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Autumn Color Report 2015
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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2015/11/24 - Kyoto Report
by scott

Kinkakuji

Today I headed out west to pick up the autumn color (koyo) coverage in Kyoto. The peak colors around the city are delayed this year due to the unusually warm weather that they have been experiencing in recent weeks. Unfortunately, the high temperatures in combination with below-average sunshine also have affected the intensity of the colors a bit negatively this year so far.

When Raina visited Kyoto last Friday she visited many of the popular spots around the eastern side of Kyoto where the colors were mostly approaching peak. Today won't be a rehash of that trip; instead I visited a few other popular sites that we haven't covered yet this year, namely Daigoji Temple in southern Kyoto, and Daitokuji, Kinkakuji and Kitano Tenmangu in northern Kyoto.

My first stop today was Daigoji Temple, a large temple complex on the mountain slopes of southeastern Kyoto. Known as a popular cherry blossom spot, the lower temple precincts are also covered in plenty of maple trees to fulfill your koyo season desires. Of particular note is the pond area surrounding the Bentendo, a small temple hall at the back of the Shimo-Daigo area which is surrounded in red and orange maples at the peak. Unfortunately, it seems that the season in this part of the temple has passed the peak already as most of the leaves have already fallen.

The maples around the Bentendo have lost most of their leaves
This was some of the better foliage that could be seen around the pond
Better foliage further away from the water
Everyone was enjoying themselves nevertheless

Walking from the Bentendo back to the entrance gate was like going back in time as the leaves got greener and greener until you reached the completely green tunnel just inside the entrance. These leaves will continue to change, but are more of a sideshow compared to Bentendo area. Considering this, I would suggest visiting other sights if autumn colors are your main goal.

Better colors appeared as you heading back toward the entrance gate
The maples just inside the gate were still very green
The cherry trees around the temple change earlier and by now are virtually bare

Next up on the itinerary was Kitano Tenmangu a popular shrine in northern Kyoto dedicated to the exiled scholar, Sugawara Michizane, and frequently visited by students hoping to have success in their studies. A large garden on the shrine grounds is contains a few hundred maple trees planted along a small ravine, and is temporarily open each year during the autumn color season.

In the past you could enter the garden through the shrine's famous plum garden, however in preparation for a festival in 2027, some major construction and improvement works are currently carried out in the plum garden, and the ravine is accessed through a different entrance. Like elsewhere in Kyoto, the trees around Kitano Tenmangu appeared to be still approaching their peak and I'd give it another week or so before they really hit their moment.The garden will remain open this year until December 6th and will be lit up evenings until 20:00.

Kitano Tenmangu
Down in the maple garden
The bridge is one of the highlights of the Momiji Garden
The maple gardens will be lit up evenings until 20:00
Enjoying a ginkgo covered shrine roof behind the main temple building
Praying at Kitano Tenmangu
Family visiting the shrine to celebrate the daughter's shichigosan
The plum garden under construction

After visiting the shrine it was time to head to one of the most popular temples in Kyoto, Kinkakuji, the golden pavilion. While the temple grounds don't have a huge abundance of koyo, the colors that you can see are quite nice and complement the already photogenic temple building. Most of the colors are located outside the paid area along the approach the temple, while relatively few, but strategically placed, maple trees are planted around the temple's large pond area, with additional colorful foliage up on the hill behind the pavilion. Kyoto City reports that the colors around Kinkakuji are currently at the peak, although I didn't have quite the same impression and would tend to place them slightly before peak. Either way, they are enjoyable to look at and should remain nice for another week or so.

Kinkakuji
Kinkakuji
Ok this one is at the peak
Masses of school kids on their class trips to Kyoto

My last stop of the day was to Kotoin, a subtemple in the massive Daitokuji temple complex in northern Kyoto. I think that Kotoin is one of the best koyo spots in Kyoto, as it has a variety of beautiful gardens and nicely designed temple buildings that give visitors many nice views to take in and opportunities for photographs. A crowd favorite is the tranquil moss garden where you can sit and look out at the colorful maples that overhang a carpet of green moss.

The majority of the maples around the temple's gardens were right around peak today, with lots of nice yellow, red and orange maples to be seen all around. There were a few areas that were starting to come down a little prematurely, but the famous approach was still approaching the peak and looked to still have great potential for the near future.

The approach to Kotoin
Admiring the moss garden at Kotoin
Admiring the moss garden at Kotoin
A famous stone washbasin found in one of Kotoin's gardens
Another approach picture just because its so hard to get these without any people in them (a tour group of 45 people came in just behind me)
Floating leaves

Evergreen trees are very prominent around the roads and walkways of Daitokuji, however if you explore the numerous footpaths and lanes around the grounds you can find all kinds of hidden pockets of color. There are also many other subtemples in Daitokuji other than Kotoin that are open to the public either year round or just temporarily during the koyo season. A few have nice maple trees planted around their entrances, but most are better known for their other features such as their dry gardens.

The entrance of Obai-in, which is temporarily open until December 6th
The entrance of Korin-in, open through December 15th
Maple trees around Daitokuji

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List of Posts:
2015/12/09 - Tokyo Report
2015/12/04 - Kyoto Report
2015/12/03 - Tokyo Report
2015/12/01 - Kamakura Report
2015/11/27 - Tokyo Report
2015/11/27 - Kyoto Report
2015/11/27 - Nara Report
2015/11/26 - Osaka Report
2015/11/25 - Miyajima Report
2015/11/24 - Kyoto Report
2015/11/20 - Kyoto Report
2015/11/19 - Tokyo Report
2015/11/19 - Kankakei Report
2015/11/18 - Mount Mitake Report
2015/11/18 - Korankei Report
2015/11/17 - Fujigoko Report
2015/11/17 - Kyoto Report
2015/11/16 - Mount Takao Report
2015/11/13 - Kyoto Report
2015/11/12 - Tokyo Report
2015/11/11 - Hakone Report
2015/11/11 - Fukuroda Falls Report
2015/11/10 - Kyoto Report
2015/11/09 - Koyasan Report
2015/11/08 - Miyajima Report
2015/11/07 - Dazaifu Report
2015/11/06 - Fujigoko Report
2015/11/04 - Tokyo Report
2015/10/30 - Kyoto Report
2015/10/28 - Nikko Report
2015/10/26 - Bandai Report
2015/10/22 - Northern Alps Report
2015/10/21 - Northern Alps Report
2015/10/20 - Mount Fuji Report
2015/10/15 - Hachimantai Report
2015/10/15 - Nikko Report
2015/10/14 - Alpine Route Report
2015/10/14 - Towada Report
2015/10/13 - Hakkoda Report
2015/10/08 - Nasu Report
2015/10/06 - Nikko Report
2015/10/05 - Route 292 Report
2015/09/28 - Oze Report
2015/09/24 - Alpine Route Report
2015/09/17 - Daisetsuzan Report
2015/09/16 - Daisetsuzan Report

Tours and Experiences