While Nikko and Kamakura are both popular destinations for Tokyoites seeking beautiful autumn foliage, Naeba in Niigata prefecture is worth the trip if you want to see the leaves from a slightly different perspective.
Every autumn, Naeba Ski Resort sees its mountains transformed by bright orange, yellow and red foliage. There are hiking trails for those who want to get amongst it, but we recommend taking the Dragondola – a 5.5km gondola lift that the resort says is Japan’s longest – to catch a panoramic view of the autumn leaves from up to 1,346m above sea level. It runs from 9am to 3pm daily between Naeba Ski Resort and the top of Mt Naeba; a one-way trip takes about 25 minutes.
From the middle to the end of October, the leaves surrounding Kiyotsu River and the emerald green Futai Lake will reach their peak, which you can spot at around the midway point of the ride.
Not to worry if you miss this, though. If you visit in November, you can catch the karamatsu trees (Japanese larch) in their prime, when they’re covered in bright yellow leaves – that’s at around 900m to 1,000m above sea level.
The Dragondola will be running until November 7, and it costs ¥3,500 per person (¥2,000 for children) for a round trip. Visit Naeba Ski Resort’s website for more information (Japanese only).
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