A Beautiful Autumn Walk Through Tokyo

The autumn hues have finally hit central Tokyo! This year the warmth has lingered longer than usual. I remember the first cold snap happening at the end of October last year, but we’re already in the third week of November and it’s only now beginning to get chilly. On the plus side, we’ve had lots of opportunities to soak up the colours without having to take out our winter wardrobe. 

Continue reading “A Beautiful Autumn Walk Through Tokyo”

Tokyo in Yellow

We’re well into winter now, here in Tokyo. As if on queue, as soon as the calendar changed to December, the cold arrived. The only time I ‘love’ winter is either when I’m sipping hot chocolate with friends inside a warm cafe or when I’m on a snowboard at a ski resort. So these frosty mornings have definitely been making it hard to get out of bed!

But, late November and early December is actually peak time for the autumn leaves in Tokyo. We are one of the last places in the country to see the colours change, and it seems to happen so quickly. It’s almost like the cherry blossoms in spring – we have only 2 or 3 weeks to soak them up before they’re gone for another year.

Perhaps it’s because ichō (ginkgo) trees are more sturdy or easier to maintain than momiji (maple) trees, but I always notice a lot more yellow leaves all over Tokyo. Even in my local neighbourhood there are plenty of ginkgo trees around. For a while, it really felt like Tokyo had turned yellow! I love it. It’s such a happy and attractive colour!

One of the most famous autumn spots is Meiji-jingu Gaien’s ginkgo avenue. This park was built way back in 1923 and sees millions of visitors every November. The towering yellow trees have almost a comical shape to them. They look like either thin Christmas trees, or pointy witches hats! What do you think?

Another ginkgo spot is the more modest and relaxed avenue at Showa Memorial Park. It’s the newer park of the two, having been built in 1983. I visited the same spot last autumn, so I have plenty of photos here you can take a peak at. According to the number of entry tickets bought this year, they apparently had over 3,800,000 visitors. A little bit insane, but the crowds don’t take away from the trees thankfully. I love when the light shines through the leaves, creating a heavenly sort of feel. The warm shades of yellow are soothing and you just want to stroll through the avenue as slowly as possible to savour the experience!

Most of the autumn leaves are finished in Tokyo now. From here on in, the spotlight changes to Christmas illuminations! If you’re in town, definitely check out Naka-Meguro’s ‘Blue Cave’, Yomiuri Land, Tokyo Dome, Tokyo Midtown and Solar-town at Tokyo SkyTree!

 

 

Autumn Mission: Temples in Setagaya

It was a very chilly morning, already well into December. I thought I had completely missed the chance to see kōyō in Setagaya. Work, life, bad weather (and sometimes just pure laziness) had meant I’d kept putting it off. I’d been looking forward to visiting Gotokuji Temple in particular, ever since I saw its momiji maple trees back in summer. Gotoku-ji is a temple that I had stumbled across during a walk around my neighbourhood, not knowing it was the birthplace of the famous ‘beckoning cat’ or maneki-neko! I didn’t take anymore photos of the cats this time – you can look here at my post about Gotoku-ji, if you’re interested. Either way, I hope you have a look back to compare how different the place looks in autumn compared to summer! At that time, the leaves were as green as grass, but I knew come autumn it would be one hell of a sight!  

There’s one thing that the Japanese always know how to get right: gardens. Their meticulous culture means that nothing goes unnoticed and every little detail is considered. Some people might think it’s a bit over the top, but it’s one of the reasons I love Japan! The beautifully trimmed shrubs, the contrasting colours, the symmetry – it’s all the ingredients for a perfect Japanese garden, just like that at Gotoku-ji.

Gotoku-ji

Gotoku-ji

Gotoku-ji

Gotoku-ji

Gotoku-ji

Gotoku-ji

Gotoku-ji

The second temple I visited was Jotoku-in, just around the corner from Gotoku-ji. I stumbled across this one, too! Actually, I had been zooming down the street on my bicycle when to my right I glimpsed a giant yellow tree. Drawn to this lone ginkgo tree, I slammed on the brakes and swerved into the entrance of the temple. The very dramatic discovery was followed by a tranquil exploration of this small temple. I was the only person there so I could take my time taking photos and soaking up the beautiful nature.

Jotoku-ji

Jotoku-ji

Jotoku-ji

Jotoku-ji

Rub the head of Ikkyu-san, a famous anime monk boy, for good luck. :-)

Jotoku-ji

It wouldn’t be Japan if there wasn’t a vending machine in sight. I’m not even joking.

Autumn Mission: Showa Memorial Park

It’s already winter, and I’m still catching up on my autumn posts! Where does the time go?!

A few weeks back, I visited Showa Memorial Park in Tachikawa, western Tokyo. It’s an enormous park that was built to commemorate the Showa Emperor. Each November, the ginkgo trees in the park come alive. The yellow leaves are so radiant that they would brighten even the gloomiest of days. There are two stunning corridors of ginkgos lining both sides of a long rectangular water feature with a beautiful fountain at one end. Yellow leaves carpet the ground, fill the gutters and even blanket the smaller surrounding shrubs. It is pretty spectacular, and I completely understand why the city has created an annual Koyo Matsuri (autumn leaves festival)!

The day I visited the park was the last day of the 2013 festival. Some trees were starting to look a bit bare and the fallen leaves covering the paths definitely looked like they had been trodden on by a million people. Despite that, like everywhere in Tokyo, the park was crowded, very crowded. Standing in one spot for 10 minutes, waiting for a break in the crowd so you can take that perfect shot, is just part of the fun! Patience is a virtue. It also means that you don’t get very far! I barely covered a quarter of the 160 odd hectares. All the more reason to go back again sometime!

Here are some of my snaps of the ginkgo trees, momiji (maples), and a VERY special surprise at the end of the day.

And, drumroll please…. the ever graceful, bold and majestic Mt Fuji made an appearance at sunset. What a treat! There will be more sights like this as winter progresses and the sky becomes less hazy. Can’t wait!!

Showa Kinen

Showa Kinen