by Scott, staff writer of japan-guide.com
This journal is a log of my travels within Japan. Here you'll find my personal opinions on the places I've been and the things I've seen. Also expect to see the occasional review and editorial. Thanks for reading.
2009/10/19 - Nikko (2)
Today we returned to the Okunikko area of Nikko National Park to update our October 5th, 2009 - Nikko Koyo Report. Okunikko is the Inner Nikko area in the mountains above the famous temples and shrines of Nikko in Tochigi Prefecture. Our first stop of the day was at Konsei Pass overlooking Lake Yumoto. The trees near the very tops of the mountains have peaked, but the view over Okunikko still looks nice as the larch trees are now turning yellow.
We then headed down to Lake Yumoto where along the shore the leaves still look good. Some of the earlier changing trees have dropped their leaves while later changing trees are just coming into color. The view from the top of Yudaki Falls, the outlet of Lake Yumoto, offered a great view over the lower areas of Okunikko.
Continuing on we took a short hike into Senjogahara Marsh. By now many of the trees surrounding the marsh have dropped their leaves, while the views inside the marsh itself are still good especially as the later changing larch trees are approaching a brilliant yellow.
Then we stopped by Ryuzu Falls, which we expected to be in decline since it has a slightly faster leaf changing schedule than the rest of the area. Indeed many of the trees have already dropped their leaves and the autumn colors around the falls have clearly passed their peak. Ryuzu Falls remains crowded with visitors, however.
Our next stop was on the Chuzenjiko Skyline which travels into the mountains overlooking Lake Chuzenji. From the skyline we had some great views of the lake which is currently at its peak.
From the skyline we headed to the Akechidaira Plateau which was also at its peak with many oranges, yellows, and reds seen just below the ropeway cars. From up here we could also see the uphill route of Irohazaka Road which was also in full color and had surprisingly little traffic at the top.
Continuing on, we went back down to Lake Chuzenji and made a quick stop at Kegon Falls. From our recent trips to Kegon Falls it seems that the free observation deck provides the best views of autumn colors, while the lower observation deck (accessed by a paid elevator) has a better view of the falls but without the volume of colors that would make it truly spectacular.
As the fall colors gradually descend into Nikko as the season progresses, we decided to head down to the shrine and temple area to see what the current leaf situation is around the city. Irohazaka Road, a famous koyo spot in its own right, connects Okunikko to Nikko and during autumn weekends it can become a virtual parking lot. However, as today was a weekday morning it was relatively quiet on the way down, and we got to enjoy a pleasant drive through beautiful trees that were around their peak of color. The uphill section of the road, however, was backed all the way to the town center with visitors from the opposite direction.
Because of the difference in elevation, Okunikko has an advanced koyo schedule compared to Nikko, and we didn't expect to see too much color around the town. We found that the leaves around the world heritage area are just beginning to turn but are still mostly green, as could be seen at Shinkyo Bridge, a vermillion and black lacquered bridge said to be one of Japan's three finest bridges. However, we had a pleasant surprise at Shoyoen Garden at Rinnoji Temple where the leaves are becoming quite beautiful and should be at their best in the next 1-2 weeks.