Autumn colors abound with the season now in full swing all over northern and central Japan. The colors in these parts of the country are now moving down from higher elevations, where the season is now finishing up, to lower elevation areas where the season is just picking up this week.

After exploring Akita Prefecture's stunning Mt. Akita Komagatake and Nyuto Onsen last week, today I headed to southern Tohoku where I visited an autumn color favorite: Naruko Gorge. Located in the mountains about two hours by train northwest of Sendai in Miyagi Prefecture, the Naruko Gorge becomes carpeted in brilliant reds and yellow around late October every year.

Today, I was very pleased to find the gorge's foliage at its very best autumn coloring. It seems that the gorge only just reached its peak state recently, so I expect that they will remain quite lovely through next week and possibly the following weekend.

After taking in the colors at the Naruko Gorge, I took a bus to Naruko Onsen. This tiny onsen town is famous for kokeshi: a traditional hand-crafted wooden doll, usually simply colored with the face of a child. Kokeshi are made throughout the Tohoku Region, with several towns claiming their own unique variations.

The town is also, of course, famous for its hot springs. The most famous is the charming Taki no Yu, which features excellent milky-colored sulfuric water (300 yen).