The temperatures across Japan over the last few weeks have been cooler than the average year, which has resulted in the season picking up its pace. Schauwecker and Joe were in Mount Fuji and Naruko respectively at the end of October and reported that the colors were at their peak at both places.
Today, I visited the popular mountain resort town of Karuizawa in Nagano Prefecture located about 1000 meters above sea level. While I drove to Karuizawa, the town is easily accessed by the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo. The entire trip is covered by both the Tokyo Wide Pass and JR East Welcome Rail Pass. In Karuizawa, local buses provide access to many of the sightseeing spots, but the most convenient way to get around central Karuizawa is by rental bicycle. There are a number of rental bicycle shops around Karuizawa Station.
I found the colors in central Karuizawa to be at their peak and expect the best viewing to continue through this weekend.
I started my day driving to the only spot not accessible by public transport, Meganebashi, a brick bridge along the old National Route 18. The bridge used to be a railway bridge until a separate new track was built not far away. Today, visitors can explore the bridge and the tunnels along the former train route, while avid walkers can consider hiking all the way to Yokokawa Station, which is about six kilometers away.
Meganebashi is about 600 meters above sea level, and I found the colors there to be approaching their peak. The colors got more intense and beautiful as I continued my drive up towards the town of Karuizawa.
Next was the Usui Pass Observation Platform, which is at an elevation of 1200 meters. I found the colors here to be a touch past their peak, with more leaves on the ground and only a handful of trees left at their peak. While the colors were still attractive when I was there, I do not expect the trees to keep much more of their leaves past this weekend.
My next destination was the ever popular Kumobaike Pond in Kyu-Karuizawa. The pond and its surrounding areas are popular places to see autumn colors, and this place was packed when I was there this morning. The surrounding roads were all congested with lots of cars waiting for parking spots, and I envied those on foot or on bicycle as I was stuck in the traffic jam.
Once at the pond, I found the autumn colors to be at their best viewing. I expect some of the leaves to develop more intense coloring, and the views to still be good beyond this weekend.
My last destination for the day was Naka-Karuizawa, where I visited Karuizawa Taliesin, a pleasant park with a pond, and Harunire Terrace, a trendy shopping and dining area. The autumn colors at both places were at their peak, and I expect the best viewing to continue through to the coming weekend.