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.
2013/11/29 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
Today I completed another whirlwind tour of Kyoto for my final report of this trip to the Kansai Region. This time the majority of the sights that I visited were in the northern parts of the city including Arashiyama, Kitano Tenmangu, Kinkakuji, and Daitokuji. The one exception was Tofukuji, which is far away from the others in the southeast.
My first stop this morning was Arashiyama, where I paid a visit to Tenryuji. The temple buildings are under construction, but the garden is open as usual and the work has absolutely no effect on it. Sean stopped by the temple last week when the colors were right at their peak, but even though they have declined a bit since then, the colors are still very nice and at that point where the trees are still pretty full but with a nice carpet of leaves on the ground to mirror the foliage above.
From Tenryuji you can take a nice walk through the bamboo groves to Jojakkoji, one of Arashiyama's smaller temples, that is known for its beautiful maples. The last japan-guide team member to visit the temple was Schauwecker who stopped by Jojakkoji over two weeks ago when all of the leaves were still very, very green. Since then the trees have improved to become some of the best I've seen all year. Better yet, they were just at that point toward the end of the peak where a few strong gusts of wind came through and sparked some swirling leaf blizzards.
Finally there were the colors around the Togetsukyo Bridge which were right around the peak today, especially the colorful trees up on the mountain behind the bridge.
Next I took the charming little Randen trains to Kitanohakubaicho Station from where it is just a few minutes walk to Kitano Tenmangu. The temple's maple tree garden (Momiji-an) has continued to improve since Sean's visit and the colors are still at their best. The garden will be open through mid December and the colors should stay nice for another few days at least.
From Kitano Tenmangu it is about a 20 minute walk to Kinkakuji. The golden pavilion isn't really known for spectacular koyo; however, I was pleasantly surprised by the colors that you could see around the grounds. There were a few really nicely placed trees around the pavilion that were still a little colorful but also a little past their prime. They were probably at their best last week. There was also some colorful foliage up on the hill behind the pavilion and outside the paid area along the approach to the temple that was still around their best.
My next stop was to Kotoin, a subtemple found in the large temple complex of Daitokuji. Kotoin is probably one of my favorite Kyoto koyo spots, and one of the most tranquil places to take in the scenery (well, only if you're lucky enough to see it without the crowds). I think of it as a sort of a koyo version of Ryoanji except with maples and moss instead of stone and gravel.
Finally, I made the crosstown trek down to Tofukuji way down in the southeast part of the city. Tofukuji is really one of the koyo gems of Kyoto and didn't disappoint today. That's even despite the fact that the main views were past their prime with too many brown leaves or bare branches to ignore. While the wide views around the temple were a little borderline, the saving grace of today's visit was the yellow and orange maples in the grove up around the garden entrance. The foliage up there was absolutely stunning.