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Kyoto: Peak Colors

Incredible colors at Tofukuji Temple

As this year's autumn color season slows to its conclusion, Japan's late-changing cities are finally reaching their peak season color. After finding Tokyo at peak color yesterday, I headed south today to Japan's other powerhouse end-of-season autumn hot spot: Kyoto.

Like Tokyo, Kyoto usually hits its fall color stride in late November and normally lasts through very early December. This year, despite a slightly delayed start to the season in much of the country, Kyoto's autumn colors seem to be right on time.

I especially found the momiji (Japanese maple) trees, which usually turn color later than most tree varieties, to be quite vibrant in most places across the city today. It was also clear, though, that colors are beginning to fade and will likely not be around much longer.

Today I headed to some of the city's most popular autumn color spots to check their conditions for myself.


Peak Color

My first stop today was at Arashiyama, a pleasant area north of the city center that Kyotoites have been enjoying as a getaway for over a thousand years.

I first stopped by the iconic Togetsukyo Bridge that crosses the Hozu River, where the views of the autumn colors covering the hills in the distance were very nice today. Though leaves had clearly started falling in the bridge area, the colors were still great today and should remain attractive through the weekend at least.

Togetsukyo Bridge in Arashiyama today
Looking out over the Hozu River from Togetsukyo Bridge
The colors on the slopes behind the Togetsukyo Bridge were lovely today
A river cruise boat floating down the river

From the Togetsukyo Bridge, I walked along the river until I made my way to the massive Tenryuji Temple. This important Zen Buddhist temple and registered world heritage site is also an extremely popular autumn color hot spot in Arashiyama, and today was at peak color.

I first dipped into a smaller sub-temple of the Tenryuji complex called Hogon-in which is famous for a gorgeous tunnel of momiji trees in its front garden. The trees were stunningly red here today and look to remain so for several more days.

Momiji tunnel at Hogon-in in the Tenryuji temple complex
Walking through a ring of fire
Hogon-in's trees are being illuminated at night from 17:30 to 19:30 until Dec. 1
Peak momiji red
Five disciples

From Hogon-in, I then entered the main temple area of Tenryuji. Behind the main temple buildings, the large traditional landscape garden here was also sporting some nice peak colors today.

The pond behind Tenryuji Temple
The colors in the garden behind Tenryuji Temple were very nice today
Colors all around
Good day to be a frog

My final stop in Arashiyama was Jojakko-ji Temple, located about a 10-minute walk from Tenryuji. This normally sleepy, well-hidden temple was overflowing with leaf watchers today as the colors here were absolutely blazing.

I expect the leafs to remain at their peak here through the weekend as well, declining quickly next week (provided strong wind or rain doesn't bring them down sooner).

The main gate of Jojakko-ji Temple
Breathtaking colors at Jojakko-ji
Climbing higher
Such much autumn in such a small space
The main hall of Jojakko-ji, recenly renovated

Eikando Temple

Peak Color

After exploring the Arashiyama area, I headed into the Kyoto city center proper to visit my next destination for the day: Eikando Temple. Eikando, which is located in the eastern hills of the city, boasts a large grounds which are filled to the brim with momiji (Japanese maple) trees.

Today, the trees here were showing stunning peak colors all around the grounds. Though some leaves were falling here as well, I expect the viewing will likely be nice here through early next week.

To enjoy the leaves here in a different light, at night the temple is open to visitors for an illumination event between 17:30 and 21:00 (gates close at 20:30) until December 4. The nighttime admission fee is 600 yen.

The main gate of Eikando surrounded by vibrant momiji
Eikando's central pond, still showing great color
Nice curves
Halo of flames
A healing presence
Walking the maze-like corridors
Never miss a selfie chance
A beautiful, peaceful garden courtyard
Every building seemed majestic enveloped by red leaves

Tofukuji Temple

Beyond Peak

My last stop today was to Tofukuji Temple, located south of Kyoto Station. The autumn mega hot spot was impressively still showing plenty of peak color today as well, though I found the trees here slightly more advanced and beginning their decline than in other places I visited.

I expect the colors will still be enjoyable here for another several days.

Tofukuji's Tsutenkyo Bridge across a sea of autumn colors
Tsutenkyo Bridge
Gettin' that shot
Fire dance
Not a place to get away from the crowds
A blanket of leaves on the ground
The colors were fantastic today, but were just starting to tip past peak. Most leaves here will likely be gone by mid next week.
Enjoy it while you have it
One last view from the Tsutenkyo Bridge