Joe's Japan Travel Journal
by Joe, staff writer of

previous post
list all posts
next post

2014/11/28 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto

Kiyomizudera's recently-reopened Koyasu Pagoda

For my last autumn color report this week from the Kansai Region, I was back in Kyoto today and yesterday exploring some of the old capital's best autumn leaf spots. The colors around most of Kyoto today are definitely still at their peak and will likely still be impressive at least into early next week.

I started my leaf hunt yesterday afternoon at Ryoanji Temple on the west side of Kyoto. Though the temple is most well-known for its famous rock garden, the trees around the temple grounds are stunning in the fall, and today were at the their best color.

The approach to Ryoanji Temple
The trees around Ryoanji were at the height of their peak
Around the pond at Ryoanji
Visitors enjoying Ryoanji's famous rock garden

After my trip to Ryoanji, I waited eagerly till dusk to make my way over the opposite, east side of the city to check out three of Kyoto's best temples for koyo nighttime illuminations. Several temples and parks across the city open their gardens after sunset to let visitors meander through the grounds to enjoy light-ups of trees and temple buildings. The light-ups can be extremely impressive, but also extremely crowded, so it's a good idea not to arrive at temples too close to opening (when the lines are huge) or closing (to give yourself plenty of time to linger).

The first fall color illumination spot I visited was at Eikando Temple. I waited 30 minutes in a winding line to get my tickets here, but the wait was well worth it. The trees around the garden are still at their peak, and the vast majority are well-lit, with stunning views all around.

The nighttime light-up at Eikando Temple drew huge crowds of leaf-watchers
Spectacular fall colors lit up around every turn of Eikando Temple's sprawling grounds
Almost every corner of the temple complex had colorful trees lit up
Though extremely crowded, the atmosphere was wonderful

My second illumination stop was just five-minute was from Eikando to Nanzenji Temple. The temple's Tenjuan Garden features a lovely illumination that visitors can enjoy while quietly sitting on a tatami straw mat while overlooking the delicate landscape garden.

Tenjuan Garden's autumn illumination at Nanzenji Temple
Tenjuan Garden's autumn illumination at Nanzenji Temple

The last temple I visited at night, which was a 10-minute taxi ride south of Nanzenji, was Kodaiji Temple. The temple is also famed for its rock gardens, and last night the rocks and the grounds were decorated with a peppering of traditional Japanese umbrellas as a part of an art installation this autumn.

Kodaji Temple's night illumination was impressive
An art installation featuring traditional Japanese umbrellas is being featured this autumn at Kodaiji Temple
Umbrellas amongst bamboo

After my illuminating night, I resumed my temple hopping in the morning with a visit to of Kyoto's best-loved temples, Kiyomizudera Temple. The colors were definitely at their peak during Raina's visit last week, but the leaves haven't staled too much yet, and were still very impressive today (even despite the construction work that many of the temple buildings are currently undergoing).

Kiyomizudera's colors were wonderful, though a little past their peak at this point
Koyasu Pagoda surrounded by brilliant fall color
Kiyomizudera's usual huge crowds weren't disappointed with the koyo today
Prayer tablets under momiji (Japanese maple)
Kiyomizudera's momiji was still impressive today
Leaves, lantern, and love

Tofukuji Temple in the south part of the city was my next destination for the day, as well as a huge throng of leaf-watchers. The colors here have definitely declined since last week, but were still quite lovely, with fallen leaves starting to build up under the momiji (Japanese maple) trees around the grounds. The colors should still be nice over the weekend and early next week, but expect crowds at this hugely popular spot.

Tofukuji Temple drew massive crowds today to see its autumn leaves
Looking out onto a sea of fall colors with Tofukuji Temple's beloved Tsutenkyo Bridge in the distance
The color at Tofukuji is definitely past its peak, but should still be impressive at least through the weekend
The colorful view from the Tsutenkyo Bridge
The momiji are dropping their leaves quicker and quicker

My final stop of the day was further outside the city at Daigoji Temple, where, like at Tofukuji, the colors were definitely beginning to fade. The approach to the temple is almost bare at this point, but the lovely Bentendo in the back of the temple grounds was still holding on to a nice palette of reds and yellows, and made for a pleasant ending for my time here in Kansai.

The trees lining the approach to Daigoji Temple have all but lost their leaves
Daigoji Temple's Bentendo, still surrounded by a blaze of autumn leaves (for a little while longer)
Great red and yellow foliage near Bentendo
The momiji behind Bentendo are at their peak color
A huge group of elementary school students were (enthusiastically) helping the temple staff pick up the fallen leaves around the grounds today

previous post
list all posts
next post

List of Posts:
2019/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2019
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