When I lived in Japan my most favourite season was autumn and since it is now autumn season in Japan, I think it is fitting at this time to write about 'My Japan' in autumn.
Just like cherry blossom viewing (sakura) is popular in spring, the viewing of autumn leaves is just as beautiful ......... if not more so during the vibrant autumn season.
As temperatures dip, after the scorching summer season, the colours of the leaves change into vibrant shades of orange, red, yellow, and brown. It is a magnificent sight and has inspired artists and poets for centuries and is now a major drawcard for tourists wanting to visit popular areas famous for their autumn foliage.
This natural phenomenon is called kōyō (colourful leaves) or momiji (red leaf) in Japanese.
Interestingly both words are written with the same two Japanese kanji characters, 紅葉. Kōyō refers to the changing autumn colours, mainly to the leaves of deciduous broad-leaf trees before the leaves fall to the ground. Although the word kōyō literally means "red leaves," it is mostly used to refer to all the changing colours of autumn leaves. The word 'oyo' actually refers to yellow leaves, and the word 'katsuyo' refers specifically to brown leaves.
Beautiful autumn foliage can be seen throughout Japan however some of the best spots to view the autumn foliage are at the following locations;
Meiji Jingu Gaien Stadium – this is a multi use stadium renowned for its sporting events. The area boasts 146 gingkgo trees along the Meiji Jingu Gaien Stadium, flooding it with the gold colours of autumn and without a doubt one of the best places to enjoy the autumn viewing.
Season: November to early December
Lakeside at Kawaguchiko - situated at the foot of Mt Fuji. At night the trees are lit up bringing out the fiery red colours of the autumn leaves. Having Mt Fuji as a backdrop definitely makes this spot one of the most beautiful areas for viewing the autumn foliage.
Season: Late October to late November
Nikko – there are many spots for autumn foliage viewing in Nikko and what is even better is that they are all within walking distance to each other! The colors usually first arrive in the high elevations of Okunikko around early October, reach Lake Chuzenji in mid October and the Irohazaka Winding Road in late October before descending to the town of Nikko in early November.
Season: October to November
Hakone – you can enjoy the autumn scenery on a train ride, the Hakone Tozan Train.
The Hakone Tozan Train runs from Hakone Yumoto Station to Gora Station. This is a unique historical train line, being the first mountain railway in Japan. It is a beautiful train ride that takes you through wonderful mountain villages, deep ravines with lush forests and stunning views of nature, especially more stunning in autumn.
Season: October to late November
Kamakura – the historical town of Kamakura has some of Japan’s most famous temples. Kamakura was once the capital of Japan and the birthplace of Japan's first military government with the "Kamakura Bakufu" established in 1192. The most famous temples and shrines include Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, Kotoku-in Temple (Giant Buddha), Hokokuji Temple and Hasedera Temple. Without a doubt Kamakura’s temples and shrines act as a backdrop to capture the most beautiful images of Japan's autumn foliage.
Season: November to mid-December
Kyoto – in all the years that I lived in Japan, Kiyomizudera is my personal pick. However in recent years, since my move to Australia, I have started to visit other well known temples in Kyoto such as Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kinkakuji and Tenryuji for their displays of spectacular autumn foliage. Tourists flock to Kyoto in November to enjoy the vibrant colours and take instagram worthy photos!
Miyajima - the Momijidani Koen (Maple Leaves Park) in Miyajima is the place to visit during autumn season. It is located on Miyajima Island, at the base of Mt Misen, and the views here are mesmerising, making it one of the most visited places in Miyajima, especially during the autumn season.
A famous sweet on Miyajima Island is momiji manjū. This small, maple-leaf shaped cake has a history of more than 100-years. It is Hiroshima's most popular souvenir, filled traditionally with mashed sweet bean paste. However manjū with other fillings can be purchased such as cheese cream, chocolate cream, custard cream and green tea cream.
A popular activity with our school groups is the 'Momiji Manjū Making Experience'. This hands on experience costs ¥880 per person with group discounts available. Students make the momiji cakes and choose their preferred fillings. Group bookings are essential and Saizen Tours can include this fun, pre-booked activity within school tour itineraries.
A metaphor is a figure of speech that describes an object or action in a way that isn't literally true. Japanese language is rich and full of metaphors!
Some Japanese maple leaf metaphors are:
• Scatter autumn leaves means to go red-faced with embarrassment.
• Hands like tiny maple leaves is used to describe the small hands of babies.
• Like maple leaves and a deer means that two things go together to make a great pair.
If you have any recommended places for autumn viewing in Japan, simply log in and comment. We would love to hear from you and share your experiences!
Written by Noreen Bobis, International Group Consultant Saizen Tours
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