This mountain resort in Nagano was a favorite of John Lennon. Karuizawa sits at the base of the still active Mount Asama, and is the only city in the world to have hosted events in both the Summer and Winter Olympics. During the autumn, though, the trees are ablaze with red, yellow and orange, making it an ideal place for a weekend trip away. Visitors can reach Karuizawa in just over an hour from Tokyo Station via the Nagano Shinkansen bullet train.
Nikko is a paradise for Tokyo-based nature lovers at any time of the year, but this mountain region dotted with UNESCO-recognized temples and shrines really shines in fall. Lake Chuzenji, nestled at the foot of Mount Nantai (one of Japan’s most sacred mountains) is a relaxing spot to take in the bright leaves reflecting off of the calm water. If that doesn’t strike your fancy, Nikko is resplendent in waterfalls and historic shrines like Nikko Tosho-gu, where Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the 250-year Tokugawa Shogunate, is enshrined. Leaving from Tokyo’s Asakusa neighborhood, Nikko can be reached in approximately two hours by train.
Kamakura is a well-loved escape among Tokyo natives, especially in the autumn season. The fall mountain leaves make a dramatic background for the many temples and shrines that call Kamakura home. The 13th-century Kamakura Daibutsu (Great Buddha) is the second-tallest bronze Buddha in Japan, and since its home temple was washed away by a tsunami five centuries ago, it now sits outdoors among the trees. Located south of Yokohama, Kamakura is 90 minutes from Tokyo station, or just over an hour if you’re coming from Shinagawa via local trains.
Hakone, with its gorgeous, clear views of Mount Fuji, is a hot spring oasis tucked away from all of the hustle and bustle of big city life. Take the Hakone Tozan Line from Odawara Station to Hakone-Yumoto to visit the region's star hot spring, Yumoto, or continue up to Gora Station for fantastic mountain views over the famous Hayakawa Bridge. Hakone can be reached within 90 minutes from downtown Tokyo, accessible by local trains.