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Autumn Color Report 2012
Official autumn color reports by japan-guide.com

Where to see autumn leaves? - When do trees turn colors? - What trees turn colors?
Schedule of upcoming reports - Post your own report

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2012/10/16 - Nikko Report
by scott

Okunikko from the Konsei Pass

Today I made our second autumn color visit to the popular Nikko area, about two hours north of Tokyo. It's been a week since our first report from the area and since then the colors around Nikko have improved quite a bit. However, most areas are not quite at the peak just yet and should continue to improve into next week.

I arrived early in the morning in Okunikko, the national park area way up in the mountains behind the temples and shrines of Nikko Town. The colors around Konsei pass at the entrance to Okunikko were still approaching the peak. Some nice colors could be seen along the upper slopes and were starting to show along the road.

Konsei Pass
Colors are starting to show along the street the leads to the pass
Yumoto Onsen Town down below the pass

After a few minutes drive I arrived at Lake Yunoko next to Yumoto Onsen Town. The situation around the lake was a little later than at Konsei Pass. The colors are beginning to show but are not yet near their peak.

Lake Yunoko
Lake Yunoko
Photographers enjoying the colors
Still mostly green leaves overlooking Yudaki Waterfall

Another short drive took me to the Senjogahara Marsh, a highland marsh with a number of hiking trails that lead around the area. After parking in one of several parking lots, I hiked a little ways around the marsh to check out one of my favorite spots. Like Sean's trip last week, the highland grasses were nice shades or red and orange and right around the peak. Most of the trees in the area, however, were slightly behind and still approaching their peak. Overall it was a nice balance between the early and later changing plants with everything showing a bit of color today.

Senjogahara Marsh
Along the boardwalk trails that lead around the marsh
Trees approaching the peak
The early changing tochinoki trees were already reaching their peak yellow color

Afterwards I headed down to Ryuzunotaki waterfall to check out the colors around the falls. This area tend to be a few days ahead of the rest of Okunikko, which was quite apparent today as the trees around the falls were already nice shades of red, orange and yellow. They are not quite at the peak yet, but should be there in the next few days.

The area above Ryuzunotaki Waterfall was just nearing its peak
The trail along the falls
Ryuzunotaki Waterfall
It was extremely crowded today, but especially so around Ryuzunotaki

Next I drove to Lake Chuzenjiko, circled halfway around it, and then headed up the mountain behind the lake to check out the view from the Hangetsuyama Observation Point. The first stop though, was to a parking lot along the ridge that overlooks Lake Chuzenjiko. From here it was apparent that it was still quite early for the colors around the lake.

Along Lake Chuzenjiko
Lake Chuzenjiko from the viewpoint along the way to Hangetsuyama Observation Point
The viewpoint above the lake

Another minute or so up the road is the trail to Hangetsuyama Observation Deck. A 20-30 minute hike takes you up the mountain to the observation deck from where you have a great, unobstructed view of the lake complete with the famous Hatchodejima Peninsula below. Today you could see some colors along the higher slopes, but as before, it still looks pretty early around the lake.

The parking lot at the base of the trail to Hangetsuyama Observation Deck
Along the trail to the observation deck
Hangetsuyama Observation Point
View over Lake Chuzenjiko from the Hangetsuyama Observation Deck

Heading back down to the lake, I took a quick stop at Kegonnotaki Waterfall. The colors around the falls are still pretty green, but they should continue to improve into next week.

Kegonnotaki Waterfall
People on the observation deck overlooking the falls

Afterwards I left Okunikko and headed down the Irohazaka road to Nikko Town. It is still too early along the slope, and not many colors were visible today. It should really be nice (and crowded!) in another week or so.

Along the Irohazaka road
Irohazaka road
Trees are just beginning to change colors here and there

The Nikko Town area is about 600 meters lower than Lake Chuzenjiko, and the autumn colors will slowly make their way down here over the next few weeks. Even so, most of the trees around the temples and shrines are evergreens, so you never really see spectacular colors around the town. The exception would be Shoyoen Garden, which is part of Rinnoji Temple and has a lot of nice maple trees planted around it. It's still early though as the garden was predominantly green today.

Shoyoen Garden
Shoyoen Garden
Rinnoji Temple will remain under construction until 2021

Fortunately, I finished up today's autumn color reporting just in time to catch the Nikko Yabusame Archery Tournament. This annual event is held every year in mid October, and features Edo Period costumed, mounted archers who shoot at wooden targets while at full gallop. It's an exciting and difficult event, and few archers are skillful enough to hit all three targets. Only 2 of 10 archers were able to today. They also occasionally fall off their horses which happened to one rider. Luckily he wasn't hurt. If you are in the area tomorrow there will be a special parade of about 1000 people dressed in period costume, including archers, soldiers and samurai.

Yabusame in Nikko
Yabusame archer
The archers shoot at three targets
If they hit all three targets they get a special prize
A foreign archer competed today as a special guest. I didn't quite catch his name, but I think it was Michelson.
A yabusame archer

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List of Posts:
2012/12/11 - Tokyo Report
2012/12/07 - Tokyo Report
2012/12/05 - Kamakura Report
2012/12/02 - Kyoto Report
2012/12/01 - Tokyo Report

2012/11/29 - Kyoto Report
2012/11/29 - Himeji Report
2012/11/27 - Tokyo Report
2012/11/26 - Kyoto Report
2012/11/25 - Kyoto Report
2012/11/23 - Miyajima Report
2012/11/22 - Kyoto Report
2012/11/21 - Tokyo Report
2012/11/21 - Kyoto Report
2012/11/19 - Takaosan Report
2012/11/16 - Kyoto Report
2012/11/15 - Mount Fuji Report
2012/11/15 - Shosenkyo Report
2012/11/14 - Hakone Report
2012/11/13 - Tokyo Report
2012/11/09 - Sakurayama Report
2012/11/08 - Koyasan Report
2012/11/07 - Kyoto Report
2012/11/07 - Nikko Report
2012/11/07 - Yamadera Report
2012/11/06 - Naruko Report
2012/11/05 - Hiraizumi Report
2012/11/05 - Mount Fuji Report
2012/11/01 - Kuju Report

2012/10/31 - Towada Report
2012/10/30 - Bandai Report
2012/10/26 - Minakami Report
2012/10/24 - Nikko Report
2012/10/22 - Alpine Route Report
2012/10/18 - Noboribetsu Report
2012/10/18 - Sounkyo Report
2012/10/17 - Shiretoko Report
2012/10/16 - Norikura Report
2012/10/16 - Nikko Report
2012/10/15 - Kamikochi Report
2012/10/12 - Oze Report
2012/10/11 - Hachimantai Report
2012/10/10 - Bandai Report
2012/10/09 - Nikko Report
2012/10/05 - Route 292 Report
2012/10/04 - Alpine Route Report

2012/09/28 - Kurodake Report
2012/09/27 - Kogen Onsen Report
2012/09/26 - Asahidake Report
2012/09/21 - Asahidake Report
2012/09/20 - Kurodake Report
2012/09/18 - Asahidake Report

Tours and Experiences