Francois' Japan Blog
by Francois, staff writer of japan-guide.com

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2010/10/27 - Autumn Color Report: Kuju

Koyo and frost along the trails of the Kuju mountains

Today Schauwecker and I continued our autumn color reporting in Kyushu in Oita Prefecture's Kuju Mountains. We planned one long hike through the national park to see how the area looks during the fall colors. We started around 7 o'clock in the morning and followed a route that passed by the two highest peaks in the park, Mount Nakadake and Mount Kuju. Mount Nakadake is the highest peak on the island of Kyushu (however, the Kyushu region has a higher peak on Yakushima Island).

Red leaves cover the path at the entrance to the park
Koyo in Kuju
Koyo in Kuju

Even on the road on the way to the mountains we were able to see much more koyo than yesterday in Kirishima. As we started out on the hike our expectations were met with plenty of color. After the first ascent into the park area we were able to see many bright red and yellow trees whereas yesterday they were few and far between. The weather was extremely cold, and there was frost on some of the branches.

Frost and fog surround the mountainside koyo
Red leaves frozen in the morning
A mountain hut provides some protection from the cold

As we progressed further into the park the snow and fog became thicker so that we felt immersed in the cold. While at the entrance to the park there were many people, further into the park we crossed paths with few other hikers. On the way to Mount Nakadake we came across a mountain hut and inside a man told us that only a few hours before there had been no snow in the area. It seems as if we had come across the area's first snowfall of the year. We climbed to the peak of Nakadake, the island of Kyushu's highest point, but visibility was so bad that we could only see a few feet in front of us.

The view from the peak of Mount Kuju
Hikers seen crossing across the park
Colorful trees and far away towns

Our next destination was Mount Kuju, which is slightly lower than Mount Nakadake. We climbed to the peak and found it to be in a similarly hazy state as Nakadake. However, after we sat down to eat for a bit the fog began to disappear in certain spots and we were able to gain glimpses of the surrounding areas. All of a sudden, with a few gusts of wind, the fog disappeared almost altogether and we were suddenly able to clearly see the trail which had been shrouded in grey when we traversed it. It was quite a stroke of luck to be at the peak at that moment and to suddenly see the whole mountain around us, and Kuju has some of the best mountain scenery that I have seen in Japan. The autumn colors were certainly present in the scenery and there was a lot of red to be seen on the hillsides.

A forest of red covers one of the park's hillsides
Koyo on the return journey is much more visible
Many red and yellows were revealed after the fog had cleared

Our return trip to the trailhead was a completely different experience than our initial hike. We were able to see a lot of color and terrain that had been hidden beforehand. Much of the park is presently at its peak, and should be great to see during the next few days. Although today was a week day there was a large number of hikers exploring the park later in the day when the weather had improved. There were also a few spots near the Maki no To trailhead that had not reached their peak yet and should continue to improve over the next few days.

Cameramen stake out their position early in the morning
Great pictures of fall colors are taken later in the day

Early in the morning we passed a few areas where groups of older Japanese men were waiting with tripods and cameras despite the fact the park was shrouded in a heavy fog. On our return trip to the trailhead after the weather had improved we discovered that these areas were indeed some of the best places to get pictures of the fall colors. This proved me to once again that when one comes across a congregation of older Japanese men and tripods, you can be certain to find a good spot for picture taking.

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List of Posts:
2011/09/01 - Final Post
2011/05/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Sapporo
2011/05/06 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hakodate
2011/04/22 - Cherry Blossom Report: Aizu
2011/04/21 - Cherry Blossom Report: Sendai
2011/04/16 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2011/04/15 - Cherry Blossom Report: Osaka
2011/04/14 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kanazawa
2011/04/13 - Cherry Blossom Report: Yoshino
2011/04/12 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2011/04/11 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2011/04/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2011/04/04 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2011/04/03 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fukuoka
2011/04/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kagoshima
2011/03/31 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kumamoto
2011/03/30 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2011/02/11 - Shiretoko Fantasia 2011
2011/02/11 - Asahikawa Winter Festival - by night
2011/02/10 - Asahikawa Winter Festival - by day
2011/02/09 - Sapporo Snow Festival 2011 - by night
2011/02/08 - Otaru Yuki Akari no Michi 2011
2011/02/07 - Sapporo Snow Festival 2011 - by day

2010/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2010
2010/11/26 - Autumn Color Report: Osaka
2010/11/26 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2010/11/25 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2010/11/24 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2010/11/23 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2010/11/16 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2010/11/05 - Autumn Color Report: Yamadera
2010/10/27 - Autumn Color Report: Kuju
2010/10/26 - Autumn Color Report: Kirishima
2010/04/10 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2010/04/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kanazawa
2010/04/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Osaka
2010/04/07 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2010/04/05 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2010/04/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2010/03/30 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2010/03/26 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nagoya
2010/03/25 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nagasaki
2010/03/22 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kumamoto
2010/03/21 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fukuoka
2010/01/23 - Wakakusa Yamayaki

2009/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2009
2009/11/26 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2009/11/25 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto Light Up
2009/11/23 - Autumn Color Report: Nara
2009/11/22 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto Ohara
2009/11/21 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2009/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto Higashiyama
2009/11/16 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto Kurama
2009/11/04 - Autumn Color Report: Hakone
2009/10/07 - Autumn Color Report: Hachimantai
2009/10/06 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Akita-Komagatake
2009/09/28 - Autumn Color Report: Kamikochi
2009/09/24 - Autumn Color Report: Oze National Park
2009/06/18 - Biking the Shimanami Kaido
2009/06/01 - Gunkanjima
2009/04/15 - Cherry Blossom Report: Osaka
2009/04/15 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2009/04/14 - Cherry Blossom Report: Himeji
2009/04/14 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kobe
2009/04/13 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kanazawa
2009/04/12 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2009/04/05 - Cherry Blossom Report: Yoshino
2009/04/04 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2009/04/03 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nara
2009/04/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kobe
2009/04/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2009/03/31 - Cherry Blossom Report: Himeji
2009/03/30 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2009/03/29 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2009/03/26 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2009/01/19 - Bears in Hokkaido

2008/12/03 - Autumn Color Report: Kamakura
2008/10/06 - Autumn Color Report: Lake Akan
2008/08/18 - Miyajima Trip
2008/06/09 - Post Towns
2008/05/08 - Baseball Game
2008/04/14 - ASIMO and Aoyama Cemetery
2008/04/08 - Ninja Restaurant