Scott's Japan Travel Journal
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.

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2015/11/11 - Autumn Color Report: Hakone

Lake Ashinoko from Moto Hakone

While Raina continues to see great colors across western Japan, today I headed out on an autumn color report from the famous national park area around Hakone, a popular side trip and hot spring resort destination which is less than 100 kilometers from Tokyo.

Due to the elevation, the colors around Hakone typically peak around early November and last through the month as they slowly make their way down the mountain slopes. Today there were definitely some nice colors to be seen, however it really depended on where you were in the park as the situation differed quite a bit around different parts of the national park. Overall, I'd say that the colors were approaching peak or in the early peak stages around most of Hakone, and look like they will continue to improve over the next week or so.

My first stop of the day was to the southwestern shore of Lake Ashinoko, where I paid visits to the Detached Palace and the Hakone Checkpoint where you can get great views of the lake in combination with Mount Fuji off in the distance when the weather cooperates. Unfortunately the clouds had already rolled into position covering the mountain early in the morning, and would stay there the rest of the day. The colors were also relatively patchy on this end of the lake and I feel it was still too early in the season to see much substantive change.

Lake Ashinoko from the Moto Hakone are of Hakone
The view from Onshihakone Park where the Detached Palace stands
The Tokyo side gate of the Hakone Checkpoint
Some nice leaves and moss line the road

Next I boarded the pirate ship at Hakonemachi to cruise across Lake Ashinoko in search of gold...en leaves. The colors improved as we moved north across the lake, and were even starting to approach peak around Togendai.

Arr, koyo spotted off the starboard bow
Another pirate ship spotted off the port side, ready Canons...
A Seibu operated ferry ship runs along the shore
Another pirate ship docked at Togendai

Owakudani, above the northern shore of the lake has been closed most of this year due to volcanic activity. The ropeway over the hell valley was stopped and all the hiking trails in the area closed. However not too long ago they reopened part of the ropeway to Ubako from where a substitute bus reconnects to Sounzan. Since a lot of people ask about this, I decided to take the bus to see exactly what is possible to see and to determine how much the closure affects a trip to the area.

The results are a mix of good news and bad news. Bad news first is that you miss out on the wonderful views of Owakudani save seeing the steam rise up over the trees in the distance. You also cannot enjoy hiking around the area and cannot visit the steaming vents to see them up close. On the other hand, Owakudani is only one small facet of Hakone, and its closure shouldn't be a deal breaker for most visitors. I would only worry if Owakudani was your main interest, otherwise the rest of the area remains unaffected.

The ropeway currently operates as far as Ubako
A very short trail connecting the ropeway to the Seibu bus stop can be walked. All the other trails I saw were closed
Steam rises from Owakudani as people board the substitute bus

Once in Sounzan I took the cablecar down the mountain to the Hakone Museum of Art in Gora. The museum features lots of colorful maples planted around its moss covered gardens, making it, in my opinion, one of the best places to see autumn colors in all of Hakone. Today the koyo seemed a little early, but it was still one of the most impressive spots of the day and well worth a visit. I'd expect the colors to continue to improve over the next week or so.

Hakone Museum of Art
Further back is the Japanese style Sekirakuen Garden, which is open all November
Bell
Self Portrait
Moss lined paths under the trees
A stream runs through it

From here the transportation got a little complicated as there wasn't a direct bus to my next destination, the Susuki Fields (pampas grass) at Sengokukogen. However, in the end the transfer was pretty smooth as the buses are pretty frequent on most of the main lines and the bus system relatively easy to figure out.

Susuki are these tall grasses with feathery tufts that turn golden white in autumn. The man-high grasses completely cover the hillside and visitors can walk up a trail from where they can enjoy the views over the fields. Today the susuki were impressive and looked to be just starting their peak, with silvery fluffy bits and just a hint of green left in the leaves, which will eventually turn golden yellow and then a darker reddish yellow as they mature. So the area should remain a hot spot for a while to come.

