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

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2015/12/04 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto

Amazing color today at Kyoto's Shinnyodo Temple

After an unusually warm and rainy mid-season, this year's autumn color season cast some doubt about how it would finish in its last few weeks. While the colors in Tokyo seemed to be pushed back a little later than usual by the weather, the Kansai Region has seen its trees losing their leaves rather quickly.

Today, I made my way to Kyoto to find out how this trend affected some of the old capital's best koyo spots as the city quickly reaches the end of its season.

My first stop on this sunny morning was to eastern Kyoto's Shinnyodo Temple, a quiet, off-the-beaten-path temple of the Tendai Sect that sports some spectacular autumn colors starting around late November. When I arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to find the colors were still gorgeous today, though slightly past their peak. The trees look to remain nice for another week or so before losing most of their leaves.

The still-blazing red approach to Shinnyodo Temple
Warm welcome
Plenty of leaves still showing some great color
Man on fire? Burning bush? Puffy bubblegum person with legs? What do you see?
While many trees were past their peak today, they should still carry some nice color for another week or so
Yellow around the bell tower
We heard you like fall colors, so we put some fall colors in your fall colors
A beautiful place to start the day

From Shinnyodo, I took a 15-20-minute stroll from the temple along the Philosopher's Path to my next destination: Eikando Temple. Eikando's huge grounds are extremely popular for leaf watching, and today hundreds of people flocked to the temple to catch the end-of-the-season colors.

Today, Eikando was definitely past its peak color in most spots (particularly around the large central pond). In many other spots, though, hundreds of the momiji (Japanese maple) trees around the garden were still at their peak color (though also towards the end of it).

A stroll along the Philosopher's Path
Philosopher cats drooling over some cat food
The entrance to Eikando Temple, still with plenty of red around
The central pond was definitely past its peak...
...but even late-season colors can still be beautiful
An inner garden at Eikando
Brilliant red momiji at peak color
A wall of fire around the upper temple buildings
There's a small area set up for sitting and enjoying some hot tea or amazake while watching the colors
Soaking in the colors while they're still here

My next stop today was just next door Eikando at Nanzenji Temple. The huge temple grounds feature a few spots with some nice autumn colors, but in particular, the small subtemple called Tenjuan Temple shines. The small Zen garden around the temple was definitely far past its peak today, but still had a few lovely late-changing momiji that made the atmosphere wonderful.

The path leading to Nanzenji Temple's Hojo from the Sanmon Gate still had some good color
Elementary school students exploring the old aqueduct
The entrance to Tenjuan Temple's back garden
Some beautiful colors still twinkling around Tenjuan Temple
Take a walk across the pond

My next stop was to Kodaiji Temple, another 20-minute walk south from Nanzenji. Kodaiji, another autumn color all-star in Kyoto, was also past its peak color today. Again, though, several later-changing momiji trees still provided some nice color which should stick around probably for another week or so.

While mostly past their peak, some trees were still showing some nice color around Kodaiji
Some of the best colors at Kodaiji today
Enjoying the gardens in style

My last destination for the day was none other than Kyoto's iconic Kiyomizudera Temple. Though I was worried I may be too late for good colors here, my qualms quickly abated as the afternoon sun lit up the hundreds of bright red momiji all around the temple's main hall. Like the rest of the city's koyo spots today, the trees were arguably a bit past their peak, but still have a solid week of some great color left.

Kiyomizudera wearing its best color
Koyasu Pagoda surrounded by plenty of color
Ain't no dress code for taking great pictures
A blast of red momiji
Some junior high school students strolling down stone steps to the fountains
The afternoon might be my new favorite time of day to visit Kiyomizudera
Plenty of color still going strong here in Kyoto
Basking in the afternoon light

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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