Happy Earth Day! On Sunday, the hiking/charity group I’ve joined for the past five years, went on a 15km hike along the South Takao Ridge. It’s been a while since I did a solid hike, and what better time to get back into it than a day dedicated to spreading awareness of the need to protect and preserve the world we live in. Continue reading “Spring Hiking at South Takao”
It’s been a busy past few weeks! Today is the last day of November, and soon autumn will be all over for another year. I’ve managed to get to a bunch of different places to check out the autumn leaves, mostly outside of Tokyo. The higher altitude places have passed their peak, and lower down here in the city, things are starting to look good!
A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I went out to Mt Takao, in Tokyo’s far-west. It was a beautiful, sunny autumn day. Not a cloud in sight. We met at Shinjuku station mid-morning, and could tell already that it was going to be crowded on the mountain. Loads of hikers filled the train, and we were lucky to get seats for the 1 hour journey. Arriving at Takaosanguchi station, we quickly realised just how many other people had had the same idea as us! I have never seen a mountain so packed!!
Wanting to escape the mass of people, we went quickly on our way. Hiking up the trail was a bit slow, because it was basically ‘follow the leader’ most of the way. I was slightly amused at one girl who was hiking in heels… Girls in Japan are crazy, I tell ya!
But even then, when we reached the top, it felt like we were back in the middle of the city. There were so many picnics happening under the trees; everyone was taking a million snaps of the leaves from all sort of angles; there were even loooong lines for the ice cream van! It was so strange to be in what felt like the middle of nowhere, on top of a mountain, yet for there to be so many people!
We didn’t end up staying at the top for too long, as you can probably imagine! The hike down was just as crowded as the hike up, but we’d mastered the skill of overtaking, so it didn’t take us long! Back at the bottom, we were greeted by the sounds of taiko drums. There’s always something special about hearing those deep, powerful beats.
Despite the crowds, I really enjoyed the day trip to Mt Takao. The weather was stunning and the autumn colours were inspiring. Plus, spending time with a friend and getting some exercise… a pretty great way to spend a Sunday if you ask me! :-)
Recently, I’ve felt a new surge of motivation. I don’t know where it’s come from, perhaps the beginning of a new month and a new season. I have decided I’m going to study harder (Japanese language, that is), go to the gym more often, meet more people, and get to know Tokyo a lot better. I’ve signed up for the JLPT (a Japanese test) which will be in December, which means I need to do some serious study! And, I’ve recently discovered ‘meet ups’ in Tokyo, which are organised groups that do various things from play sports to do language exchanges. It’s my new favourite thing!
Actually the time of year really did inspire me for my goal to get to know Tokyo better. I love how the seasons are celebrated in Japan. Unlike Australia where the seasons are basically ‘wet’ and ‘dry’, here, spring has cherry blossoms, summer has fireworks, autumn has maples, winter has snow.
The beautiful, autumn phenomenon of leaves turning red is called kōyō. In my previous post you can see some photos I took in Kyoto last year. Apparently the 2012 season was the best Japan’s had in about 10 years, so I was pretty damn lucky to experience it! Considering I’m now living in Tokyo, I figured it’s the perfect opportunity to see the top kōyō spots in Tokyo and further north over the next 3 months. I also LOVE gardens and nature, so I generally want to visit as many gardens around Tokyo as I can anyway.
An amazingly informative and well-presented website called Walker plus shows the progress of the autumn colours across the country, with regular updates and reports. You can see the leaves are still mostly green all over Japan, but now is the time to start planning!
Walker plus is pretty awesome – I also use it to search for the best cherry blossom spots and summer fireworks festivals. It even has a smart phone app called Walker Touch you can download for free, so you have access to information about events, festivals, concerts, cinemas, etc., anywhere, anytime. You can also bookmark events in the Walker calendar which I think is really convenient. Here are some screen shots, as you can see, very cute and colourful!
According to the Walker plus website, the most popular kōyō spot in Japan is in Nagano prefecture, at a place in the Central Alps called Senjojiki Cirque. I’ve never been, but I’ve seen pictures and man, it looks like the hills are on fire! Take a look at this amateur video:
There are actually hardly any really popular kōyō spots in Tokyo unfortunately. To get to most of the good spots, you need to go hiking up some mountain in the middle of nowhere. But, I have managed to find a few places that should be worth a squiz…
Rikugien Garden and Koishikawa Korakuen are gardens in Bunkyo ward, right in the middle of the city. Rikugien Garden was built at the end of the 17th century and its creator interestingly used a special form of poetry as inspiration. Koishikawa Korakuen has also been around for a long time. It features miniature reproductions of famous spots around Japan.
Shinjuku Gyoen is in… yep, Shinjuku. It’s actually my favourite garden in Tokyo because it’s a HUGE park right in the middle of one of the busiest commercial districts in the world, and features a French garden, English garden and Japanese garden. I love all of them!
Inokashira Park is behind the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo’s north-west. It was built in 1917, and has a big pond and a small zoo.
Mount Takao is in Tokyo’s far-west, about 1 hour from Shinjuku. It’s a super popular spot for hiking because of its easy access from the city. I went hiking here a couple of months ago and loved it. There are 8 trails you can choose from and each have their unique features.
Beyond Tokyo, some popular spots are Nikko, Mt Fuji Five Lakes, Shosenkyo Gorge, and Kamakura.
I wonder how many of these places I can get to this season! Mission: accepted.