Susuki tufts
Dead end trail leads up the slope
Looking back on the trail
Girl enjoying the view

My final stop today was Choanji Temple, near the Sengoku bus stop just north of the susuki fields. This overlooked temple is a real hidden beauty, as its free to enter grounds are filled with colorful trees standing above dozens of stone statues that depict rakan, the early diciples of Buddha, scattered along the slope. Every statue was unique and had funny and expressive faces making the area a photographer's dream. The colors were approaching peak and also some of the best of the day, making this a can't miss spot if you're in the area.

Entrance to Choanji Temple
The thinker
Autumn colors surround buildings of Choanji Temple
One of the more serious faces
Twins
Beautiful canopy of colors
Jizo hiding in a post

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List of Posts:
2016/05/13 - Goodbye and Farewell
2015/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2015
2015/12/09 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2015/11/27 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/11/26 - Autumn Color Report: Osaka
2015/11/25 - Autumn Color Report: Miyajima
2015/11/24 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/11/17 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Fuji
2015/11/11 - Autumn Color Report: Hakone
2015/11/06 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Fuji
2015/11/04 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2015/10/28 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2015/10/14 - Autumn Color Report: Alpine Route
2015/06/23 - Takumi no Waza - Master Craftsmanship of Japan
2015/06/21 - JCI Blending Together Tour
2015/04/30 - Wisterias at the Kawachi Fuji Garden
2015/04/16 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fujigoko
2015/04/10 - Cherry Blossom Report: Himeji
2015/04/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2015/04/07 - Cherry Blossom Report: Yoshino
2015/04/06 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2015/04/05 - Cherry Blossom Report: Okayama
2015/04/04 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hiroshima
2015/04/03 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nagoya
2015/04/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2015/03/30 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2015/01/08 - Exploring Tokyo's revitalized Nihonbashi District

2014/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2014
2014/12/18 - Seasonal Illumination: Sagamiko Illumillion
2014/12/02 - Autumn Color Report: Kamakura
2014/11/27 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2014/11/14 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2014/11/12 - Autumn Color Report: Eiheiji
2014/11/11 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2014/05/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hirosaki
2014/04/30 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kakunodate
2014/04/19 - Cherry Blossom Report: Matsushima
2014/04/16 - Cherry Blossom Report: Sendai
2014/04/15 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fukushima
2014/04/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Gunma
2014/04/07 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2014/04/04 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2014/04/04 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kamakura
2014/04/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2014/03/29 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2014/03/28 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kumamoto
2014/03/27 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fukuoka
2014/03/25 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2014/03/07 - Abeno Harukas
2014/02/13 - Sounkyo Ice Waterfall Festival

2013/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2013
2013/12/11 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2013/12/10 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2013/12/03 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2013/11/29 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2013/11/28 - Autumn Color Report: Kanazawa
2013/11/27 - Autumn Color Report: Osaka
2013/11/26 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2013/11/20 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2013/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Fujigoko
2013/11/06 - Autumn Color Report: Fujigoko
2013/10/30 - Autumn Color Report: Towada
2013/10/29 - Autumn Color Report: Yamadera
2013/10/28 - Autumn Color Report: Urabandai
2013/10/22 - Autumn Color Report: Gunma
2013/10/12 - Autumn Color Report: Hakkodasan
2013/06/01 - Tohoku Rokkonsai 2013
2013/05/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hakodate
2013/05/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Matsumae
2013/04/23 - Northern Kanto Flower Report
2013/04/18 - Cherry Blossom Report: Sendai
2013/04/10 - Cherry Blossom Report: Mount Fuji
2013/04/10 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hakone
2013/04/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2013/04/05 - Cherry Blossom Report: Mount Fuji
2013/03/29 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2013/03/28 - Cherry Blossom Report: Gunma
2013/03/26 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kamakura
2013/03/24 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2013/03/23 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kagoshima
2013/03/22 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kumamoto
2013/03/21 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fukuoka
2013/03/20 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2013/02/25 - Tokyo Plum Blossom Report
2013/02/06 - Asahikawa Winter Festival 2013
2013/02/05 - Sapporo Snow Festival 2013

