By Melissa Locker
September 02, 2015
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Credit: Getty Images/Moment RM

In the world’s first-ever novel, The Tale of Genji, written back in the 11th century, the characters take a break from politicking and palace life to travel the Japanese countryside, hunting for leaves changing color. The autumn foliage hasn't lost its allure since Lady Murasaki wrote her story, and leaf-peeping is now a national pastime in Japan, where the fall colors are called koyo.

Each fall, Japan’s landscape is transformed by the changing colors with deep reds, brilliant golds, and burnt oranges coloring the hills. The effect of the koyo draws comparisons to spring’s more well-known cherry blossom blooms. The results are equally dazzling as the changing colors spread from Hokkaido in the north, down through the Japanese archipelago over the course of the season.

The koyo season in Japan typically begins in mid-September, but of course Mother Nature does everything in her own time and the exact dates of the color change fluctuate from year to year. Still, traveling to Japan between mid-September and the end of November is the safest bet to see the gorgeous fall color in full effect.

Luckily, there’s still time to book a trip to view Japan’s autumn leaves thanks to Jacada Travel. The tour company has set up a tour that will hopefully let travelers see the fall foliage in all its glory. The trip starts with three days in Kyoto, including visits to famed koyo viewing spots, Tofuku-ji temple, the Arashiyama district, and Ryoan-ji temple and garden.

The leaf-peeping continues with a private tour of Mount Koya, including a stay at a Buddhist temple, a visit to Kongo Buji, the holiest Temple on Mount Koya, a tour of the famous Okunoin cemetery, and the chance to take part in a traditional Buddhist ceremony. The tour wraps up with a few nights in Osaka, where the tradition-seeped city glows under a halo of fall colors.

Can’t make it to Japan this year? Hit the road on one of America’s Best Fall Foliage Drives and read The Tale of Genji along the way.