As the end of November approaches, the major urban centers around Japan are seeing their most vibrant autumn colors. Raina reported on November 25 that Osaka was approaching peak colors, and yesterday she found that Kyoto was at peak colors. Despite an unusually warm fall, the recent drop in temperatures seems to be bringing about a fairly normal time frame for the fall color season.
True to the usual trends I found Tokyo to be just entering its best color zone today. Koishikawa Korakuen was especially gorgeous and the Institute for Nature Studies was the rare exception of the day still in the early stages of developing, but overall the capital city is decked out in bright fall colors. There are a few windy days coming up in the weather forecast so it's hard to say how long the leaves will last. However I'm hopeful the peak will last into the first week of December.
As a public street, the Icho Namiki, also known as the ginko avenue, makes for a good early morning stop since there's no opening time like most of the parks in the city. I walked the short 5 minute distance from the Aoyama-Itchome Subway Station, and arrived at the avenue lined with uniquely shaped ginko trees. I was happy to find that the trees are still looking great with bright yellow colors and most of their leaves in place. There are also two events in the area, an evening light up of the avenue from November 23 to December 2 starting from 16:30 and ending at 19:30, and on the grounds of The Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery there's also an icho matsuri or "ginko festival" occuring November 16 to December 2 from 10:00 to 17:30.
Next, I headed to nearby Shinjuku Gyoen, a large park with three different garden styles: Japanese, English and French. When I visited a couple weeks ago the maple trees in the Japanese landscape garden were just starting to turn. However today I was pleased to discover that all three gardens in the park had plenty of fall colors to go around. The cherry trees around the English landscape garden and the sycamore avenue in the French garden are more likely to fade away before the Japanese landscape garden maple trees, but I believe the park will still be looking good into next week.
My third stop was to the Institute for Nature Studies which is a park that aims to preserve Tokyo's natural plants and habitats for native species. It's much less landscaped than many of the other gardens I haved visited for autumn colors in Tokyo, but I found it very refreshing to be in such a natural space. While I saw many maple trees amongst the forested paths, most were still green with a few beginning to redden. The Aquatic Plant Garden in the center of the park was full of tall marsh grasses some of which were still in bloom. Based on the current progress, it may be another two weeks before the maple trees in the park reach their peak.
My last stop was at the Koishikawa Korakuen Garden, a traditional Japanese landscape garden that is one of Tokyo's oldest, being built in the early Edo period. The maple trees around the whole garden were looking fantastic. Everywhere I looked there were bright fall colors. If possible, visit Koishikawa Korakuen this week to ensure you don't miss the peak.