The autumn colors are at their best this week in cities like Tokyo where Sam was today, in Kyoto and Nara where I was today. I expect this weekend to be the best time to see the autumn colors if you are in or around these cities before the leaves start falling in time to come.
Shigisan Chogosonshiji Temple: Peak Color
My first stop for today was Shigisan Chogosonshiji Temple in Nara Prefecture, not far from Horyuji Temple. The temple is located on Mount Shigi and was founded by Prince Shotoku about 1400 years ago. The temple grounds are quite spacious and the main hall looks down to the city below. Maple and ginkgo trees can be found on the grounds and they were showing off their best colors when I was there today. I expect the best viewing period to continue to through this weekend and possibly into early next week.
Seeing all the temple buildings and walking around the grounds takes at least 45 minutes and there are walking trails that lead up to the top of the mountain where a castle used to stand. Visitors to the temple will see lots of tiger statues on the grounds, and this is because Prince Shotoku had his prayer answered by the Bishamonten deity on the year, day and time of the tiger. Since then, the animal is highly revered by the believers and seen as a bringer of good fortune.
Shigisan Chogosonshiji can be reached by hourly buses from Oji Station. The one way journey takes about 20 minutes and costs 360 yen. The Shigi-Ohashi bus stop is a short walk from the entrance temple.
Nara Park: Peak Color
From there, I headed into central Nara and visited Nara Park. I found the colors here to be at their peak and expect the best viewing period to continue through this weekend. The spacious park was well visited with visitors and deer but there were enough colors and space to accomodate everyone.
Isuien Garden: Peak Color
My last stop of the day was Isuien Garden, a stone's throw from Todaiji Temple in Nara Park. The colors here were also at their best and the garden was the perfect spot for sitting and enjoying the view quietly. Like the rest of Nara, I expect the best viewing period to continue through this weekend and possibly into early next week.