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

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2015/10/20 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Fuji

Mt. Fuji, Chureito Pagoda and bronzing cherry tree leaves

After catching the wild colors around some of northern Japan's highlands last week, this week I'm taking our high-elevation autumn color reporting south to central Japan to the areas around the highest mountains in the country. And what better mountain to start my week with than Mount Fuji, Japan's tallest mountain at 3776 meters above sea level.

While hikers may think of summer as Mt. Fuji's tourist peak season, autumn is an extremely popular time to enjoy views of the mountain (usually) without the humid summer haze and with a fresh snow-capped summit. And it turns out there are plenty of good spots to enjoy changing fall colors nearby the mountain...and on it! The season for autumn color in the Fujigoko (or Fuji Five Lakes) area, the region around Mt. Fuji, is usually from mid-October through mid-November, so I made my way there today to see how far along it's gotten so far.

In line with past years, the season seems to be just beginning in most places around Fujigoko. My first stop today was the beautiful, tucked-away Chureito Pagoda, located to the east of Lake Kawaguchiko, one of the Fuji Five Lakes. The pagoda has a stunning view of Mt. Fuji towering over the city of Fujiyoshida, and it also happens to be surrounded by cherry trees. During the sakura season, the trees sport spectacular blossoms, but in autumn, the leaves turn a beautiful rusty red color, which added a nice hue to the landscape today.

Mount Fuji appearing out of a morning haze with a fresh snow cap starting to form
The cherry trees around the pagoda were just turning their bronzy red
Some color popping out around the torii gate at the entrance of the Arakura Sengen Shrine
A dragony-looking oni

Next to Lake Kawaguchiko itself are a few other spots to catch some autumn color. My next stop was at a so-called "maple corridor," a path lined with momiji (Japanese maple) trees, which today had not even begun to show any color. Further down the path, though, along the lakeshore itself is a promenade of cherry trees, which were just beginning to change.

The still very green maple corridor near the north shore of Lake Kawaguchiko
The cherry tree-lined promenade along the north shore of Lake Kawaguchiko, showing some color, but still mostly green
Hoping for the haze to clear up
A hazy Mount Fuji over the lake
Susuki (pampas grass) and a fisherman on Lake Kawaguchiko

In hopes of avoiding the slight haze that was slinking around all morning, I decided gain some more elevation and take myself up the slopes of Mt. Fuji itself. Driving up the Fuji Subaru Line toll road, I watched as more and more color started creeping into the forest foliage as I got higher. My next destination was the Fuji Kawaguchiko 5th Station itself, at an elevation of 2300 meters.

To my pleasant surprise, autumn had come with a vengeance to the slopes around the 5th station. The slopes here are covered in karamatsu, or Japanese larch, a coniferous plant whose pines that actually change color in autumn and fall off during winter. Karamatsu turn a bright, golden yellow color at their peak color, and today Mt. Fuji's 5th Station was drenched in it. In fact, the colors were so far along as to be a bit past their peak today, but were nonetheless a remarkable sight against the freshly snow-capped summit above.

The drive up the Fuji Subaru Line toll road to the Kawaguchiko 5th Station was starting to see some nice color today
Muted blues, yellows, greens and reds
Thousands of karamatsu pines (Japanese larch) lighting up the slopes above Mt. Fuji's Kawaguchiko 5th Station
Hiking up the yellow, rocky slopes
Karamatsu (Japanese larch) is the only coniferous plant in Japan whose pines changes color and fall
Spiky yet soft
And it was all yellow
A little karamatsu amongst the volcanic rock
The Kawaguchiko 5th Station was swarming with tourists today, coming in by the busload to enjoy the colors
A better view of Fuji's snow cap on the way down

My last destination for the day was the Fujigoko area's largest lake, Lake Yamanakako. Along the lake's southern shore, I first stopped at a small lakeshore park called Yuyake no Nagisa Park, which features many Japanese maple and other color-changing trees. Today, it was still almost entirely green, but in maybe two weeks or so should be quite colorful.

My last stop today was just a few kilometers south of the lake, to the hillside of a nearby mountain called Mt. Mikuni. The slopes overlooking the lake on this mountain happen to be covered in susuki (pampas grass), and in the early afternoon light were shimmering a gold-white color. About halfway up the hill there is a small lookout spot with an incredible view over the susuki fields and Lake Yamanakako, a great way to end the day.

Yuyake no Nagisa Park on the south shore of Lake Yamanakako was still at an early stage in the season
An almost watermelon red in a few spots around Yamanakako
Scattered colorful momiji
The view from the Panorama Dai on Mt. Mikuni
Fields of susuki blowing gently in the wind

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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