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

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2014/11/26 - Autumn Color Report: Nara

Nara's Isuien Garden

The Kansai Region this week is still riding the peak of its autumn leaves season, and to continue our colors coverage, I headed to the ancient capital of Nara today. Though the skies were overcast today, the dark tree-covered park paths and quiet gardens that give the city so much of its character were atmospheric and not too crowded.

I spent much of my morning meandering the paths of Nara Park today. If you find yourself autumn leaf hunting in this huge park, it's helpful to remember that the park's autumn color is mostly scattered around the grounds in small pockets of deciduous trees, as opposed to being in one, breathtaking wall of color. Though it may feel disappointing as an autumn color spot at first (especially on a cloudy day), stumbling on some deer resting under a cluster of momiji (Japanese maple) or ginkgo trees can be worth the search here. And today, those pockets of color definitely were at their peak.

The Daibutsuden of Todaiji Temple from the Nara Prefectural Government Building's rooftop observation deck
A grove of flaming red momiji (Japanese maple) in Nara Park
A patch of autumn color in Nara Park
The approach to Kasuga Taisha Shrine
Signs for a teahouse near Kasuga Taisha
Stone lanterns and momiji along the path to Kasuga Taisha
This deer looked like he ate a caterpillar
A couple taking their wedding photos in Nara Park
Weddings, deer and autumn colors
All the momiji scattered around Nara Park was at its peak color today
A momiji-lined canal in the park
A soba restaurant near Todaiji Temple

After exploring around Nara Park, I made my way to two of Nara's most impressive, yet well-hidden Japanese gardens. Isuien Garden, located just a few minutes' walk from the central, massive Nandaimon Gate of Todaiji Temple, was my first afternoon destination. The centuries-old garden, which is split into two sub-gardens both centered around ponds, is peppered with trees and bushes that were all showing lovely color today. Stone paths circle visitors the ponds revealing fresh perspectives of the garden's "borrowed" landscape features around every corner. I was impressed by this place's quiet beauty.

The front garden of Isuien
The rear garden of Isuien
The borrowed scenery of Todaiji's Nandaimon Gate and Mount Wakakusayama rising above the garden
The winding paths of Isuien
A stone path between the upper and lower gardens
The stone wall separating Isuien from the adjactent Yoshikien

Literally just next door to Isuien (the two places share a wall and look onto each other in certain spots) is another of Nara's most impressive fall color spots, Yoshikien Garden. The perhaps a bit less refined than Isuien, Yoshikien is packed with momiji trees, and today the garden was on fire with color. The three distinct sub-gardens, each one with their own unique character, all have good color, but the moss garden was particularly pretty, with a blanket of momiji leaves covering the moss carpets on the ground.

The pond garden of Yoshikien
The path to Yoshikien's moss garden
Momiji amongst the moss
Yellow and grey
The moss garden under a blanket of leaves
And one last Nara deer

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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