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

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2015/10/30 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto

The Togetsukyo Bridge in Arashiyama, west of central Kyoto

With much of the autumn colors in northern and central Japan's high mountain areas coming to an end quickly this week, leaf watchers around the country are gearing up for the second half of the season. After a few weeks up in the mountains, today we're turning our sights south, where the season is just about to warm up.

Today, I made my way to Kyoto, famous not just for its many temples and historical sites, but also for arguably being the Kansai Region's most well-loved autumn color destination. While the autumn here pretty reliably begins to pick up in early-mid November each year, I was here today to get a preview of the early season's first colors around the city.

My first stop today was the Arashiyama district, just to the west side of Kyoto proper. Walking along the lovely riverside paths that flank the Togetsukyo Bridge, I was a little surprised to already see a tiny bit of red and yellow up on the hills around the town. While the area is clearly a couple weeks from reaching its peak color, it was exciting to see the season has indeed begun here in Kyoto.

Early autumn colors are creeping their way into the hills around Arashiyama
A jin-rickshaw (literally people power car) going across the Togetsukyo Bridge
Some yellows and reds just starting to pop out
Strolling along the Hozugawa
Some cross-cultural exchange on the water
A traditional-style food stall along the Hozugawa River
Green was definitely the predominant color around the grounds of Tenryuji Temple
The ever-popular Arashiyama bamboo forest, photographer magnet
A little orange for the palette

After a pleasant stroll through the Tenryuji Temple grounds (which boast some spectacular colors during the peak of the season) and the famed Arashiyama bamboo groves, I briefly checked out the very lovely Jojakkoji Temple. The small, quiet temple features a grounds littered with momiji (Japanese maple) trees. Being later-turning trees, this early in the season, the trees were barely showing any signs of color yet today. Happily, though, the temple's main hall, which had previously been under scaffolding last season, was now visible today (though the interior is still under construction and unopen to the public).

The main gate of Jojakkoji Temple, wrapped in green momiji (Japanese maple)
Pretty greens, but still weeks away from the bright red tunnel this spot will become in late November
The stairs to the main temple building of Jojakkoji
Jojakkoji's handsome main temple building has just recently emerged from behind its renovation scaffolding (though the interior still has several months of work left)
A temple for momiji
A group of yukata-clad girls enjoying a stroll through the streets of Arashiyama

My next destination for the day was the Takao area of Kyoto, a few kilometers north of Arashiyama. I made my way today to the area's main attraction, Jingoji Temple. Located in a river gorge, the colors of the hillside foliage was a bit further along here, though clearly still only just at the beginning of its fall cycle.

The Takao area was also just starting to show some color today
The bridge leading to Saimyoji Temple in Takao
The steps to Saimyoji
A salsa of greens and reds at Saimyoji
A small tea rest house on the stairs up to Takao's Jingoji Temple
Jingoji Temple's main gate
An early momiji tree at Jingoji

After exploring some of the outer regions, I made a brief stop at Tofukuji Temple on the opposite side of town. Again, the trees at this temple, which are breathtaking at their peak, were still very green today.

Tofukuji Temple's Tsutenkyo Bridge in the late afternoon, surrounded by mostly still-green trees today
Temple building rooves at Tofukuji
The colorful orange berries around town made for some of the best autumn colors at this early stage

My last stop in Kyoto was the hugely popular Kiyomizudera Temple in eastern Kyoto. Again, the trees here were still very green today, but I was able to get a small update on the status of the ongoing construction around the temple grounds. Under scaffolding last year, the three-story pagoda near the main entrance to the temple looked to be finished with renovations, while the Todoroki-mon gate is now fully under scaffolding. The main building, however, is still open and construction-free this season, which should make for a pleasant leaf-watching season this year for visitors.

Kiyomizudera Temple, featuring a newly-unveiled and freshly restored three-story pagoda
Kiyomizudera's three-story pagoda showing off a fresh new paint job after an autumn season under scaffolding last year
The hillsides around Kiyomizudera are still weeks off from their best autumn colors
Despite some construction around the temple grounds, the views are still rewarding
The Koyasu Pagoda at Kiyomizudera
A group of high school students getting a drink from each of the three fountains for good fortune
The Todoroki-mon Gate is now completely under scaffolding till sometime next year (2016), with the Main Hall (on the right) slated to go under the knife shortly thereafter

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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