Schauwecker's Japan Travel Blog
by Stefan Schauwecker, webmaster of japan-guide.com

This blog is intended to record some of my travel activities in Japan.

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2011/10/03 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko

Ryuzu Waterfall

Nikko National Park is one of the first places near Tokyo to see autumn colors. And thanks to its wide range in elevation, Nikko offer colors for a long period of over a month. In the average year, the coloring starts in the park's highest elevations by early October, descends to Lake Chuzenjiko during the first half of October and the Irohazaka winding road during the second half of October before reaching the town of Nikko in November.

This year, however, the colors seem delayed by about a week, and green was the predominant color that I encountered on this season's first Nikko report. Note that we plan to return to Nikko twice more over the coming few weeks to report about the ongoing koyo season.

I accessed Nikko from Gunma Prefecture via the Konsei Pass in the very back of the national park. The temperature was barely above the freezing mark at an altitude of 1840 meters when I arrived shortly after sunrise. Despite today's favorable low temperatures, few trees around the pass have started to change their color, and the slopes were still mostly green.

Around Konsei Pass

Not surprisingly, green remained the predominant color as I descended the road and passed Yumoto Onsen, Lake Yunoko and the Yudaki Waterfall.

Yudaki Waterfall
Rare advanced colors near Yumoto Onsen

Further down, in the Senjogahara Marshland, the grass had turned into an autumnal yellow and together with scattered colorful trees provided an idyllic setting for an early autumn hike.

Senjogahara Marshland
Senjogahara Marshland Hiking Trail
The larch trees have only just started to change colors

Probably because of their location in a shadowy valley, the trees around Ryuzu Waterfall at the entrance to Lake Chuzenjiko always turn colors a few days ahead of the other trees around the lake. In fact, the area above the waterfall was the most colorful spot of the day with multiple yellow and orange trees along the water. The vegetation around the actual waterfall has also started to color, although it is still mostly green. Ryuzu Waterfall should be at its best in about two weeks.

Above Ryuzu Waterfall with Lake Chuzenjiko in the background
Ryuzu Waterfall

The rest of the descent into Nikko town - Lake Chuzenjiko, Kegon Waterfall and the Irohazaka winding road - provided still mostly green colors as expected.

Mount Nantai behind Lake Chuzenjiko
Kegon Waterfall
Irohazaka winding road

The town of Nikko itself, with its well known shrines and temples, is dominated by evergreen trees and not as famous for autumn colors as the higher Okunikko Region that I had just visited. Furthermore, the seasonal colors do not usually peak here until November. Nevertheless, I visited Shoyoen, a small Japanese strolling garden next to Rinnoji Temple, one of the town's best koyo spots. Some of the garden's maple trees have already changed slightly yellowish, but the peak of their autumnal beauty is still several weeks away.

Early colors at Shoyoen Garden
Early colors at Shoyoen Garden

While in town, I also checked the renovation works that are ongoing at Toshogu and Rinnoji, the town's main shrine and temple. Both complexes are undergoing major, decade long repair works to get the old wooden buildings in shape to withstand the elements and tourist crowds for another century or so.

Renovation works on Rinnoji's large main hall, the Sanbutsudo, started in 2009 and are scheduled to be completed in 2021. During the process, the hall is covered by a large scaffold structure and will be largely disassembled, repaired and reassembled. Despite the works, tourists can still view the temple's main objects of worship, the three large wooden statues of Amida Buddha and two Kannon Bodhisattvas.

Ryoanji's Sanbutsudo covered up by a large scaffold structure

Additionally, visitors to Rinnoji can now also access an observation deck on the 7th floor of the scaffold structure and view onto the hall as it is being renovated. To my surprise, however, they are asked to pay another 400 yen to do so.

Ryoanji's Sanbutsudo from the observation deck

The renovation works at Toshogu Shrine have a considerably smaller impact on visitors than the ones at Rinnoji - at least for now. The renovations have been ongoing since 2007 and will last until 2019. However, only one of the shrine's numerous buildings is usually being renovated at a time, leaving tourists with lots of other attractions to see.

Currently, the shrine's main hall (haiden and honden) is covered up and being renovated, while tourists are still able to enter the building. I found the works to have very little impact on a visit to the shrine now. But that may change after 2013, when the Yomeimon Gate, the shrine's central and most famous structure, is scheduled for renovation.

