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.
2014/12/02 - Autumn Color Report: Kamakura
Three months since the start of the autumn season the colors have finally made their way down to Kamakura which is typically one of the last places in Japan to see their leaves change. While the season started off way earlier than average up in Hokkaido, by now it has slowed to the point that the colors are appearing around Kamakura more or less around a more average schedule, if not a little late, around most parts of the city.
My first stop today was to Hokokuji Temple, a Zen temple in eastern Kamakura that is best known for the beautiful bamboo grove that grows behind its main building. While not really expecting to see many colors around the temple, there were actually some nice ginkgoes and maple trees around the front of the temple that were right at their peak and glowing in the morning sun. There were also some maples around caves at the back of the temple, but they were only just beginning to change colors.
Next I took a long, confusing walk through the residential districts and not very obvious mountain trails to Zuisenji, another Zen temple in the far east of Kamakura. Unfortunately there were not many colors around the temple grounds save the one bright yellow/orange maple behind the main hall. In addition, the approach to the temple can get pretty colorful but was completely green today.
Next I headed into the network of hiking trails that lead around Kamakura's forested hills via the Shishimai Valley Trail. Though slippery today with mud created over a few recent rainy days, these trails are a good way to see the autumn colors (koyo) in a more natural setting compared to the carefully cultivated views that you typically see around the temples and gardens. The colors higher up the Shishimai Valley were actually very nice today and just around the peak. From the ridge trail there were also occasional views out to the Shonan Coast and to Yokohama in the distance.
Next I headed over to Kenchoji, the most important among Kamakura's Zen temples. It's considerable grounds stretch all the way up the mountainside from the valley floor, and conveniently the Tenen Hiking Trail passes right by a back entrance to the temple from where many hikers enter the complex. A viewing platform lies right at the entrance, offering views over the temple buildings with the Shonan Coast in the distance. The colors around the temple were mostly still approaching their peak, but were also some of the best that I saw today.
My final stop today was to Engakuji, another important Zen temple which is located right across from Kita Kamakura Station. Engakuji has a pretty large grounds with several nice spots to see the autumn colors, especially around the temple entrance, at a garden toward the back of the complex, and at a few smaller temple buildings in between. Today the koyo around Engakuji looked a little more advanced compared to the rest of the Kamakura and even toward the end of peak. But the colors were still nice and worth a visit.