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.
2014/11/11 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
Today I headed out to Kyoto to follow up on Schauwecker's visit last Friday and check out a few of the more popular autumn color spots around the city. The fall colors arrived this year in some areas of Japan as much as two weeks early; however, the pace has been averaging out as the season progresses and it appears that the leaves around central Kyoto are closer to changing one week earlier than normal.
My first stop this morning was Kiyomizudera, which is one of Kyoto's most popular sites and a favorite during both the cherry blossom and fall seasons due to the large number of cherry and maple trees planted below the temple's main stage. While the season is starting off pretty early at Kiyomizudera, the colors really haven't progressed all that much yet and probably won't be peaking for another week or more. Kiyomizudera has an illumination event from November 14th to December 7th. During that time the temple will be lit up from 18:30 to 22:00 (last entry at 21:30).
On a side note, the reconstruction work that has been going on around the temple has increased considerably since I last visited about half a year ago. It's reached a point where almost half of the buildings are covered up and a good portion of the grounds and walkways are affected. On the plus side, the main temple hall and stage remain uncovered, but you'll have to mentally block out the construction to fully enjoy the scene.
Next I headed over to Kodaiji Temple, about a 15-10 minute walk away through the pleasant Higashiyama District along Kyoto's eastern mountains. Kodaiji is another crowd favorite due to the spectacular colors that surround the temple's main pond. Today the maples around the temple were still in the early stages, but overall the pond area looked to be more advanced than it really is due to a few of the trees there that are red year round. Kodaiji Temple also holds a long illumination event on evenings until December 14th. The light up starts at sunset, which is currently at 17:00, and lasts until 21:30. Special artwork will also be on display during this time.
After visiting Kodaiji I headed over to Nanzenji, a large temple complex further north. The best colors around Nanzenji are found at Tenjuan, a small subtemple with two beautiful gardens. Normally during the autumn season there is a long wait to get into the grounds, but for some reason the temple was closed today without explanation. So instead I headed up to the balcony of Sanmon Gate to get a bird's eye view into Tenjuan and saw some pretty good looking colors. Perhaps it is only temporary as Tenjuan's illumination event is set to start on Friday (November 15) and run through the end of the month. During that time Tenjuan's gardens will be lit up from 17:30 to 21:00. The rest of the trees around Nanzenji were still in the early stages and don't look like they'll peak for another week or so.
Eikando had some of the best colors on Friday's report and didn't disappoint today either. The trees around Hojo Pond were pretty much around their peak, while the rest of the trees around the temple are catching up fast. The special illuminations at Eikando will continue until December 4, and the grounds will be lit up from 17:30 to 21:00 (entry until 20:30).
My final stop today was to Ginkakuji at the far north end of the Philosophers Path. This was the first time for us to visit the Silver Pavilion in autumn, as we heard that the temple might be a good autumn color spot. Indeed, there were quite a few maple trees around the garden and even more up on the slope to the back of the temple grounds. While the colors were only just getting going, it looks like there is some potential here that we'll have to keep an eye on.