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Autumn leaves & Plum tree

Japan In-depth

Autumn leaves

Mt. Asahidake [Hokkai-do]
Mt. Asahidake is a graceful mountain situated in Daisetsuzan National Park and is the highest mountain in the park (2,290 m). Around mid-September, the park attracts a number of hikers as the place where people can enjoy the earliest autumn leaves in Japan. Take the ropeway (aerial tramway) and exit at Sugatami Station. By taking a walk around the Sugatami-ike Pond for about one hour along the 1.7 km long path, you can enjoy seeing autumn flowers (Miyama-gentian, Miyama-goldenrod, etc.) and fluffs of Chinguruma along with autumn leaves. The view of the mountain is also splendid.

Flowering season: Mid-September to early October
Address: Higashikawa-cho, Kamikawa-gun, Hokkaido
Directions: 1h 30min ride by "Ideyu-go" Bus from JR Asahikawa Station to Asahidake Station. Then, take the ropeway (aerial tramway) for 10 min to Sugatami Station.
Fare: 2,800 yen (for a round trip by ropeway)

Oirase Stream [Aomori]
Oirase Stream, now designated as Towada Hachimantai National Park, is a stream about 14 km long which runs from Lake Towada-ko. You can enjoy the dynamic and changing beauty of the streams as riffles and abysses, as well as a tour of fourteen waterfalls. There are promenades along the streams, where you can stroll under the colored leaves of beeches and maples. Above all, what you should not miss is the 2.9 km long path from Ishikedo to Kumoi-no-taki Falls, which takes about 1 hour and 10 minutes to walk. A powerful rapid called "Ashura-no-nagare (the current of asure)," and such special rocks as Byobu-iwa and Makado-iwa, are a must to see.

Flowering season: Early October
Address: Towadako-machi, Kamikita-gun, Aomori
Directions: 90 min ride by bus from JR Hachinohe Station (Tohoku Shinkansen Line) to Ishikedo Station. It is a few minutes' walk from the bus stop.

Lake Chuzenji-ko [Tochigi]
Lake Chuzenji-ko is 1,269 meters above sea level, the highest lake in Japan. At the lakeside, there are various trees such as beeches, lacquer trees, and different sorts of maples showing colorful autumn leaves for your enjoyment. The banks of this clear and transparent lake provide one of the best spots for viewing autumn leaves. To enjoy the nature of the Lake Chuzenji-ko area, it is recommended to walk along the hiking trail on the lakeside, as well as to cruise by boat and ship.

Flowering season: Late September to early November
Address: Chugushi, Nikko, Tochigi
Directions: 50 min ride by Tobu Bus from Nikko Station (JR or Tobu Railway) to Chuzenji-ko-onsen. It is a 5 min walk from the bus stop

Jingo-ji Temple [Kyoto]
Jingo-ji Temple is a mountain temple standing on the hillside of Mt. Takao-san, located in the northwest of Kyoto City. It is also known as the temple where Priest Kukai (774-835) lived and worked for 14 years after he had returned home from Tang (China). After going up steep stone steps for about 15 minutes, you will find one of the best spots for autumn leaves in Japan. The landscape from the garden of Jizo-in Temple is called "Kin'unkei," a full view over the valley of the Kiyotaki-gawa River in red leaves. In the precincts, you will also be astonished to see the red leaves of the old trees such as Takao-kaede (maple). And here, you can try a play called "Kawarake-nage," by throwing small unglazed plates into the vast garden, which is performed also as the practice of exorcism.

Flowering season: Mid- to late November
Address: 5 Takao-cho, Umegahata, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto
Directions: Take the JR Bus from JR Kyoto Station to Yamashiro-Takao. It is a 20 min walk from the bus stop.
Admission: 500 yen
Open hours: 09:00-16:00

Momijidani-koen Park [Hiroshima]
Momijidani-koen Park is located at the foot of the primeval forest of Mt. Mi-yama and is designated as a natural monument. It is situated in the backyard of Itsukushima-jinja Shrine, which is regarded as one of the best three landscapes in Japan. Being true to its name Momijidani, valley of autumn leaves, the park appears in magnificent colors in its season. Wild deer are also found in the park, while 1,000 maple trees of five different varieties show off their beautiful colors. In addition, the view of the Momiji-bashi bridge area is splendid with the brazing red of maple leaves.

