After Typhoon No. 21 blasted the country this weekend and into Monday, the skies have calmed and the autumn color season continues making its way down from Japan's highest elevations.

While western Japan and cities like Kyoto and Tokyo are still a few weeks away from seeing their leaves changing color, mountainous areas in the north and center of the country are now hitting the peak of their season. Lower elevations around places like Mt. Fuji and Lake Towada are great places to catch the colors this week.

Today I headed straight to the season's front line to Nikko National Park, one of Japan's most famous autumn color spots, where I was greeted with some stunning fall displays.

Akechidaira Plateau

Peak Color

My first stop today was the plateau overlook Akechidaira, located right at the top of the ascending half of the Irohazaka Road that leads into the natural wonderland of Okunikko. The views from lookout at the top of the Akechidaira Ropeway were breathtaking today, showing off autumn colors around Mt. Nantai and a typhoon-swelled Kegon Falls.

The colors around this area seemed to just reach their peak recently and will likely stay attractive through this week.

Yumoto Onsen

Beyond Peak

From Akechidaira, I made my way up to the Nikko Yumoto. Sitting over 100 meters above Kegon Falls and Lake Chuzenji, the Yumoto area finishes its season about a week earlier than the lower parts of Okunikko, and today the leaves around the area had already mostly fallen.

Senjogahara Marsh

Beyond Peak

From the Yumoto, I made a quick stop at the Senjogahara Marshland, just a few minutes down the road. The golden grasses covering the ground here were a bit past their best color today, but the karamatsu pine trees lining the edges of the marsh still had enough remaining pines to provide nice yellow hues to the area.

Next to Senjogahara, the popular Ryuzu Waterfall area, which was at peak color when Raina was their just last week, was almost leafless today.

Lake Chuzenji

Peak Color

After confirming the season status in the upper reaches of Okunikko, I headed back down to the Lake Chuzenji area next. The area around the lake—again, just 100-200 meters lower in elevation—had reached peak color.

Starting at an observation point near Hangetsuyama, I circled around much of the lake to find the spots with at-peak foliage. The closer the trees were to the lake itself, it seemed, the better the colors were today.

Barring another surpirse typhoon, I expect the colors around the lake will remain nice through the end of this week.

Irohazaka Road

Peak Color

On my way back down from Okunikko, I made sure to take in the colors along the Irohazaka Road as well. The slopes which the road snakes down were covered in fantastic autumn colors, very close to their absolute peak today.

This area will likely remain quite nice through this week and maybe into early next week as different tree types change colors.

Shoyoen Garden

Peak Color

My final stop of the day was back down in the Nikko town area, not far from the celebrated Toshogu Shrine. Located just a few dozen meters away from Toshogu's main entrance is Rinnoji, a massive Bhuddist temple founded over 1000 years ago.

While the temple remains under construction until March 2019 (though still open to visitors), just opposite the main temple building stands the Shoyoen Garden, a lovely small Japanese style garden that boasts some picturesque autumn colors.

Today, several of Shoyoen's maple trees were showing some good color. You can likely catch nice colors here until next week.