by Francois, staff writer of japan-guide.com
2009/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto Higashiyama
Today I continued my exploration of the fall colours ("koyo") of Kyoto, this time investigating the leaves in some temples in the eastern part of the city. First off was Kiyomizudera, one of the most popular temples in all of Japan.
Unfortunately, the weather was not very good in the morning, and the koyo is not quite at its peak. There is a significant amount of colour, but it will take a few more days before the trees become really impressive.
Next I headed to Kodaiji Temple, which is just a few minute's walk away. There are not as many trees at this temple as there are at Kiyomizudera, but the ones around the temple's main pond and the Garyoro ("reclining dragon corridor") are nearing their peak and are quite colorful. The maple trees around the temple's two storied tea house are still green, so will become attractive in a few days when they start to change color.
I walked north from Kodaiji and when I got to Maruyama Park I hiked up a mountainside trail to Shogun-zuka, which has a couple of sightseeing platforms that give nice views onto the city below. There was also some of the day's best koyo, with a number of trees covered completely in vibrant red leaves.
Nanzenji Temple is a rather large zen temple complex. The trails between the various temple buildings have a decent amount of koyo, but it should still improve over the next few days. Visitors can get a good view of the surrounding state of the autumn colors by climbing the Sanmon gate (500 yen).
Nanzenji has a number of rock gardens, and they can become quite affected by the autumn colours. Though I visited the Nanzen-in garden and the gardens of the main Nanzen-ji building, the best gardens today were found at the Tenjuan (400 yen) just south of the Sanmon gate. There was a nice rock garden and another garden around a pond, and both had excellent koyo.
My last stop of the day was at Eikando, a temple complex that is a very popular spot for koyo. There were large crowds of eager sightseers looking for autumn colors. The colors did not disappoint, but they were not yet thrilling either. A lot of maple trees still had fully green trees, so I think that after a few days more it will become very impressive. There was also a bit of construction going on, which wasn't enough to be really bothersome but still took a bit from the atmosphere.
Some of the best koyo at the complex was located just outside the entrance, hanging over the temple's walls. When the trees throughout the temple become as vibrant, I suspect the crowds will become even bigger.