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

previous post
list all posts
next post

2014/11/25 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto

Peak autumn colors through the mist behind Arashiyama's Togetsukyo Bridge

As this year's autumn color season is coming into its final stretch around the country, some of the best places to enjoy the changing leaves right now are actually some of Japan's most popular destinations: Tokyo and Kyoto. This week, I'll be taking over where Raina left off last week, reporting from the Kansai Region, with my first stop being Kyoto's beautiful Arashiyama area.

Though the weather was a bit wet today, the autumn colors in Arashiyama today were absolutely at their peak. All over the district's hills, temples and garden the colors were breathtaking. If you are still hoping to catch some autumn leaves in Kyoto this year, it is safe to say this would be an ideal week for it.

To check out some of Arashiyama's best fall color spots, I rented a bicycle near JR Saga-Arashiyama Station and pushed my bike through the crowds to the end Arashiyama's lively main shopping street to my first stop, the iconic Togetsukyo Bridge (in hindsight, I wouldn't recommend using a bike while exploring the crowded southern part of Arashiyama, though it was very handy in the relatively spread out northern areas). The hills behind the bridge were vibrant even in the rainy mist.

The rain didn't stop the leaf watchers today. Even the ones wearing kimono.
A newlywed couple holds hands in front of Togetsukyo Bridge
The rain and mist added some atmosphere

I made my second stop of the day at the popular Monkey Park on the south side of the Katsura River. While the monkeys are generally the main attraction here, the many of the trees in the park were showing lovely color today, and the view from the highest point in the park was impressive.

View from the top of the Arashiyama Monkey Park
A Japanese snow monkey wishing it was a little sunnier today, too

Tenryuji Temple, the largest and most famous of Arashiyama's temples, was my next destination. The temple's grounds host several gardens and buildings, and even a few sub-temples in and around the complex. While much of the grounds have very nice colors to show in the fall, one such sub-temple I discovered today is a knockout spot. The Hogonin Temple gardens are packed with momiji (Japanese maple) trees, which were all brilliant shades of red and yellow today. Much of the garden's paths are also lined by moss-covered rocks and earth, covered with a fresh blanket of brightly colored fallen leaves, making for some wonderful views.

In the main Tenryuji temple complex, the trees lining the paths and in the impressive garden behind the main hall were also impressive today. Despite the rain, there were still surprising numbers of tourists around town and crowding into the small garden paths.

An incredible tunnel of red momiji (Japanese maple) at Hogonin Temple, a sub-temple of Tenryuji
A dragon statue near Tenryuji Temple
Momiji and temple rooftops
Reds and yellows everywhere you looked at Tenryuji's Hogonin
Rain or shine, peak autumn color brings peak crowds in Kyoto, but the colors were worth it today
Lovely weather for a frog
Bright fall leaves and dark bamboo in the back gardens of Tenryuji Temple
Fall colors mingling with bamboo

Just to the north of Tenryuji's back garden exit, Arashiyama's famous bamboo grove path led me west to Okochi Sanso, where I stopped for a break and some traditional green tea. Okochi Sanso is the former villa of a popular actor, which is now open the public to enjoy its lovely grounds, traditional buildings and teahouse, which happens to be situated next to some trees with nice fall leaves.

An entrance gate at Okochi Sanso
Visitors relaxing and enjoying the colors at the Okochi Sanso teahouse
My afternoon green tea at Okochi Sanso

My final two stops brought me north, first to the beautifully understated, yet stunning Jojakkoji Temple. Again, the foliage permeating the hillside paths of the temple grounds was at its peak color, making a canopy of red and yellow all around the temple's famous gate. Continuing beyond the gate, I was surprised to find that the main hall is actually currently being completely rebuilt from scratch, and will remain under scaffolding until October of 2016. But despite the construction, the grounds were still stunning today, and certainly still worth a visit, especially during the peak of autumn color.

The front gate of Jojakkoji Temple, surrounded by yet more amazing color
Up the steps to the main temple hall, which is currently being rebuilt from scratch (due to reopen October 10, 2016)
Fallen leaves on moss and stone
A temple building in Jojakkoji

My final stop today was Nisonin Temple, just north of Jojakkoji. The leaves didn't disappoint here, either, especially around the main approach to the temple's famous front gate. Here too, I was surprised to see so many visitors on a rainy weekday like today. It made for a good reminder to always be prepared for crowds in Kyoto this time of year, advice I think might come in handy for any leaf watchers heading to Kansai this week.

Incredible autumn leaves lining main approach to Nisonin Temple
The path to Nisonin
Momiji wrapping around stone monuments
A rickshaw driver guiding his passengers

previous post
list all posts
next post

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