Toshogu's main hall under renovation

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List of Posts:

2018/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2018
2018/10/15 - Toyosu Market Opens to the Public
2018/09/05 - New Skyscraper opens in Shibuya

2017/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2017

2016/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2016
2016/11/10 - Crossing Kyushu half a year after the Kumamoto Earthquake
2016/04/09 - Busta Shinjuku - a new bus terminal opened on top of Shinjuku Station

2015/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2015
2015/09/17 - Autumn Color Report: Daisetsuzan
2015/09/16 - Autumn Color Report: Daisetsuzan
2015/04/10 - Cherry Blossom Report: Takada
2015/04/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kumagaya
2015/02/07 - Trial Run to Kanazawa

2014/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2014
2014/11/14 - Autumn Color Report: Himeji
2014/11/07 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2014/11/06 - Autumn Color Report: Yamadera
2014/10/24 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Fuji
2014/10/15 - Autumn Color Report: Kurikoma
2014/09/19 - Autumn Color Report: Tokachidake
2014/09/18 - Autumn Color Report: Kurodake
2014/09/17 - Autumn Color Report: Asahidake
2014/04/03 - Cherry Blossom Report: Uji

2013/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2013
2013/11/13 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2013/11/12 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2013/10/08 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2013/09/21 - Autumn Color Report: Kurodake
2013/09/20 - Autumn Color Report: Asahidake
2013/07/13 - Countdown to the Gion Matsuri
2013/07/10 - Nagoya Castle gets back its palace
2013/07/09 - Ise Shrine Rebuilding
2013/04/25 - New bath house opens in Kusatsu Onsen
2013/04/04 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2013/04/03 - Cherry Blossom Report: Takamatsu
2013/04/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hiroshima
2013/04/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2013/03/27 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fukuoka
2013/03/26 - Cherry Blossom Report: Okayama
2013/03/17 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2013/02/28 - Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival
2013/01/27 - Winter Visit to Shirakawago

2012/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2012
2012/12/01 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2012/11/29 - Autumn Color Report: Himeji
2012/11/21 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2012/11/14 - Autumn Color Report: Hakone
2012/11/08 - Autumn Color Report: Koyasan
2012/11/07 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2012/10/18 - Autumn Color Report: Noboribetsu
2012/10/18 - Autumn Color Report: Sounkyo
2012/10/17 - Autumn Color Report: Shiretoko
2012/10/09 - Tokyo Station Renovation
2012/10/04 - Autumn Color Report: Alpine Route
2012/10/03 - Grapes and Wines at Katsunuma
2012/09/21 - Autumn Color Report: Asahidake
2012/09/20 - Autumn Color Report: Kurodake
2012/09/18 - Autumn Color Report: Asahidake
2012/09/12 - Another Trip to Iwaki
2012/05/11 - Sneak Peek from Tokyo Skytree
2012/05/09 - Rainy visit to the Ise Shrines
2012/04/28 - Cherry Blossom Report: Aizu
2012/04/28 - Cherry Blossom Report: Takizakura
2012/04/17 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2012/04/16 - Cherry Blossom Report: Yoshino
2012/04/15 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tottori
2012/04/14 - Cherry Blossom Report: Osaka
2012/04/14 - Cherry Blossom Report: Himeji
2012/04/06 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nagoya
2012/04/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2012/03/31 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2012/03/15 - Tokyo Plum Blossom Report
2012/03/15 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2012/02/28 - Kumano half a year after Typhoon #12

2011/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2011
2011/12/13 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2011/12/02 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2011/12/01 - Autumn Color Report: Nara
2011/11/30 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2011/11/27 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2011/11/23 - Autumn Color Report: Kanazawa
2011/11/22 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2011/11/21 - Autumn Color Report: Miyajima
2011/11/20 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2011/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2011/11/13 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2011/11/09 - Autumn Color Report: Sakurayama
2011/11/08 - Autumn Color Report: Fujigoko
2011/11/02 - Autumn Color Report: Mitakesan
2011/10/27 - Autumn Color Report: Towadako
2011/10/26 - Autumn Color Report: Hakkodasan
2011/10/21 - Autumn Color Report: Fukushima
2011/10/20 - Autumn Color Report: Zao
2011/10/19 - Autumn Color Report: Naruko
2011/10/13 - Tokyo Fall Colors?
2011/10/12 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2011/10/12 - Autumn Color Report: Oze
2011/10/04 - Visit to the Sunshine Aquarium
2011/10/03 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2011/09/27 - Two mountains in central Japan
2011/09/15 - Furano in September
2011/09/14 - Autumn Color Report: Ginsendai
2011/09/13 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Asahidake
2011/09/12 - Failed Visit to the Sunshine Aquarium
2011/07/15 - Hakata Gion Yamakasa Report Trip
2011/06/29 - Eastern Hokkaido Report Trip
2011/06/01 - Ogasawara Report Trip
2011/05/18 - Kagoshima Report Trip
2011/04/29 - After the Earthquake: A trip to Hiraizumi
2011/04/22 - Cherry Blossom Report: Aizu
2011/04/21 - After the Earthquake: A trip to Matsushima
2011/04/21 - Cherry Blossom Report: Sendai
2011/04/20 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fujigoko
2011/04/17 - After the Earthquake: A trip to Nikko
2011/04/12 - Cherry Blossom Report: Okayama
2011/04/11 - Cherry Blossom Report: Takamatsu
2011/04/10 - Cherry Blossom Report: Matsuyama
2011/04/07 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nagoya
2011/03/31 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fukuoka
2011/03/29 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2011/03/28 - Cherry Blossom Report: Himeji
2011/03/27 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2011/02/11 - Shiretoko Fantasia 2011
2011/02/07 - Sapporo Snow Festival 2011

