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Kyoto: Approaching Peak

Five days after our most recent report from Japan's old capital, I returned to Kyoto today where I visited most major temples along the Higashiyama Mountains between Tofukuji and Shinnyodo.

Since our last report from Kyoto, temperatures have fallen into the single digits during most nights, which had a favorable impact on the progress of the seasonal colors. In some of the temples I visited today, peak colors could already be observed, while in others it will take a few more crisp nights before the colors reach their best.

So, like in most years, the last third of November will be the best time to view Kyoto's autumn colors in 2018. In some of the later coloring spots, the seasonal spectacle will likely extend into the first few days of December.

Tofukuji Temple

Peak Color

I arrived at Tofukuji at 8:20am, ten minutes before opening time, and encountered a queue of about 60 meters. In the interest of my time schedule, I decided to skip the visit into the temple's paid area. There is a good reason for the crowds, though: Tofukuji has reached the peak of its autumnal beauty, and the sight of the Tsutenkyo Bridge over the sea of colors was spectacular. Peak has only just started, and I expect the temple to remain spectacular (and very crowded) for much of the rest of November.

View of the temple's Tsutenkyo Bridge from outside of the paid area
About 60 meters of tourists made me cancel my plans to enter the temple
Stream of tourists intent to enjoy the seasonal spectacle at Tofukuji

Kiyomizudera Temple

Approaching Peak

Kiyomizudera felt almost deserted compared to Tofukuji when I visited the popular temple around 9am (it opens daily at 6am). The many maple trees on the temple grounds have not reach peak colors yet, but the low overnight temperatures in the forecasts are likely to accelerate the season into peak within just a few days.

Kiyomizudera's main hall is under renovation until spring 2020
View from Kiyomizudera's balcony
The city of Kyoto in the background
Slow business in the early morning
But by the time I departed, the stream of arriving tourists had increased considerably

Kodaiji Temple

Starting to Change

Kodaiji had the least developed maple trees of all the temples I visited today. I expect the season here to last into early December.

Kodaiji Temple
One of the most colorful branches
The Nene-no-michi slope still at an early state

Chionin Temple

Peak Color

As the headquarters of the popular Jodo sect of Japanese Buddhism, Chionin is a temple of superlatives, featuring some of the country's largest temple structures. Its autumn colors are concentrated in two gardens: Yuzen Garden and Hojo Garden. Unfortunately, the Hojo Garden is currently closed through November 25, but the autumn colors in Yuzen Garden just to the right of the Sanmon Entrance Gate were very attractive today.

Chionin's Sanmon Entrance Gate is the country's largest
Central pond at Yuzen Garden, to the right of the Sanmon Gate
A dry garden with some colors at Yuzen Garden
The maple trees were at the peak of their autumnal beauty and may not last that much longer
Pine tree

Note that the huge main hall of Chionin Temple has been undergoing renovation works for the past few years. The works are scheduled to be completed in spring 2019, and, indeed, the main hall is currently being uncovered and has become visible again.

Chionin's partially uncovered, renovated main hall

Shorenin Temple

Approaching Peak

Not far from Chionin, Shorenin does not offer a great amount of autumn colors, but it has a nice garden that is illuminated every evening during the autumn color season. The few colors on the temple grounds were not at their peak yet.

Enjoying the views of Shorenin's garden
Same scene from inside
The nicest colors on the temple grounds today
The same tree from a different angle

Nanzenji Temple

Peak Color

Nanzenji has just about entered its peak period for autumn colors, although there is still some potential for further improvement. The colors surrounding the Sanmon Gate and in the pretty garden of the Tenjuan subtemple were very attractive today. There are nightly illuminations at Tenjuan through November 30.

Nanzenji's Sanmon Gate
From under the Sanmon Gate
From the Sanmon Gate's balcony
Not quite at the peak of the peak yet
Golden carpet of ginkgo leaves
Tenjuan subtemple
Flower and autumn colors at Tenjuan
Tenjuan subtemple

Eikando Temple

Peak Color

Eikando was rather crowded today for a reason: the temple is now enjoying the peak of its autumn color season. The colors around the pond were particularly vibrant, and I expect the colors at Eikando to remain attractive for at least one more week.

Entrance to Eikando
Looking down onto the pond
Nice colors around the pond
View from the pagoda
View of the pagoda
The trail above the pond is less advanced

Shinnyodo Temple

Approaching Peak

Shinnyodo is a lesser known temple, not far from Ginkakuji, and one of my favorite autumn color spots in Kyoto. Today, the colors around the temple weren't quite at their peak yet. The temple should remain an attractive koyo destination for much of the remainder of the month.

From the entrance gate
Still some room for improvement
Main hall
One side of the pagoda is covered up
Intense colors next to the main hall

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