The autumn color season is maturing nicely, with the color front having already washed down from the north of Japan and through some of the country's southern cities. Last week and early this week I was lucky enough to see the autumn colors develop in parts of Kansai, but today I was back east to report on this most spectacular of seasons in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture.
Sometimes referred to as the Kyoto of Eastern Japan, Kamakura is awash with shrines and temples and is a hugely popular tourist destination, no less because it is situated less than an hour south of Tokyo. The foliage around the many holy sights usually bursts into color around early December, and so I was eager to get down to some of the celebrated sites to see for myself how the autumn colors were looking.
My first stop of the day was Engakuji Temple, a beautiful and extensive complex adjacent to Kita-Kamakura Station and notable as one of Kamakura's five great Zen temples. The most vibrant colors are usually caught by the entrance, and today was no exception with a beautiful display of reds and golds hanging from the tree branches. The foliage was looking pretty vibrant right through the complex and it seems as though these peak colors should stay looking sharp here for at least another week.
The next location on my list today was the Tenen Hiking Trail, in particular Kenchoji Temple at the trailhead and the Shishimai Valley, where I planned to leave the trail and skip down back into town. Kenchoji was moderately impressive, with some nice colors dotted about and some trees that were looking decidedly wintry.
I came across some great colors particularly at the beginning of the trail, leading up to the ridge from where I got some splendid views of Mount Fuji. Further up, there was color in only a few spots. Down in the Shishimai Valley however there were some lovely reds and yellows bleeding through the green, making the place look as if it will burst into peak in a matter of days.
From Shishimai Valley I headed over to Zuisenji Temple, another of Kamakura's Zen temples. The maple and ginkgo trees were showing some brilliant waves of color here, making for some beautiful views towards the back near the main hall. It seems as though this little temple will stay in peak well into next week.
Next up was Tsuruoka Hachimangu Shrine, Kamakura's most famous shrine and a popular spot with visitors year round. There weren't overwhelming amounts of color here today, but the bridge to the left of the dancing hall was the exception, resembling a small inferno of color that seemingly won't go out for another week.
The penultimate stop on my trip today was at the revered Hasedera Temple. The temple's gardens today were very picturesque, exhibiting the most vibrant colors I saw all day, especially concentrated on the lower levels. Again, it looks as if peak has just started, and it seems the place will be alive with color for at least another week. The temple will be lit up every night until December 11 from 17:00 to 18:30 (19:00 at weekends).
Before saying goodbye to Kamakura I made one last stop at the Great Buddha of Kamakura. This bronze Amida Buddha statue is the second tallest bronze Buddha statue in the land after the one at Todaiji Temple. Despite not having the most foliage by any means, this location is popular with color chasers for the great photo opportunities it affords at this time of year. The Buddha's surrounding foliage was certainly in peak and should stay that way until the end of next week.