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Home - Travel - Essentials - Autumn Colors - Scott's Japan Travel Journal
Autumn Color Report: Nikko

Scott's Japan Travel Journal
by Scott, staff writer of japan-guide.com

This journal is a log of my travels within Japan. Here you'll find my personal opinions on the places I've been and the things I've seen. Also expect to see the occasional review and editorial. Thanks for reading.

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2012/11/07 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
by scott

Leaves and moss around the Nikko Temples and Shrines

Today I revisited Nikko to check on the state of the autumn colors around the lower areas of Okunikko and around Nikko Town. Nikko has a particularly long koyo season, which is due to the large elevation difference between the two areas. The colors start off in the upper regions of Okunikko before slowly making their way down to the town over the course of several weeks.

Since our last visit to the area the colors have finally moved off the mountain down to the temple and shrine areas around Nikko Town. However, there are several places up in Okunikko that are still at a nice state, and it still may be worth the trip to see.

The Irohazaka Slope that connects the town and the mountains is probably Nikko's most famous koyo spot. This past weekend was probably the busiest of the season, and it was reportedly taking several hours to make the 8km journey up the mountain due to all the traffic travelling the road. Today, however, was not nearly as crowded and only a few cars joined me (probably considering it was so early in the morning). The road is separated into uphill and downhill sections, and the colors along the uphill section were pretty good. They started off around the peak at the bottom and thinned out until there were bare trees showing closer to the top.

Colors along the ascending section of the Irohazaka Road

The trees higher up were already bare

At the top of the road is the Akechidaira Plateau, from where a ropeway leads further up the mountain. It was too early so I couldn't check out the ropeway, but the views from the parking lot were exceptionally clear today. In fact, this may be the first time I've been here when the mountains weren't covered in fog.

The colors underneath the ropeway look to be around the peak

The descending section of the Irohazaka Slope from the Akechidaira Ropeway

The road down from Akechidaira leads to Lake Chuzenjiko, which was half covered in fog this morning. I took the drive up to the Chuzenjiko Observation Deck to see what it looked like from above, but I was barely able to see the lake. The colors along the drive are already past the peak and fading fast. At the higher elevations around the viewpoint the trees were already barren. The colors were better down closer to the water, though, and should remain for another couple of days.

Lake Chuzenjiko covered in fog

The trees along the road to Hangetsuyama Observation deck were pretty bare

The colors were better further down the toward the lake

Along the waterfront

Mount Nantaisan

Along the waterfront

Next I stopped off at Kegonnotaki Waterfall at the outlet of Lake Chuzenjiko. The colors around the top of the waterfall were almost over, and relatively unattractive. This time I also took the elevator down to check out the base of the falls, and as usual there weren't many colors down there. I think the season is effectively over for Kegonnotaki.

Kegonnotaki Waterfall

Lots of school groups around today

The colors around the top of the falls are pretty much over

The downhill section of the Irohazaka starts right next to Kegonnotaki Waterfall. For some reason, the colors along this section were much better than those along the uphill section. Many trees were around their peak, and there were lots of good vistas and koyo tunnels to travel through. The highlight, though, was a group of monkeys who were rummaging around and feeding amongst the leaves. They completely ignored me, and let me shoot tons of pictures of them eating and playing around. Of course, I did all this from the safety of my car as the monkeys can become quite aggressive, especially if they smell food on you.

Irohazaka Slope

The downhill section of the Irohazaka Slope was more colorful than the uphill section

Monkey feeding along the slope

Baby monkeys

It was pretty overcast as I drove down the slope

Once back in the town area I headed to the Nikko Botanical Garden, a research garden operated by the University of Tokyo. The garden has a large network of walking trails that lead though lots of nice autumn colors this morning. Several parts of the park are around the peak, and I enjoyed a pleasant hour exploring the trails without encountering many people.

The Nikko Botanical Garden

Nikko Botanical Garden

Nikko Botanical Garden

Deer in the botanical garden

Beautiful colors in the garden

The Botanical Garden is bordered by the Kanmangafuchi Abyss toward the rear of the grounds. You can't enter the abyss from this side of the river, but there are viewpoints from where you can look out over the rocky gorge and river below. The colors in this area were also very nice and around the peak today.

