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.
2015/12/09 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
After 45 reports spanning three months, it has come time for our final autumn color (koyo) report trip of the season. This year has been an unusual one that started off strong in the northern regions of Japan, but hit a snag when moving down to the Kanto and Kansai regions as abnormally warm temperatures and low amounts of sunshine conspired to stretch out the season and rob the foliage of its full intensity. However despite this, it was an enjoyable season with many bright spots along the way.
So as usual, our last report trip of the season takes us to a few of our favorite sites around Tokyo. In past years this last trip has had the potential to be brown and barren, but this year's delayed season means that a lot of the sites continue to show nice foliage. There also spots today that were still fully at their peak.
My first stop this morning was to Rikugien, which is one of the best koyo spots in the city. When Joe visited last week the colors were just starting to reach the peak around the garden, and they have done nothing but improve since then. Now there are bright reds, brilliant oranges, and glowing yellow leaves to be found all around the grounds, and the maple canal is especially starting to shine. Definitely a koyo spot to visit if you are still searching for colorful leaves in Tokyo over the next week or so. Keep in mind that the garden's evening illumination event ended last Sunday.
Next I headed over to Hama Rikyu, a large seaside garden that was once the feudal gardens of the Tokugawa Shogun. Hama Rikyu is much larger and more expansive than most gardens around Tokyo, and its colorful foliage tends to be more spread out and less dense. Nevertheless, you can find some nice colors around the grounds and see some interesting views that contrast the manicured nature with the towering skyscrapers of the Shiodome District in the background. Most of the colorful trees were right at the peak today and should remain so for a while longer.
After stopping by the new Shiodome Taco Bell for lunch (and waiting longer than I ever thought I would for Taco Bell. But what can I say, it reminded me of home), I hopped on the Oedo Subway line over to Aoyama-Itchome Station to check out the Icho Namiki, the ginkgo lined approach to the National Stadium at Meiji Jingu Gaien Park. When Joe visited last week the ginkgo trees had just hit their peak and most of the leaves had taken on a nice gold hue. By now the peak is probably about half over, and the leaves have turned a deep yellow color. I was actually surprised how many of the tree leaves remained on the branches, but you could see them starting to fall even as I was staring at them. So it may not be too much longer before they start to see some bare spots form.
My final stop of the day was Shinjuku Gyoen, which is located about a 15 minute walk away from the ginkgoes. At this point in the season the colors around garden are mostly provided by the maple trees and a few scattered ginkgoes. The maples can be found mostly around the Shinjuku Gyoen's Japanese style garden to the southwest and around the Maple Mountain area in the southeast corner of the park. The maple mountain area tends to hit the peak a little bit later in the season and was just hitting its stride today. On the other hand, the colors around the Japanese garden were still nice but visibly faded and looking pretty dried out. Overall though, the park is still a nice autumn color spot to visit and should remain so for about another week.
Well that is it for the 2015 autumn color season. Thank you for following along with us as we crossed the country in search of the fall foliage. And be sure to come back in the spring as we cover the cherry blossom season. It's only three short months away!