2012/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2012
2012/12/07 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2012/12/05 - Autumn Color Report: Kamakura
2012/12/02 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2012/11/29 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2012/11/27 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2012/11/27 - Nabana no Sato Winter Illumination 2012
2012/11/15 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Fuji
2012/11/13 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2012/11/09 - Autumn Color Report: Sakurayama
2012/11/07 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2012/11/05 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Fuji
2012/10/31 - Autumn Color Report: Lake Towada
2012/10/30 - Autumn Color Report: Bandai
2012/10/22 - Autumn Color Report: Alpine Route
2012/10/16 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2012/10/11 - Autumn Color Report: Hachimantai
2012/10/10 - Autumn Color Report: Bandai
2012/07/30 - Echigo Tsumari Art Triennial 2012
2012/05/07 - New Tokyo Buildings
2012/04/25 - Cherry Blossom Report: Mount Fuji
2012/04/13 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2012/04/12 - Cherry Blossom Report: Yokohama
2012/04/12 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kamakura
2012/04/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2012/04/06 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2012/04/03 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2012/02/06 - Sapporo Snow Festival
2012/02/05 - Otaru Snow Light Path Festival
2012/02/04 - Sapporo Snow Festival - Preliminary Report
2012/01/23 - Chinese New Year in Yokohama Chinatown

2011/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2011
2011/12/08 - Autumn Color Report: Kamakura
2011/12/05 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2011/11/30 - Tokyo Motor Show 2011
2011/11/29 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2011/11/28 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2011/11/27 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2011/11/22 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2011/11/15 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2011/11/12 - Autumn Color Report: Unzen
2011/11/04 - Autumn Color Report: Kurobe Gorge
2011/10/27 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2011/10/07 - Autumn Color Report: Nasu
2011/10/04 - Ceatec Japan 2011
2011/09/27 - Autumn Color Report: Norikura
2011/09/22 - New Kanagawa Museums
2011/05/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kakunodate
2011/05/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hirosaki
2011/04/29 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kitakami
2011/04/22 - Cherry Blossom Report: Aizu
2011/04/21 - Cherry Blossom Report: Sendai
2011/04/14 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2011/04/10 - Cherry Blossom Report: Osaka
2011/04/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2011/04/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Yoshino
2011/04/07 - Cherry Blossom Report: Iwakuni
2011/04/07 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hiroshima
2011/04/06 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2011/04/05 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2011/04/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2011/04/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2011/03/30 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kochi

2010/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2010
2010/11/30 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2010/11/24 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2010/11/19 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2010/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Nara
2010/11/17 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2010/11/16 - Autumn Color Report: Koyasan
2010/11/15 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2010/11/09 - Autumn Color Report: Fujigoko
2010/11/04 - Autumn Color Report: Daisen
2010/10/27 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2010/10/14 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2010/10/05 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2010/09/29 - Autumn Color Report: Oze
2010/04/14 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fujigoko
2010/04/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2010/04/04 - Cherry Blossom Report: Himeji
2010/04/03 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nara
2010/04/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2010/03/30 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2010/03/29 - Cherry Blossom Report: Osaka
2010/03/26 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2010/03/23 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo

2009/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2009
2009/12/08 - Tokyo
2009/12/02 - Kamakura
2009/11/27 - Tokyo
2009/11/18 - Tokyo
2009/11/16 - Mount Takao (Takaosan)
2009/10/28 - Mount Fuji
2009/10/21 - Tokyo Motor Show 2009
2009/10/19 - Nikko (2)
2009/10/05 - Nikko
2009/08/07 - Tohoku Sandai Matsuri: Sendai Tanabata
2009/08/06 - Tohoku Sandai Matsuri: Nebuta Matsuri
2009/08/04 - Tohoku Sandai Matsuri: Kanto Matsuri

2009/04/13 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nagano
2009/04/10 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2009/04/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kamakura
2009/04/06 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2009/04/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2009/03/31 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2009/03/29 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hiroshima
2009/03/28 - Cherry Blossom Report: Miyajima
2009/03/27 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kagoshima
2009/03/26 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nagasaki
2009/03/25 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kagoshima
2009/03/24 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kumamoto
2009/03/23 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fukuoka

2008/10/29 - Lake Towada
2008/10/21 - Nishizawa Valley
2008/10/03 - Tateyama Alpen Route

2007/09/18 - Kodo One Earth Tour
2007/09/04 - Kusatsu
2007/09/01 - Zi-Pang Concert
2007/08/23 - First Day on the Job