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Tokyo: Peak Colors

Peak autumn colors on the unseasonally snowy peak of Tokyo's Mount Takao

This year's autumn colors are now hitting their peak in Japan's big cities like Tokyo and Kyoto as our seasonal coverage continues. While Sam is covering the action in western Japan this week, I headed to Tokyo today to track the season's progress in the nation's capital.

In a rather unseasonal twist yesterday, Tokyo, along with the rest of the northern Kanto Region, just experienced its first November snowfall in over fifty years.

While snow never sticks long in the urban center of the city, there was still a fresh blanket of snow covering the rooftops in the relatively cooler city suburbs this morning as I made way to the far west side of the Tokyo to Mount Takao, one of Tokyo's favorite weekend nature getaways, as well as one of its most famous autumn color spots.

Mount Takao

Peak Color

Mount Takao (599 meters) is a small, Buddhist temple-crowned mountain located on the western edge of the Tokyo Metropolitan Area, set amongst the mountains that define the edge of the capital's sprawling urban zone. Despite the peaceful surroundings, though, the easy hour-or-less train ride from Shinjuku Station (the busiest train station in Japan) make it an extremely popular destination. From mid November to early December, the mountain draws even bigger crowds to enjoy the mountain's foliage changing color.

Today, the autumn colors around the mountain were at their peak color in many places, especially higher up towards its summit. Visitors today also had a truly rare treat: plenty of recently-fallen snow covering tree branches, temple rooftops and walkways, with a fresh layer of fallen autumn leaves embedded in the snow.

Thanks to there being a variety of trees at all elevations here, the colors should still be good here for another week or two as the momiji (Japanese maple) trees towards the base of the mountain start changing color.

Snow! In November! Plenty left this morning in Tokyo's western suburbs
The Mount Takao Cable Car, making its way up through the snow and autumn leaves
Lovely view from the top of the cable car station
Snowy wooded pathways and still-changing colors on some trees
Just because
Very snow melt, much wet camera equipment
The colors around the lovely Yakuoin Temple were at peak today
Fiery red momiji (Japanese maple) towering over the temple
Like so many things in Japanese aesthetics, beauty is fleeting
Looks like he caught a can of beer or something (...or a scroll for the goddess Inari Okami)
The colors around many of the temple buildings were beautiful today
The snowy summit of Mount Takao
Great visibility today for a fantastic view of... can you see it in the distance?
Mount Fuji!!!
In other news, this dog did not want to eat snow
Salamander red momiji leaf

Shinjuku Gyoen

Peak Color

After my pleasant morning on Mount Takao, I headed back down the morning and caught a direct train back to Shinjuku Station, from which a short ten-minute walk brought me to my second destination for today. Shinjuku Gyoen, an all-time favorite Tokyo koyo spot, usually boasts lovely fall colors through almost all of the capital's season (from mid November through early December). Today was no exception, as many of the park's momiji (Japanese maple) trees were just hitting their peak color, especially in the Japanese garden area.

While the momiji are definitely king at this point in the season, some other trees (notably a handful of enormous ginkgo trees) are also showing nice colors as well. Many others, however, like the abundant cherry trees and the trees lining the French formal garden, have past their peak. The mix, though, still makes for a quite beautifully autumnal atmosphere.

Peak color on the momiji around Shinjuku Gyoen's Japanese garden
Great colors at Shinjuku Gyoen today
Beautiful burning red momiji
The momiji in the Japanese garden are peaking now and should stay nice maybe into next week
Golden giants lurking amongst the cherry trees
A gorgeous glowing ginkgo
The autumn leaves have got me thinking...
The NTT Docomo Building doing its best to compete with the trees for attention (the trees were winning)
The French formal garden still had a few lingering leaves (mainly on the ground, where they're more fun to play with)
Autumn leaves in a city park in the afternoon light
Autumn wonderland