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

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2014/11/07 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo

Golden ginkgos in Tokyo's suburban Showa Memorial Park (Showa Kinen Koen)

Temperatures are starting to drop all over Japan this week, and this year's autumn color front is finally moving down from the mountains into the cities. While Stefan was reporting from Kyoto today, I headed down to Tokyo for this year's first autumn color report from the capital.

As this year's season has been running about a week earlier than usual in the north and highlands of Japan, I was curious to find out if Tokyo's fall color spots were early as well. Tokyo's autumn leaf spots tend to be some of the last places to change color in all of Japan, partly due to the relatively high temperatures in the dense, concrete, urban areas. Mid to late November, or even early December.

In the west side of Tokyo's central city area, two of the city's most notable fall color spots were actually in line with their normal yearly pattern, not yet showing much color. The popular Icho Namiki street (roughly "Ginkgo Avenue"), just a two-minute walk from Aoyama-Itchome Station, was my first stop today. Its well-manicured ginkgo trees, which line a city street in four rows, were just barely starting to show some yellow today.

The Ginkgo Avenue (Icho Namiki) near Aoyama-Itchome Station, still very green
Ginkgo Avenue's ginkgo trees just starting to turn color
Ginkgo Avenue, still a week or two away from peak autumn color
Ginkgo Avenue's well-manicured trees

Just a 15-minute walk from the Ginkgo Avenue, my next stop was Shinjuku Gyoen. The well-loved park is a fall favorite, and was happily reopened just a few weeks ago just in time for the season. The park was declared safe and reopened on October 17 after mosquitos in the park were discovered to be a vector in an outbreak of dengue fever that infected over 140 people throughout Japan in September. With temperatures dropping, the threat seems to be remote for visitors coming to enjoy autumn color, and didn't stop large numbers of spectators from enjoying the park's annual chrysanthemum festival, which was going on today. The festival will be held from November 1-15 this year, and features several displays of chrysanthemum flowers scattered throughout the park.

For autumn colors in the park, however, it might be best to come in another week or two, as the foliage around the park was still rather green.

Shinjuku Gyoen is still a ways off from its autumn peak, but the season is just beginning
Kyu Goryotei (or Taiwan Pavilion) in Shinjuku Gyoen's Japanese garden; most of the park is still looking green
A traditional stone lantern in Shinjuku Gyoen
Shinjuku Gyoen's annual chrysanthemum festival is on from November 1-15 this year, with displays scattered around the park
Shinjuku's NTT Docomo Building amidst susuki (pampas grass)
Shinjuku Gyoen was reopened on October 17 after cases of dengue fever were traced to the park; I didn't encounter any mosquitos today, but authorities remain cautious

Compared to last year at this time, however, one of Tokyo's most impressive autumn color destinations, Showa Memorial Park (or Showa Kinen Koen), was peaking about a week early today. Located about 30 minutes west of Shinjuku on the JR Chuo Line just a few steps away from Nishi-Tachikawa Station, the suburban park is one of Tokyo's earliest-peaking parks.

The colors in the park were incredible today and will definitely be peaking even further over the weekend and early next week. While colorful trees are scattered everywhere throughout the park, the two must-see fall color areas are the Japanese garden in the north of the park, and the park's own Ginkgo avenue in the southeast corner. A great way to enjoy this huge park is to cycle around its bicycle paths with a rental bike available near the Tachikawa Entrance (410 yen for 3 hours), getting off at the spots that look good to you. The pedestrian and bike paths are kept separate, making for a really pleasant way to enjoy the views while getting around efficiently.

Visitors flocked to Showa Memorial Park today for its autumn colors
Showa Memorial Park's Japanese Garden at peak color
Photographers at every step trying to get their perfect leaf shots
Perfect autumn hues all around
Colors around the pond in Showa Memorial Park's Japanese garden
An appropriately autumnal dragonfly
The pond in the Japanese garden
More colors around the pond
Fallen leaves and green grass
Winter flowers and autumn leaves
A couple enjoying a beautiful day
Japanese maple leaves (momiji) in a water basin

As in the park's Japanese garden, the foliage on the ginkgo trees in the Icho Namiki (Gingko Avenue) area were vibrant today, though the color hadn't quite reached its peak yet. If you're considering a place to enjoy fall colors close to Tokyo this weekend or next week, Showa Kinen Koen might be a perfect option.

Showa Memorial Park's own Ginkgo Avenue, unlike central Tokyo's, was a pair of golden tunnels today
Near-peak colors at Showa Memorial Park's Icho Namiki (Ginkgo Avenue)
A salaryman relaxing in the park
No shortage of golden leaves to admire
A ginkgo branch in afternoon light
The four rows of ginkgos here are planted along a large fountain and reflecting pool called The Canal
Walking back through crunchy fallen leaves

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List of Posts:
2018/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2018
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