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

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2014/09/26 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko

Senjogahara Marshland in Okunikko showing its autumn colors

While Hokkaido's autumn color has begun two weeks earlier than usual this year, Nikko National Park, just a few hours north of Tokyo (which is still a couple months from seeing its first autumn color) is not far behind. The trees in Nikko's highest reaches have already begun changing color a week ahead of the park's normal timing. So Scott and I headed to the Okunikko highland area of Nikko early this year to check it out.

Thanks to the 2,000-meter difference between its highest and lowest elevations, Nikko's autumn color season lasts nearly two months. The earliest colors usually debut in the highest mountain peaks in Okunikko in early October and slowly roll down the slopes, reaching the lower areas around Toshogu Shrine by mid November. With that in mind, today we first made our way to Nikko's Yumoto Onsen area by way of the high Konsei mountain pass from Gunma Prefecture.

Mount Nantai from the entrance of Konsei Pass at the edge of Okunikko
The colors on the highest parts of Okunikko already showing near Konsei Pass

As predicted, the trees in the upper parts of Okunikko and near Yumoto Onsen were definitely showing their color. Being still early in the season, there is still a healthy mix of green in the palettes even in the high areas, particularly around Lake Yunoko, but it's clear the season has begun.

A fisherman up early at Lake Yunoko
Yudaki Falls under Lake Yunoko and a recently upgraded viewing platform

While many trees are still just changing color, the Senjogahara marshland was a glowing yellow sea today. The grasses and shrubs on the marshy plateau begin to turn golden early in the season, and other plants and trees added nice touches of red and green. The hiking path that circles much of the marsh is a great way to take in the color, with nearby Mount Nantai as an impressive backdrop.

The Senjogahara marshland and Mount Nantai
Plenty of reds, yellows and browns already showing at Senjogahara
Silvery autumn susuki in the shadow of Mount Nantai
Conifers just changing color

A little further down from Senjogahara, some of the trees surrounding the upper part of the popular Ryuzu Waterfall were in color, though the area at the lower part (which usually turns relatively early in the season as well) was still a bit green. When the season is in full swing here, the lower viewing balcony is often teeming with weekend tourists hoping to see the color around the falls' basin.

The top of the Ryuzu Waterfall cascade from above
The trees around the lower basin of Ryuzu Waterfall were only just beginning to show hints of color
Beautiful yellows along the walking path beside Ryuzu Waterfall
Red maple around Ryuzu Waterfall

While the highest parts of Okunikko have started changing color, the majority of Nikko, including the area around Lake Chuzenji and Kegon Falls, will begin its change in the following weeks and continue into late October. For today, the Chuzenji area was still rather green.

A green Mount Nantai looming over Lake Chuzenji in Okunikko
We spotted this deer on the road this morning, as well as a few monkeys
Kegon Falls falling in full force this morning, though not in full autumn color yet

Like Lake Chuzenji and Kegon Falls, the winding Irohazaka Road that leads down to the lower parts of Nikko was unsurprisingly still green today, but I'll be looking forward to seeing what colors the rest of Nikko turns when we return in a few weeks.

Tour buses wind their way down the still-green Irohazaka Road
A fallen maple leaf

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List of Posts:
2017/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2017
2016/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2016
2016/03/24 - Setouchi Triennale 2016
2015/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2015
2015/12/04 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/12/03 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2015/11/19 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2015/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Mitake
2015/11/16 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Takao
2015/11/12 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2015/11/11 - Autumn Color Report: Fukuroda Falls
2015/10/30 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/10/26 - Autumn Color Report: Bandai
2015/10/22 - Autumn Color Report: Northern Alps
2015/10/21 - Autumn Color Report: Northern Alps
2015/10/20 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Fuji
2015/10/15 - Autumn Color Report: Hachimantai
2015/10/14 - Autumn Color Report: Towada
2015/10/13 - Autumn Color Report: Hakkoda
2015/10/08 - Autumn Color Report: Nasu
2015/10/06 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2015/04/14 - Cherry Blossoms 2015: Yoshino
2015/04/13 - Cherry Blossoms 2015: Miharu
2015/04/08 - Cherry Blossoms 2015: Matsumoto Report
2015/01/29 - Crabs, Peonies and Castle Cruises in Shimane

2014/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2014
2014/12/16 - Seasonal Illumination: Osaka
2014/12/15 - Seasonal Illumination: Kobe Luminarie 2014
2014/12/09 - Seasonal Illumination: Ashikaga Flower Park
2014/12/05 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2014/11/28 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2014/11/26 - Autumn Color Report: Nara
2014/11/25 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2014/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2014/11/13 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2014/11/07 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2014/11/04 - Autumn Color Report: Hakone
2014/10/29 - Autumn Color Report: Shima Onsen
2014/10/21 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2014/10/16 - Autumn Color Report: Alpine Route
2014/10/08 - Autumn Color Report: Nasu
2014/10/07 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2014/09/26 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2014/08/20 - Kusatsu Onsen Beautification