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.
2011/10/27 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
Today I took a trip to Nikko to follow up on the progress of the autumn colors. So far this season I haven't really had the chance to see any good autumn colors (koyo), but looking at our last report from the area really reignited my interest. And even though it has been two weeks since that last visit, Nikko's unusually long koyo season gave me a chance to see some colors at their peak.
I arrived at Okunikko (Inner Nikko) at the very back of the national park from Gunma Prefecture via Konsei Pass, where I was greeted by mostly bare trees and harsh light. The colors around Lake Yumoto were not much better, and only some late changing trees still had yellow leaves. It was the same sight at Yudaki Falls at the outlet of Lake Yumoto. I think it's fair to say that the season has come to a close at the higher regions of the park.
Next I headed to Senjogahara Marsh which was not faring much better than around Lake Yumoto. Our favorite larch tree had dropped most of its needles and the marsh grasses were mostly looking brown and dried up. Strangely, I didn't see many people on the trails as I headed into the marsh despite their being a line of cars waiting to get into the parking lot.
Ryuzu Falls, one of the area's more popular koyo spots, is usually even further ahead in the season than the higher parts of Okunikko. So it wasn't surprising to find that the season is pretty much finished around there too. Compared to two weeks ago, very few people were still making visits to the waterfall.
The higher viewpoints around Lake Chuzenjiko looked to be just beyond the peak of the season. The beautiful red leaves that Schauwecker saw around the Hangetsuyama Observation Deck a few weeks ago were no longer there. However the trees lower down along the shores of the lake were right around their peak, and Lake Chuzenjiko should continue to look nice through next week.
Despite its proximity to the lake, the trees immediately around Kegon Falls, seem to have surpassed the rest of the lake and look to be beyond the peak of the season. Regardless, it was probably the most crowded spot of the day as busload after busload of school kids and other visitors came to check out the falls.
The highlight of the day was the winding Irohazaka road that connects Okunikko with the temple and town areas of Nikko below. The colors along the road were at their peak and it made for a beautiful drive down the mountain.
There were lots of people out today though, and after battling several kilometers of traffic I finally made it to the last stop of my day, Shoyoen Garden, next to Rinnoji Temple. The garden's maple trees are still changing color, and are quickly approaching their peak. Some trees are still a little green, but the garden could reach peak season very soon if the good koyo weather continues.