Kyoto Report (1/4)

Autumn Color Blog 2008

This is the official autumn color blog for 2008 about our reporting trips to various autumn leaf spots across Japan. Check our page on Autumn Leaves for general information.

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2008/11/18 - Kyoto Report (1/4)

With the autumn leaf season kicking off in Kyoto, we are spending four days (November 18-21) reporting from famous koyo spots across the city.

Today we visted three areas in northern Kyoto: Ohara, Hieizan and Takao.


Ohara is a small town just one hour north of Kyoto Station. Its most famous temple, Sanzenin, has been the recent subject of a Japan Railways promotional campaign. I traveled to Ohara today hoping to catch some of the beautiful fall colours seen on the JR posters.

Leaves and crowds in Ohara's Sanzenin Temple

The colours at Sanzenin however, while beautiful, are already a bit past their peak.

Momiji framed walkway in Sanzenin

...but the crowds were still out in full force!

The outer, less spectacular garden in Hosenin

My next stop was Hosenin, another temple in Ohara. It was one of the loveliest temple gardens I've seen, made even better by the tea and sweet you are served while enjoying the garden. Hosenin is also currently open in the evenings for a seasonal illumination event as well. In terms of fall colours, Hosenin did not have many remarkable trees but its garden is still worth a koyo visit for some small momiji (maples).

Jakkoin's main hall, flanked by coloured trees

Finally, I made the 1 kilometer walk over to Jakkoin, another temple. The crowds had certainly thinned out in this area, and Jakkoin was surprisingly beautiful as well. Its stone stairway approach was framed by many momiji trees in full bloom. A perfect ending to my day in Ohara.


A statue outside one of Hieizan's many temples

Today I travelled to Mount Hieizan, which serves as the eastern boundary of Kyoto. The mountain has a long history as the site of an important Buddhist temple, Enryakuji. I was hoping that today I could get good photographs of the temples with the fall colours.

The southern end of Lake Biwa seen from Hieizan's eastern cable car station

Northern Kyoto from the western cable car station

I went up the eastern side of the mountain and went down the western side. The views onto Lake Biwa and Kyoto (respectively) were quite nice, and the mountainside had some nice colour. Unfortunately, the day was a bit overcast so I didn't quite get the photos I wanted.

Entrance to the Saito area of Enryakuji

The main temple of the Toto area seen through thining branches

Enryakuji's temples are spread out over three areas on Hieizan; Toto, Saito, and Yokawa. I only had time to make it to the first two. There were great colours along some of the temples' paths. As for the temples themselves, though they had nice colours in their direct vicinity, I didn't see any breathtaking views of both autumn leaves and temple buildings. In the area the trees were starting to thin, and the ground was often covered with fallen leaves.

Sweeping up fallen leaves at a temple on the eastern base of Hieizan


Overlooking Takao

I started my day with a quick stop at Ninnaji in northern Kyoto along the way to Takao. The leaves in the palace gardens and around the temple appeared to be just around their peak.

Ninnaji's palace garden

From Ninnaji I caught a JR bus out to Takao, a mountain district northwest of Kyoto's city center. I got off at the Yamashiro Takao bus stop and headed down the steps towards Saimyoji. The leaves around the bridge and temple looked to be a little beyond their peak.

The bridge to Saimyoji

On the Saimyoji temple grounds

I headed to Jingoji next. The steps leading up to the temple had a lot of trees in color although they also appeared to be a little past the peak. There were a number of restaurants setup inside the trees which were inviting me to stop and take a rest, but I reluctanctly continued on. Inside the temple grounds the majority of trees seemed to be evergreens although there were a number of trees in color scattered around.

Restaurant along the steps to Jingoji

Inside Jingoji

Throughout November the steps to Jingoji are illuminated every night from 17:00 to 20:00 by lanterns lining the steps. The restaurants in the trees had some of the best illumination but unfortunately they all seemed to close at 17:00. The illuminated area extends to the entrance gate of Jingoji however the temple itself is closed.

Along the steps

Entrance gate of Jingoji

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List of Posts:
2008/12/03 - Kamakura Report
2008/11/26 - Tokyo Report
2008/11/21 - Kyoto Report (4/4)
2008/11/20 - Kyoto Report (3/4)
2008/11/20 - Miyajima
2008/11/19 - Kyoto Report (2/4)
2008/11/18 - Kyoto Report (1/4)
2008/11/18 - Mino Park
2008/11/12 - Fuji Five Lakes
2008/11/05 - Nikko (2)
2008/10/29 - Lake Towada
2008/10/28 - Shirakami Sanchi (2)
2008/10/27 - Shirakami Sanchi
2008/10/21 - Nishizawa Valley
2008/10/16 - Nikko
2008/10/10 - Akagiyama
2008/10/08 - Shiretoko Peninsula
2008/10/07 - Lake Mashu and Kussharo
2008/10/06 - Lake Akan
2008/10/03 - Tateyama Alpen Route
2008/09/26 - Sounkyo Onsen
2008/09/25 - Daisetsu Kogen Onsen
2008/09/24 - Mount Asahidake

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