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Autumn Color Report 2013
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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2013/09/20 - Asahidake Report
by schauwecker

Mount Asahidake

Daisetsuzan National Park in the center of Japan's northernmost main island of Hokkaido is the first place in the country to see autumn colors each year. The leaves and grasses in the higher elevations of the national park usually reach the peak of their seasonal beauty around mid to late September, roughly two months before the trees in Tokyo start changing colors.

Thanks to low temperatures over the past weeks, the colors in the higher elevations of Daisetsuzan have been progressing at a fast pace compared to recent years. And in some locations the season has already reached its peak. One such location is Mount Asahidake, Hokkaido's tallest mountain, from where I have been starting our annual autumn color reports for the past five years. Tourists can easily reach the mountain by taking a ropeway from Asahidake Onsen to an upper station above the tree line.

Approaching the upper ropeway station

The colors around the ropeway's upper station made for a promising start to this year's autumn color season. The nanakamado bushes, the most prominent providers of colors in the area, have already turned into nice yellows, oranges and reds, and many leaves of the cute Chinguruma plants and blueberry bushes have also already turned red. Unfortunately, the weather today was mostly overcast. Sunshine would have further enhanced the colors.

The most popular walking route at Mount Asahidake is an easy 40-60 minute loop around the upper ropeway station. It is one of the best areas to see the autumn colors in combination with the mountain's spectacular sulfuric vents. Next most popular is the ascent to the peak of Asahidake, which takes about two hours (one way), however, there are not many autumn colors along the trail.

Some ponds are located along the walking trails near the ropeway station
Nice colors along the easy circular walking course near the ropeway station

More rewarding for koyo hunters is a visit to the Susoaidaira Plateau, which is a relatively flat, 90-120 minute hike (one way) to the north of the ropeway station. The plateau has lots of nanakamado bushes and wide fields of Chinguruma plants. Proper hiking shoes are recommended for visiting the Susoaidaira Plateau due to the uneven terrain.

Susoaidaira Plateau
Nanakamado bushes
Chinguruma plants
Nanakamado bushes and pine trees
Colorful slopes

I myself combined the Susoaidaira Plateau and the summit of Mount Asahidake into a more challenging circular tour that also rewards hikers with views of the Ohachidaira Caldera in the interior of the Daisetsuzan Mountains. Note, however, that while the landscape is spectacular, there are not many autumn colors beyond the Susoaidaira Plateau. My hiking map suggests to allocate around 7-8 hours for the excursion although fast hikers can complete it in considerably less time. Proper hiking equipment and preparations are necessary.

A hiker enjoys a footbath at a natural hot spring that is located between the Susoaidaira Plateau and the Ohachidaira Caldera
The winds grew stronger as I approached the Ohachidaira Caldera
View into the Ohachidaira Caldera - entry is prohibited due to poisonous gases
Daisetsuzan is also the first place in Japan to see snow each year
Mount Asahidake from behind
Descending Mount Asahidake towards the ropeway station

 
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List of Posts:
2013/12/11 - Tokyo Report
2013/12/10 - Kyoto Report
2013/12/06 - Kamakura Report
2013/12/03 - Tokyo Report
2013/11/29 - Kyoto Report
2013/11/28 - Kanazawa Report
2013/11/27 - Osaka Report
2013/11/26 - Kyoto Report
2013/11/26 - Tokyo Report
2013/11/22 - Kyoto Report
2013/11/21 - Miyajima Report
2013/11/20 - Tokyo Report
2013/11/19 - Korankei Report
2013/11/18 - Kyoto Report
2013/11/18 - Fujigoko Report
2013/11/13 - Kyoto Report
2013/11/12 - Tokyo Report
2013/11/11 - Sakurayama Report
2013/11/08 - Karuizawa Report
2013/11/06 - Fujigoko Report
2013/10/30 - Towada Report
2013/10/29 - Nikko Report
2013/10/29 - Yamadera Report
2013/10/28 - Urabandai Report
2013/10/22 - Gunma Report
2013/10/18 - Nasu Report
2013/10/17 - Nikko Report
2013/10/14 - Fujisan Report
2013/10/12 - Hakkodasan Report
2013/10/10 - Oze Report
2013/10/08 - Nikko Report
2013/09/27 - Tateyama Report
2013/09/21 - Kurodake Report
2013/09/20 - Asahidake Report

Tours and Experiences