Kanmangafuchi Abyss

Lots of people were walking along the trails through the gorge

Afterwards, I headed to the main area of Nikko where the temples and shrines are located. First I stopped at Shoyoen Garden across from the main building of Rinnoji Temple. The garden's multitude of maple trees were at their peak today and were showing off brilliant reds and yellows. It is definitely worth a stop if you will be visiting Nikko soon.

Shoyoen Garden

Shoyoen Garden

Shoyoen Garden

The main building at Rinnoji Temple is being renovated and will remain under scaffolding for several more years. In the meantime, for an additional 400 yen entry fee, visitors can climb up inside the 7 story tall structure and view the renovation process as it happens. Currently the roof of the structure has been removed and is to be rebuilt.

Rinnoji Temple

Rinnoji Temple

Rinnoji Temple

Parts of the temple catalogued and stacked

Shoyoen Garden from the Rinnoji temporary observation deck

Toshogu Shrine is also undergoing major renovation works over the next few years and its haiden/honden hall is currently partially covered by scaffolding. It doesn't severely affect a visit, however, as you can still enter the buildings as normal. Expect this section of the renovation to continue until spring 2013, after which work will begin on the Yomeimon Gate.

The main Toshogu building is still under construction

Toshogu Shrine

The temples and shrines don't have a large amount of colors but there are plenty to see if you know where to look. Try venturing out to the side streets around Rinnoji Temple (in the opposite direction of the other major temples/shrines) where there are lots of nice colors to see along the narrow streets and small temples.

Beautiful colors around the temples and shrines

A closer view

The last stop of the day was to the Shinkyo Bridge at the entrance to the temples and shrines. While the bridge is no longer used to cross the river, visitors can walk across it and back for a small fee.

Shinkyo Bridge

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List of Posts:
2014/05/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hirosaki
2014/04/30 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kakunodate
2014/04/19 - Cherry Blossom Report: Matsushima
2014/04/16 - Cherry Blossom Report: Sendai
2014/04/15 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fukushima
2014/04/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Gunma
2014/04/07 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2014/04/04 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2014/04/04 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kamakura
2014/04/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2014/03/29 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2014/03/28 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kumamoto
2014/03/27 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fukuoka
2014/03/25 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2014/03/07 - Abeno Harukas
2014/02/13 - Sounkyo Ice Waterfall Festival

2013/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2013
2013/12/11 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2013/12/10 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2013/12/03 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2013/11/29 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2013/11/28 - Autumn Color Report: Kanazawa
2013/11/27 - Autumn Color Report: Osaka
2013/11/26 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2013/11/20 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2013/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Fujigoko
2013/11/06 - Autumn Color Report: Fujigoko
2013/10/30 - Autumn Color Report: Towada
2013/10/29 - Autumn Color Report: Yamadera
2013/10/28 - Autumn Color Report: Urabandai
2013/10/22 - Autumn Color Report: Gunma
2013/10/12 - Autumn Color Report: Hakkodasan
2013/06/01 - Tohoku Rokkonsai 2013
2013/05/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hakodate
2013/05/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Matsumae
2013/04/23 - Northern Kanto Flower Report
2013/04/18 - Cherry Blossom Report: Sendai
2013/04/10 - Cherry Blossom Report: Mount Fuji
2013/04/10 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hakone
2013/04/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2013/04/05 - Cherry Blossom Report: Mount Fuji
2013/03/29 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2013/03/28 - Cherry Blossom Report: Gunma
2013/03/26 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kamakura
2013/03/24 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2013/03/23 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kagoshima
2013/03/22 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kumamoto
2013/03/21 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fukuoka
2013/03/20 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2013/02/25 - Tokyo Plum Blossom Report
2013/02/06 - Asahikawa Winter Festival 2013
2013/02/05 - Sapporo Snow Festival 2013

