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Autumn Color Report 2014
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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2014/11/28 - Kyoto Report
by joe

Kiyomizudera's recently-renovated Koyasu Pagoda

For my last autumn color report this week from the Kansai Region, I was back in Kyoto today and yesterday exploring some of the old capital's best autumn leaf spots. The colors around most of Kyoto today are definitely still at their peak and will likely still be impressive at least into early next week.

I started my koyo (autumn color) hunt yesterday afternoon at Ryoanji Temple on the west side of Kyoto. Though the temple is most well-known for its famous rock garden, the trees around the temple grounds are stunning in the fall, and today were at the their best color.

The approach to Ryoanji Temple
The trees around Ryoanji were at the height of their peak
Around the pond at Ryoanji
Visitors enjoying Ryoanji's famous rock garden

After Ryoanji, I waited eagerly till dusk to make my way over to the opposite, east side of the city. My goal for the evening: checking out three of Kyoto's best temples for nighttime koyo illuminations. Several temples and parks across the city reopen after sunset in the fall and spring (during cherry blossom season) to let visitors meander through the grounds and enjoy light-ups of trees and temple buildings. The light-ups can be extremely impressive, but also extremely crowded, so it's a good idea not to arrive at temples just at opening (when the lines are huge) or closing (to give yourself plenty of time to linger).

The first fall color illumination spot I visited was at Eikando Temple. I waited 30 minutes in a winding line to get my tickets here, but the wait was well worth it. The temple grounds are packed with momiji (Japanese maple) trees, most of which were at their peak color, and hundreds of them were strategically lit, making for some stunning views almost everywhere you looked. While the crowds were intense, the atmosphere was lively and almost magical.

The nighttime light-up at Eikando Temple drew huge crowds of leaf-watchers
Spectacular fall colors lit up around every turn of Eikando Temple's sprawling grounds
Almost every corner of the temple complex had colorful trees lit up
Though extremely crowded, the atmosphere was wonderful

My second illumination stop, just five-minute walk south from Eikando, was Nanzenji Temple. The temple's Tenjuan Garden is the highlight here at night during the fall. Visitors are invited to sit in an open porch-like room on tatami straw mats while overlooking the quiet, delicate landscape garden. It was a peaceful, lovely experience.

Tenjuan Garden's autumn illumination at Nanzenji Temple
Tenjuan Garden's autumn illumination at Nanzenji Temple

The last temple I visited at night, which was a 10-minute taxi ride south of Nanzenji, was Kodaiji Temple. The temple is also famed for its rock gardens, and last night the rocks and the grounds were decorated with a peppering of traditional Japanese umbrellas as a part of an art installation this autumn. The illumination here, too, was quite impressive.

Kodaji Temple's night illumination was impressive
An art installation featuring traditional Japanese umbrellas is being featured this autumn at Kodaiji Temple
Umbrellas amongst bamboo

After my illuminating night, I resumed my temple hopping in the morning with a visit to of Kyoto's best-loved temples, Kiyomizudera Temple. The colors were definitely at their peak during Raina's visit last week, but the leaves haven't staled too much yet, and were still very impressive today (even despite the construction work that many of the temple buildings are currently undergoing).

Kiyomizudera's colors were wonderful, though a little past their peak at this point
Koyasu Pagoda surrounded by brilliant fall color
Kiyomizudera's usual huge crowds weren't disappointed with the koyo today
Prayer tablets under momiji (Japanese maple)
Kiyomizudera's momiji was still impressive today
Leaves, lantern, and love

Tofukuji Temple in the south part of the city was my next destination for the day, as well as a huge throng of leaf-watchers. The colors here have definitely declined since last week, but were still quite lovely, with fallen leaves starting to build up under the momiji (Japanese maple) trees around the grounds. The colors should still be nice over the weekend and early next week, but expect crowds at this hugely popular spot.

Tofukuji Temple drew massive crowds today to see its autumn leaves
Looking out onto a sea of fall colors with Tofukuji Temple's beloved Tsutenkyo Bridge in the distance
The color at Tofukuji is definitely past its peak, but should still be impressive at least through the weekend
The colorful view from the Tsutenkyo Bridge
The momiji are dropping their leaves quicker and quicker

My final stop of the day was further outside the city at Daigoji Temple, where, like at Tofukuji, the colors were definitely beginning to fade. The approach to the temple is almost bare at this point, but the lovely Bentendo in the back of the temple grounds was still holding on to a nice palette of reds and yellows, and made for a pleasant ending for my time here in Kansai.

The trees lining the approach to Daigoji Temple have all but lost their leaves
Daigoji Temple's Bentendo, still surrounded by a blaze of autumn leaves (for a little while longer)
Great red and yellow foliage near Bentendo
The momiji behind Bentendo are at their peak color
A huge group of elementary school students were (enthusiastically) helping the temple staff pick up the fallen leaves around the grounds today

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List of Posts:
2014/12/05 - Tokyo Report
2014/12/04 - Kanazawa Report
2014/12/03 - Kyoto Report
2014/12/02 - Kamakura Report
2014/11/28 - Kyoto Report
2014/11/27 - Tokyo Report
2014/11/26 - Nara Report
2014/11/25 - Kyoto Report
2014/11/21 - Osaka Report
2014/11/20 - Kyoto Report
2014/11/19 - Korankei Report
2014/11/18 - Miyajima Report
2014/11/18 - Tokyo Report
2014/11/17 - Kyoto Report
2014/11/14 - Kyoto Report
2014/11/14 - Himeji Report
2014/11/13 - Fuji Report
2014/11/13 - Tokyo Report
2014/11/12 - Eiheiji Report
2014/11/11 - Kyoto Report
2014/11/07 - Tokyo Report
2014/11/07 - Kyoto Report
2014/11/06 - Yamadera Report
2014/11/04 - Fuji Report
2014/11/04 - Hakone Report
2014/10/31 - Karuizawa Report
2014/10/29 - Shima Onsen Report
2014/10/24 - Fuji Report
2014/10/21 - Bandai Report
2014/10/21 - Nikko Report
2014/10/20 - Towada Report
2014/10/16 - Tateyama Report
2014/10/15 - Kurikoma Report
2014/10/08 - Nasu Report
2014/10/07 - Nikko Report
2014/10/01 - Oze Report
2014/09/29 - Tateyama Report
2014/09/26 - Nikko Report
2014/09/19 - Tokachidake Report
2014/09/18 - Kurodake Report
2014/09/17 - Asahidake Report

Tours and Experiences