You might have figured this out by now by following this column, but Japan loves all that is seasonal. There is a cultural appreciation of anything that is temporary and fleeting. And of course what could be more fleeting than the transition of the seasons themselves.
Naturally autumn, with its slow color transitions and highly anticipated seasonal products is no different.
The season of reds and golds and browns and greens has fully kicked off in Japan, and there are more places that we can count that you can visit.
Some of the most popular places to visit as the seasons change are in mountainous regions, because the fresh air and vibrancy of the scenery puts the autumn splendor on full display.
In addition, in this period of COVID-19, as many show a renewed appreciation for the outdoors, there is an ulterior reason to join in what Japanese call “Koyo Gari”, roughly translated as “Chasing Autumn Foliage.”
We just picked a couple of places where the foliage is at its best so that you can get an idea of what wonderful options await you in northern regions of Japan to enjoy the change of the seasons.
For those who would like to enjoy not just the autumn foliage but autumn flowers as well, there is also a spot we recommend right next to Tokyo: in Saitama prefecture. Read on to find out more suggestions far and near.
1. Daisetsu Mountains, Hokkaido Prefecture
Starting from the north, one of the first places to show the signs of autumn is of course Hokkaido prefecture, the northernmost region in Japan.
From the end of September through the first part of October, enjoy the colorful mix of beech and conifers painting the mountainsides.
The two highest peaks in the region are popular destinations for locals and visitors. Asahidake is over 2,200 meters, and Kurodake is over 1,900 meters.
According to workers at the Asahidake Ropeway, the temperatures in September this year were particularly warm, so the autumn foliage is about a week later than usual.
For those wanting to head into the region, it’s often recommended to start hiking from the third station of Asahidake, and the fifth station of Kurodake.
2. Mt. Adatara, Fukushima Prefecture
This is one of the 100 most famous mountains in Japan. Measuring over 1,700 meters in altitude, the mountain straddles the city of Nihonmatsu and is a very popular location at this time of the year.
In the first weekend of October when Tokyo was added to the travel-boost “Go To Campaign”, crowds of Tokyoites hiked the peak and admired the changing colors of Mizunaraーthe delicate red of beech trees.
Of course, measures to control the spread of infection were in place and climbers were cautiously wearing masks.
3. Mt. Kurikoma, Shared by Iwate, Miyagi, Akita Prefectures
Spanning three prefectures, this still active volcano is nearly 1,700 meters high and a favorite location for autumn foliage chasers.
The mountainside is peppered with stunning shades of red, orange and yellow, and every October visitors ascend it in droves.
A 61-year-old climber from Tome City, in Miyagi prefecture, commented to The Sankei Shimbun: “I’ve been addicted to coming here to take pictures here ever since I bought a camera last year. I come here every month, to appreciate the transition of the seasons.”
4. Celosia Fields, Saitama Prefecture
We wouldn’t want to give the impression that the only joy of autumn is the turning of the autumn leaves. One of the pleasures of autumn is also to enjoy the seasonal flowers which fill the Japanese countryside with their variety of shapes and colors.
One of the most famous autumn destinations is to enjoy the fields of Celosia Argentea, or as it is known in Japanese Umougeitou. The characters for this flower are particularly interesting –羽毛鶏頭– as they translate roughly as the “feathery head of a cock”, and the flower is also known as “silver cock’s comb.”
The name fits for good reason. Its flower is characterised by its triangular feathery shape, which turns beautiful shades of red, yellow, orange and pink at this time of year.
At Musashi Kyuryo Forest Park in Namegawa Town, Saitama Prefecture, there are approximately 500,000 of these colorful flowers to entertain visitors in all their splendor.
A young mother who was visiting the park with her two year old daughter when we were there in early October commented to The Sankei Shimbun: “It’s been a while since I ventured outside. I [love to] come to the park, and because it’s very spacious, I can play with my child without worrying [about the virus].”
Do you have a favorite place you like to visit in Japan in autumn? Let us know in the comments below.
What is your hidden wonder of Japan? Upload your picture here.
Author: JAPAN Forward.