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Tokyo: Approaching Peak

As this year's autumn color season is finally wrapping up in the north and central mountainous areas of Japan, western Japan and the country's urban coastal areas are now starting to reach their peak color, including none other than fall color hot-spot Tokyo.

The nation's capital usually finds the trees around its many city parks and avenues changing color throughout November, usually peaking around the end of the month, later than much of the rest of the country.

After Raina's last early report from a mostly still-green Tokyo two weeks ago, I was greeted by a koyo (autumn color) wonderland today in several of the city's best fall color spots.

Aoyama Icho Namiki

Approaching Peak

My first stop for today was to one of Tokyo's most iconic autumn color spots, ginkgo tree-lined Aoyama Icho Namiki. Located just a couple minutes' walk from Aoyama-Itchome Station, the picturesque avenue's rows of trees were nearing there peak color today, much developed since our last report here. The ginkgo's foliage was mostly yellowed, with its last holdout leaves likely turning this week.

Expect this street to be super colorful by next week, as well as super crowded, as the annual Jingugaien Ginkgo Festival (November 18 to December 5, held in the field at the end of the avenue) will help bring in throngs leaf watchers.

Shinjuku Gyoen

Approaching Peak

After a 15-minute walk from Icho Namiki, I found myself at Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, one of Tokyo's largest and most popular public parks. The garden was sporting some beautiful autumn colors today, especially in the French formal garden on the east side of the park and around the sprawling English lawn garden. The Japanese garden—a perennial koyo favorite—was approaching its peak as well, as the garden's momiji (Japanese maple) trees were beginning to show some of flashes of bright red.

Showa Kinen Koen

Peak Color

My next destination for the day was to what is arguably one of Tokyo's most impressive and spacious autumn color spots. Showa Kinen Koen, located about a 30-minute train ride west from Shinjuku Station, directly next to Nishi-Tachikawa Station, is a 160-hectacre park featuring a variety of garden types, biking paths, and no shortage of color-changing trees.

Today, the park was on fire with autumn color, ahead of much of the rest of Tokyo. Two of the best spots at Showa Kinen Koen to enjoy the leaves at their best are the park's very own icho namiki ("ginkgo avenue"), in its southeast corner, and the Japanese style garden in the center. Both were stunning today, and should remain around peak at least through the end of this week.

For those visiting the park, the most efficient (and perhaps the most fun) way to get around the huge grounds is by renting a bicycle, which cost 510 yen for three hours for adults and are available near the entrances.

Imperial East Gardens

Peak Color

My last stop for the day was back in the center of Tokyo at the the Imperial Palace's East Gardens. A popular Tokyo cherry blossom viewing spot, the large grounds of the palace also have a few patches of trees that change color in the fall as well.

The foliage around the palace grounds today was a bit mixed, with some trees seeming to be approaching their peak, some still quite green (momiji trees in particular), and still others (largely the early-changing cherry trees) were already leafless.