While officially the calendar says it is still summer, the night chill has come and soon the day chill will too.
However this marks the start of another fantastic time of year to be out and about in nature, autumn! Most people that come to Japan only in the spring to see the cherry blossoms bloom miss the awesome changing of maple tree leafs from green to red, and the colors between. The explosion of color starts in Hokkaido (the northern most main island) and spreads its way down the island chain through the season. It is truly a sight to be seen. The Japanese maple tree is a cousin of the North American and those in the northern hemisphere but with some differences even within its own species, such as the shape of the leaves. Some of the leaves have much longer and skinner shapes compared to those of North America and have even been mistaken for cannabis leaves. The Maple also makes an awesome bonsai tree because they respond well to techniques that encourage leaf reduction and ramification.
While there is no official start to the changing of the leaves (mother nature answers to no one), it is usually somewhere around August-September. If you are planning to come and experience the trees in all their glory you can choose from several different locations throughout Japan, but none more better I think than Kyoto in November. It could be because Kyoto was the old capitol and so much history is there, or because there is too much hustle and bustle in Tokyo to actually take a breather sometimes, but if you only have once chance to see them, Kyoto is it. From walking down the street, to the temples and shrines surrounded by them, the color is eye numbing. Sunburst yellow to brilliant red litter the sky and ground, painting Japan even more beautifully. There is a plethora of places to go and see while in Kyoto and the people of Kyoto will be more than happy to tell you theirs if you ask. If you are too shy then I suggest Kiyomizu-dera, day or night. In the day you can get an eye full, but at night with all the lights, it's a sight to be seen as well!
In Tokyo you can take in all the splendor as well, and I suggest making a picnic out of it with your friends, family, or loved one. As most people in Japan do in the spring, with a hanami party (cherry blossom viewing) you could enjoy the autumn chill under the trees at your local park or if you don’t have somewhere local try Yoyogi park.
The season is full of time to enjoy and reflect on what an awesome summer you had, while sipping on something warm and watching the passing of time through the color chart that the maple tree has provided for you.
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