Flowering season: Early to mid-November
Address: Miyajima-cho, Saeki-gun, Hiroshima
Directions: A 5 min walk from JR Miyajima-guchi Station (San-yo Line) to Miyajima-guchi Sanbashi. From there, take JR ship or Miyajima Matsudai Kisen (ship) for 10 min and exit at Miyajima Sanbashi. It is a 20 min walk from the boarding point.

Plum tree

Mito-Kairaku-en Garden [Ibaraki]
Mito-Kairaku-en Garden is regarded as one of the three great gardens of Japan along with Kenroku-en Garden in Kanazawa and Koraku-en Garden in Okayama. The garden was constructed in 1842 by the 9th lord of Mito, Tokugawa Nariaki, who studied the utilization of plums for his people's good health. 3,000 plum trees of 100 varieties are currently planted in the garden, giving us a wonderful fragrance of early spring. From late February to late March, a good number of tourists visit the Plum Festival from all over the country.

Flowering season: Late February to mid-March
Address: Bandai-machi, Mito, Ibaraki
Directions: 15 min ride by bus for Kairakuen from JR Mito Station (Joban Line) to Kairakuen-iriguchi. The bus stop at Mito Station is found at the north exit.
Admission: Free for entry to the park, 190 yen for Kobuntei

Yushima-tenman-gu Shrine [Tokyo]
Worshipping Sugawara-no-Michizane (845-903) as the God of Studies, Yushima-tenman-gu Shrine is one of the best places for viewing plum trees in Tokyo. About 400 plum trees bloom in February and March, as if they want to welcome students praying for their success in examinations. The precinct became famous through the novel Fukeizu (The female genealogical table) written by Kyoka Izumi. The precinct mainly has white plum trees that give a noble impression, while the 250-year-old red and white trees in front of the main hall present a marvelous spectacle for visitors. From February to March, the Plum Festival attracts tourists as well as students praying for success in their forthcoming examinations.

Flowering season: Late February to mid-March
Address: 3-30-10 Yushima, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo
Directions: A 2 min walk from Yushima Station (Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line).
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Yoshino Baigo [Tokyo]
Yoshino Baigo, covering an area of 4 km wide from east to west, is located at the entrance of Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park on the south side of the Tama-gawa River extending from JR Hinatawada Station (Oume Line) to JR Futamatao Station. Ume-no-koen Park of Oume City, Tenma-koen Park and the local plum farms offer a vista of 25,000 red and white plums, both young and old trees, giving a mild fragrance all over the area. These trees make it the best place for viewing plum blossoms in the whole Kanto area. From late February to 31st March, the Plum Festival is held every year at Ume-no-koen Park which attracts many visitors to the central area of Yoshino Baigo.

Flowering season: Early February to late March
Address: Baigo, Oume, Tokyo
Directions: A 15 min walk from JR Hinatawada Station (Oume Line)

Atami Baien [Shizuoka]
Atami Baien is a popular viewing spot for the earliest plums in Japan. The central area is the remains of the garden constructed by a rich merchant Mogi Sobei in the late 19th century, and the park spreads from the area to the hills with the Hatsu-kawa River running through. There are about 730 plum trees of 64 different varieties, which offer a beautiful view of blossoms for a long period from December to mid-March. The scenery of the five bridges over the Hatsu-kawa River is particularly magnificent. It is free to enter. The Plum Festival is held every February, the best season for blossoms.

Flowering season: Late December to mid-March
Address: 1169-1 Baien-cho, Atami, Shizuoka
Directions: A 10 min walk from JR Kinomiya Station (Ito Line), or a 15 min ride by bus from JR Atami Station to Baien-iriguchi.
Admission: Free

Kitano-tenman-gu Shirine [Kyoto]
Sugawara-no-Michizane (845-903), enshrined as God of Studies, loved plum trees very much. In relation to this, about 2,000 plum trees of 50 varieties are planted in the precincts of Kitano-tenman-gu Shrine, which is regarded as the best plum-tree-viewing spot in Kyoto. The early trees start blooming in December, while the best time for viewing blossoms is usually February. The festival is held on the 25th February which commemorates the anniversary of Sugawara-no-Michizane's death, with tea ceremonies performed by maiko. A festival called "Tenjin-san" is also held on the 25th of each month, where street stalls and antique shops welcome a number of visitors.

Flowering season: Early February to late March
Address: Bakuro-cho, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto
Directions: Take a city bus (No. 50s/100s) from JR Kyoto Station to Kitano-tenmangu-mae.
Admission: 600 yen for the plum garden (Open only from early February to late March. 10:00-16:00)