2012/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2012
2012/12/07 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2012/12/05 - Autumn Color Report: Kamakura
2012/12/02 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2012/11/29 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2012/11/27 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2012/11/27 - Nabana no Sato Winter Illumination 2012
2012/11/15 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Fuji
2012/11/13 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2012/11/09 - Autumn Color Report: Sakurayama
2012/11/07 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2012/11/05 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Fuji
2012/10/31 - Autumn Color Report: Lake Towada
2012/10/30 - Autumn Color Report: Bandai
2012/10/22 - Autumn Color Report: Alpine Route
2012/10/16 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2012/10/11 - Autumn Color Report: Hachimantai
2012/10/10 - Autumn Color Report: Bandai
2012/07/30 - Echigo Tsumari Art Triennial 2012
2012/05/07 - New Tokyo Buildings
2012/04/25 - Cherry Blossom Report: Mount Fuji
2012/04/13 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2012/04/12 - Cherry Blossom Report: Yokohama
2012/04/12 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kamakura
2012/04/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2012/04/06 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2012/04/03 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2012/02/06 - Sapporo Snow Festival
2012/02/05 - Otaru Snow Light Path Festival
2012/02/04 - Sapporo Snow Festival - Preliminary Report
2012/01/23 - Chinese New Year in Yokohama Chinatown

2011/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2011
2011/12/08 - Autumn Color Report: Kamakura
2011/12/05 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2011/11/30 - Tokyo Motor Show 2011
2011/11/29 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2011/11/28 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2011/11/27 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2011/11/22 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2011/11/15 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2011/11/12 - Autumn Color Report: Unzen
2011/11/04 - Autumn Color Report: Kurobe Gorge
2011/10/27 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2011/10/07 - Autumn Color Report: Nasu
2011/10/04 - Ceatec Japan 2011
2011/09/27 - Autumn Color Report: Norikura
2011/09/22 - New Kanagawa Museums
2011/05/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kakunodate
2011/05/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hirosaki
2011/04/29 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kitakami
2011/04/22 - Cherry Blossom Report: Aizu
2011/04/21 - Cherry Blossom Report: Sendai
2011/04/14 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2011/04/10 - Cherry Blossom Report: Osaka
2011/04/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2011/04/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Yoshino
2011/04/07 - Cherry Blossom Report: Iwakuni
2011/04/07 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hiroshima
2011/04/06 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2011/04/05 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2011/04/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2011/04/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2011/03/30 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kochi

2010/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2010
2010/11/30 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2010/11/24 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2010/11/19 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2010/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Nara
2010/11/17 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2010/11/16 - Autumn Color Report: Koyasan
2010/11/15 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2010/11/09 - Autumn Color Report: Fujigoko
2010/11/04 - Autumn Color Report: Daisen
2010/10/27 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2010/10/14 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2010/10/05 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2010/09/29 - Autumn Color Report: Oze
2010/04/14 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fujigoko
2010/04/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2010/04/04 - Cherry Blossom Report: Himeji
2010/04/03 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nara
2010/04/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2010/03/30 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2010/03/29 - Cherry Blossom Report: Osaka
2010/03/26 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2010/03/23 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo

2009/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2009
2009/12/08 - Tokyo
2009/12/02 - Kamakura
2009/11/27 - Tokyo
2009/11/18 - Tokyo
2009/11/16 - Mount Takao (Takaosan)
2009/10/28 - Mount Fuji
2009/10/21 - Tokyo Motor Show 2009
2009/10/19 - Nikko (2)
2009/10/05 - Nikko
2009/08/07 - Tohoku Sandai Matsuri: Sendai Tanabata
2009/08/06 - Tohoku Sandai Matsuri: Nebuta Matsuri
2009/08/04 - Tohoku Sandai Matsuri: Kanto Matsuri

2009/04/13 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nagano
2009/04/10 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2009/04/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kamakura
2009/04/06 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2009/04/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2009/03/31 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2009/03/29 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hiroshima
2009/03/28 - Cherry Blossom Report: Miyajima
2009/03/27 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kagoshima
2009/03/26 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nagasaki
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2008/10/29 - Lake Towada
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2008/10/03 - Tateyama Alpen Route

2007/09/18 - Kodo One Earth Tour
2007/09/04 - Kusatsu
2007/09/01 - Zi-Pang Concert
2007/08/23 - First Day on the Job

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