Fall brings cool and generally crisp weather to many parts of the main islands of Japan. The major cities of Honshu and Kyushu (Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and Fukuoka) enjoy mild temperatures in November, with average highs of 63° F (17° C), and lows of 50° F (10° C). You'll need a jacket in most central and southern parts of the country, but nothing too heavy.
The northern island of Hokkaido is a different story, with winter setting in earlier at this latitude. Average November highs in Sapporo are just 46° F (8° C), and lows 34° F (1° C), and temperatures will be much colder further north on the island. This is still warmer than it will become in Hokkaido later in the winter, though. At the other end of the country, the sub-tropical and tropical islands of Okinawa remain quite warm but drop a few degrees from their summer highs. The average high temperature in Naha in November is 75° F (24° C), and the low 68° F (20° C).
Rainfall is low across the country in November, and average sunshine hours high. Hokkaido does get some snow in November, though.
Crowds and Costs
In many central-southern parts of the country (which includes places west/south of Tokyo, and east of Hiroshima, as well as the island of Kyushu), November is peak tourism season. Foreign visitors like to come at this time because weather conditions are good for a mix of indoor and outdoor activities. While the Japanese don't have any major holidays in November, you will find a lot of people out and about enjoying the changing colors of the leaves in parks, gardens, and temples. This is a big occasion across Japan, as the Japanese tend to love the fall leaves almost as much as the spring blossoms.
When planning travel to Japan at this time, book accommodation and long-distance travel (such as bullet trains) as far in advance as possible, preferably several months. November is a good and popular time to travel to some of Japan's most iconic destinations, such as Kyoto, Mt. Fuji, Nara, Nikko, and Hiroshima/Miyajima, so expect crowds at these places.
Where to Go
November is a great time to travel through central and southern/western Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu. Although Hokkaido and the northern Honshu region of Tohoku are not necessarily bad in November, the colder temperatures and early fall (the leaves turn in Hokkaido in October) keep many visitors away at this time.
Many visitors to Japan who are short on time stick to Tokyo and Kyoto, perhaps with brief visits to Osaka, Nikko, Nara, and/or the Fuji area. Despite being busy, November is a great time to visit these places because the fine and cool weather and colorful leaves make gentle outdoor activities, such as wandering through temple grounds and parks.
November is a good time to visit the Japan Alps, too. The city of Takayama is a bit cooler than other major cities in central-western Honshu, and the autumn leaves change color earlier in the month in the mountains. Matsumoto is another gateway to the mountains, and is an attractive destination in its own right thanks to its beautiful castle and the Matsumoto City Museum of Art that heavily features one of Matsumoto's most famous exports, artist Yayoi Kusama.
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What to Do
General sightseeing is a good option for November, as some of Japan's most beautiful temples, shrines, and parks in cities like Kyoto and Tokyo are at their best.
If you like outdoor activities, November is a good month to hike or do multi-day treks, as the weather isn't too cold, there's little chance of rain, and the foliage in the forests is beautiful. An advantage of longer-distance treks in Japan is that many are developed around ancient routes, so there are guesthouses, villages, and other places to stay and eat along the way. You don't need to totally get out into the wilderness to trek in Japan, unless you want to. Shikoku and the Japan Alps are great destinations for longer treks, while good places to head for shorter day hikes around the Tokyo area include the Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park and Nikko.
The Japanese pastime of onsen bathing is delightful in November. Natural hot springs occur throughout the highly volcanic country, with some resort towns built around them. While you can take an onsen bath at any time of year, they're more comfortable when the weather is cool. They're a great way to revive after a long day of sightseeing or a hike, and you can choose from indoor baths and outdoor ones with a view or other interesting natural feature.
Momijigari. Fall foliage viewing is very popular among the Japanese, and if you're in Japan in November it'll be hard to miss seeing the beautiful reds, golds, and oranges of trees in parks, gardens, temple grounds, and national parks. While Hokkaido's leaves tend to turn in October, those in most parts of Honshu, Kyushu, and Shikoku do so throughout November. Exact dates vary, and depend on altitude as well as local temperatures.
Traveling to Japan in November? Check out these great itineraries
Japan's Culinary Heritage - 11 Days. Eat your way through the Land of the Rising Sun on this immersive culinary tour. Get to know Japanese history and culture through its legendary cuisine.
Best of Tokyo & Kyoto - 7 Days. This week-long adventure splits its time between two of Japan's most important cities with a mix of customizable tours and free time to explore on your own.
Magical Japan: Kyoto, Tokyo, Hiroshima - 13 Days. Cover all the essential highlights that you shouldn't miss on your first trip to Japan. Discover both tradition and modernity, shrines and temples, technological innovation, a crazy robot cabaret, and even hands-on cooking and craft classes.