazaka Winding Route has almost 50 hairpin turns - and plenty of color to enjoy (Photo: Agustin Rafael Reyes / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Ryuzu Falls

There are a number of waterfalls in Tochigi which are renowned for their fall foliage, such as the iconic Kegon Falls. About a 10 minute drive away you'll find Ryuzu Falls, which is famous for its unique "twin falls" appearance. When the autumn leaves are at their best, the falls have become a popular spot with photographers, and it's not hard to see why.

Chugushi, Nikko, Tochigi 321-1661

Ryuzu Falls is simply stunning in fall!
Ryuzu Falls is simply stunning in fall!

Lake Chuzenji

The picturesque Lake Chuzenji is located in the Nikko National Park, and it lays claim to being the prefecture's largest lake. There are a number of walking trails around the water's perimeter, and taking a stroll along them is the perfect way to enjoy the fall foliage up close. If you can't visit in autumn, the spring months are equally as impressive, with sakura trees and azalea bushes in bloom.

2478-21 Chugushi, Nikko, Tochigi 321-1661

Lake Chuzenji surrounded by autumn color
Lake Chuzenji surrounded by autumn color (Photo: Images George Rex / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Toshogu Shrine

Toshogu Shrine is dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu (the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate), and it's also one part of the Shrines and Temples of Nikko UNESCO World Heritage Site. It's a destination that is well worth a visit no matter the time of year, but during fall the shrine is home to an autumn festival which includes events like yabusame, a type of traditional archery conducted on horseback.

2301 Sannai, Nikko, Tochigi 321-1431

The grounds of Toshogu Shrine in autumn
The grounds of Toshogu Shrine in autumn (Photo: Howard Stanbury / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Bannaji Temple

Bannaji Temple is one of Ashikaga City's top attractions, and if you're in the area, autumn is the time to stop by. The pride and joy of the city is a 600-year old ginkgo tree on the grounds, which turns its trademark yellow hue during the season. The temple is also a popular spot during springtime when the cherry blossoms are in bloom.

2220 Ietomicho, Ashikaga, Tochigi, 326-0803

Bannaji Temple in Ashikaga
Bannaji Temple in Ashikaga (Photo: 京浜にけ / CC BY-SA 3.0)