Autumn, and indeed the entire year, seems to have passed in a heartbeat but before we enter 2018, I wanted to share some photos of the marvellous fall foliage that we are blessed with in Japan each year. The red leaves (koyo) of late autumn are a breathtaking sight, especially against a backdrop of a temple or a well-groomed garden.
Almost exactly two years after my last trip in 2015, I returned to Okutama to hike the 10km Mukashi-Michi (むかしみち) trail which runs between the train station and lake. The leaves were probably not quite at their peak but there was still a beautiful array of colours on display.
I’ve always been interested in attempting to hike along the old abandoned railway line which is visible in a number of places along the trail so if anyone knows if it’s passable and safe to do so, please let me know!
Kamakura Hōkoku-ji Temple
Kamakura was bustling with visitors the Sunday I visited in late November. The area is teeming with dozens of temples but of particular note is Hōkoku-ji (報国寺) which contains an exquisite garden with a bamboo grove and tea house. Sitting here with a cup of hot matcha is about as close to perfection as it gets.
Closer to home in northern Tokyo, Rikugien Garden (六義園) is a popular spot for fall foliage appreciation and rightly so. Surrounding a large central pond, the landscaped hills and trees are the epitome of traditional Japanese garden design where turning each corner presents a different carefully crafted view.
During autumn the gardens are open late and lit up at night but be prepared for crowds.
Close to Ikebukuro in Tokyo, Mejiro Garden (目白庭園) has a compact footprint which is taken up by a pond surrounded by a path which leads you past a teahouse, waterfall and gazebo. In one corner a small pool was covered in pink petals of many different shades which were particularly beautiful. Entrance is free.
Probably the highlight of my autumnal trips was visiting Tonogayato Garden (殿ヶ谷戸庭園) in western Tokyo which I stumbled across by chance in 2014 when I was searching for the site of Haruki Murakami’s original jazz café.
The immaculate garden is laid out on different levels of a natural valley which divides into different types of landscape: a scenic spacious lawn on the top, steep slopes, a pond with waterfalls and bamboo forest at the bottom.
Visiting at golden hour in the afternoon provided the perfect serene spot to sit and soak up the final warm rays of light before the chill set in. Truly a hidden gem.
While this installation at SPIRAL cultural centre in Minami-Aoyama bears no direct connection to the fall, the colours of the hanging numbers reminded me of the changing seasons and so I thought it appropriate to include here.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little trip around Tokyo’s autumnal views.