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

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2015/11/12 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo

Tokyo's Koishikawa Korakuen garden

With temperatures dropping across the country, this year's autumn color front has just started creeping into Japan's large cities. While the season is coming into full force in western Japan this week, in and around Tokyo, the season is just beginning. Today, I made my way to the capital to check on the progress of the colors in some of Tokyo's best autumn color spots.

Since Scott's first report from Tokyo last week, the colors around the city have definitely progressed a bit. As it's still relatively early in Tokyo's autumn color season (which usually lasts from early November through early December), green still dominates the palettes around the inner city parks I visited today. But it was clear the green won't be around for much longer.

My first stop today was to the west side of Tokyo, to the popular Icho Namiki, or "Ginkgo Avenue." Just a two-minute walk from Aoyama-Itchome Station, this ginkgo-lined street's color change was just getting underway today. While definitely more colorful than it was last week, the trees are still a week or two off from peak color.

Icho Namiki (the Ginkgo Avenue) was just beginning to change color today
The ginkgo trees about halfway through their color change
Today's palette at Icho Namiki: Lightening green turning yellow
Walkers enjoying the tree tunnel today
This alley will be a tunnel of bring golden yellow in about 1-2 weeks

A 15-minute walk from the Ginkgo Avenue, Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is another perennial autumn color favorite in Tokyo. The expansive park's large variety of trees and types of gardens attract hundreds of visitors every day, and offers some nice autumnal views across its grounds. Today, the park was already showing some nice color in certain spots, especially around the big central lawn and in the French formal garden on the east side of the park.

Shinjuku Gyoen Nation Garden was also just starting to see some good color
A bench amongst almost-barren cherry trees, one of the first Japanese tree varieties to lose their leaves
The colors in the French formal garden area were a beautiful patchwork or green, yellow, and brown
A stroll through the park
Elementary school students on a field trip to the park
The NTT Docomo Building looming over some fresh fall foliage
The trees around Shinjuku Gyoen's big lawn sporting nice light greens, orangy yellows, and browns, like a shepherd's pie
The annual autumn Chrysanthemum festival is underway this month with pretty displays littered about the park
Strategically placed Chrysanthemums

My next stop of the day was to Rikugien, one of Tokyo's best public Japanese gardens. Originally opened by the 5th Tokugawa Shogun, the 300-year-old garden is a quintessential Edo Era landscape garden with walking paths through wooded areas and over bridges, all around a large central pond. It is also a hot spot for autumn leaf watchers in Tokyo.

Today, the garden's foliage was still mostly green, but some reds were starting to pop out here and there across the grounds. The momiji trees (Japanese maple), however, which provide the garden's most vibrant colors during the peak of the season here (still about 2 weeks off), were only just starting to hint at some reds today.

Rikugien was mostly green today, but patches of red are beginning to pop out all over
Enjoying the view
The well-manicured garden is attracting more and more visitors as the season progresses
Delicate leaves changing from green to red
Flecks of red starting to come out over the Togetsukyo Bridge
In a couple more weeks the momiji (Japanese maple) trees in the back of the park will all be a fiery red
The paths through the middle of the park are a bit wilder and lined with sasa (mountain bamboo)
Almost looks like she's swimming in mayonnaise

My final destination for the day was Koishikawa Korakuen, another beautiful Edo Era Japanese Garden in central Tokyo. Here again, the season hadn't yet taken off, with only a very few small hints of color starting to come out. The garden still has a few more weeks to go till the momiji (which make up most of the color-changing trees here) reach their peak, brillian red color. I was happy to find, however, that a few of the construction projects that marred several good views have been finished since my last report trip here last year (though one or two are still ongoing), making for an extra pleasant afternoon visit.

Lots of green at Koishikawa Korakuen
One of Koishikawa Korakuen's great autumn color spots...a little early in the season.
Koishikawa Korakuen features tons of momiji, which tend to be one of the last types of trees to change color in the season
The momiji around the park will be an impressive red in a couple weeks (to match this bridge)
The Shiraito waterfall is still under construction for the next couple years, though the rest of the park is mostly construction-free
A great place to spend an afternoon

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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