2010/12/15 - Travel Highlights 2010
2010/12/09 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2010/12/06 - Autumn Color Report: Kamakura
2010/12/01 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2010/11/19 - Autumn Color Report: Sakurayama
2010/11/17 - Autumn Color Report: Ise
2010/11/10 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2010/10/19 - Autumn Color Report: Noboribetsu
2010/10/15 - Autumn Color Report: Hachimantai
2010/10/14 - Autumn Color Report: Akita
2010/09/15 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Kurodake
2010/09/14 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Asahidake
2010/05/14 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hakodate
2010/05/13 - Cherry Blossom Report: Matsumae
2010/05/06 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kakunodate
2010/05/05 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hirosaki
2010/04/25 - Cherry Blossom Report: Takizakura
2010/04/07 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kamakura
2010/04/06 - Cherry Blossom Report: Inuyama
2010/04/05 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hikone
2010/04/04 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2010/04/03 - Cherry Blossom Report: Miyajima
2010/04/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hiroshima
2010/03/30 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nagoya
2010/03/27 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2010/03/26 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nara
2010/03/26 - Cherry Blossom Report: Himeji
2010/03/23 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2010/02/22 - Guu Restaurant, Vancouver
2010/02/19 - Zakkushi, Vancouver
2010/02/14 - Hapa Izakaya, Vancouver
2010/02/09 - Yuji's Japanese Tapas, Vancouver
2010/02/08 - Miku Restaurant, Vancouver
2010/02/07 - Shuraku Restaurant, Vancouver

2009/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2009
2009/12/08 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2009/12/02 - Autumn Color Report: Kamakura
2009/11/24 - Research in Nara Prefecture
2009/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2009/11/12 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2009/11/09 - Autumn Color Report: Fuji Five Lakes
2009/10/16 - Autumn Color Report: Onuma Park
2009/10/15 - Autumn Color Report: Noboribetsu Onsen
2009/10/14 - Autumn Color Report: Shikotsu-Toya National Park
2009/09/30 - Autumn Color Report: Kusatsu Onsen
2009/09/16 - Autumn Color Report: Tokachidake Onsen
2009/09/15 - Autumn Color Report: Ginsendai
2009/09/14 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Asahidake
2009/07/14 - Furano Lavender in full bloom
2009/04/16 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fuji Five Lakes
2009/04/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nagoya
2009/04/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Yoshino
2009/04/07 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2009/04/06 - Cherry Blossom Report: Osaka
2009/04/03 - Cherry Blossom Report: Yokohama
2009/03/30 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nagoya
2009/03/25 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2009/02/27 - Rainy Izu Peninsula
2009/02/26 - Cherry Blossoms in Kawazu

2008/11/20 - Miyajima
2008/11/18 - Mino Park
2008/11/12 - Fuji Five Lakes
2008/10/28 - Shirakami Sanchi (2)
2008/10/27 - Shirakami Sanchi
2008/10/16 - Nikko
2008/10/10 - Akagiyama
2008/10/08 - Shiretoko Peninsula
2008/09/26 - Sounkyo Onsen
2008/09/25 - Daisetsu Kogen Onsen
2008/09/24 - Mount Asahidake

2007/12/08 - Arashiyama Hanatoro
2007/04/12 - Kanazawa's wealth of attractions
2007/04/04 - Sanyo Coast in Full Bloom
2007/02/28 - Niseko and the Australian invasion
2007/02/27 - Cassiopeia Night Train
2007/01/31 - Cherry Blossoms in Okinawa
2007/01/26 - Skiing in Naeba

2006/12/03 - Chichibu Festival
2006/12/02 - Tanigawa Onsen (Minakami)
2006/11/26 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (11): Hotel Report
2006/11/25 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (10)
2006/11/24 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (9)
2006/11/23 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (8)
2006/11/22 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (7)
2006/11/21 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (6)
2006/11/20 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (5)
2006/11/19 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (4)
2006/11/18 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (3): Takao
2006/11/17 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (2): Hieizan
2006/11/16 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (1)
2006/11/08 - Shima Onsen
2006/10/25 - Autumn colors at Mount Tanigawa