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

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2015/10/06 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
by joe

Lake Yunoko in Okunikko

Japan's autumn color season is undoubtedly in full swing this week, as the color "front" has been bursting to life across Japan's northern mountain peaks and highlands. Continuing our coverage of this year's changing leaves, I headed to Nikko National Park today to check on the state of one of the most popular spots in the country to catch the changing color.

While just a couple hours north of Tokyo, which generally sees its urban parks and ginkgo-lined lanes change colors around early November, the highest parts of Nikko have already started hitting their peak color. The greater Nikko area covers a nearly 2000-meter elevation range, with the fall colors beginning in the high elevations and spreading down torwards the lower town area over the course of about a month, giving leaf-watchers ample time to enjoy the season here.

I started my day early today, making my way first to the Okunikko area of the park. Perched over 1200 meters above sea level, Okunikko was beautifully colorful this morning. My first stop was at the high Yunoko Lake (1475 meters) near the Nikko Yumoto onsen. The leaves around the lake are definitely approaching their peak.

Nikko Yumoto in the morning
Colors popping around Lake Yunoko
Lake Yunoko
The leaves are changing fast around Lake Yunoko, and probably peaking this week
A photographer taking in the amazing hot-spring-tinted lake and autumn colors
Lovely day for a boat ride
Delicate susuki (pampas grass), almost suspended in time

A little further down from the Yumoto area, Senjogahara Marsh's tall grasses and surrounding forest were already their signature deep autumnal gold. A fantastic wooden path surrounds the marshland making for a pleasant walk with some beautiful views of the flat marsh, contrasted by the hulking Mount Nantai in the distance.

Artists capturing the expansive Senjogahara marshland
There was a virtual army of elementary school students (and teachers) visiting Nikko today!
The Senjogahara marshland grasses were a beautiful golden color
Mount Nantai looming over Senjogahara, susuki, and sasa (alpine bamboo)
Pockets of color were popping out everywhere in the higher parts of Nikko

Next to Senjogahara, the upper viewpoint of the Ryuzu-no-taki Cascade was stunning this morning, nearly at its peak color. Further down, the base of the falls were, interestingly, were still a little greener. The entire area, though, should be in full color by the upcoming 3-day weekend.

The top of the Ryuzu-no-taki cascade is hitting its peak color now
The lower Ryuzu-no-taki Falls, close to having some great colorful
Burning red momiji (Japanese maple) near Ryuzu-no-taki

My last stop for the day was at the lowest part of Okunikko, which is situated around the shores of the glassy mountain lake Chuzenjiko. Chuzenjiko's surrounding foliage is still a bit greener than the upper parts of Okunikko, though the mountainsides trees are already starting to show a lot of color in patches. In another week or two, this area should also be at peak color, including the magnificent Kegon Falls (the trees around which were already turning color nicely).

The trees around Lake Chuzenjiko's shores are just changing color now, and might be in full color in another week or two
All kinds of color around the lake
Swan swagger
The mountains around Chuzenjiko are still a bit green, but not for long
The foliage around Kegon Falls is right on the edge of turning
Many of the trees around Kegon Falls are already looking pretty spectacular
Heading down the Irohazaka slope
Just another week or so, and this road will be drenched in red and yellow

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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