It’s November in Kansai which is peak Fall color viewing time!
So, naturally, this last weekend I set out on a journey to see the fall colors. This is a normal seasonal activity for the Japanese people, and since we went on a weekend, it was extremely crowded. My friend and I set off around 10am to the outskirts of Kyoto to first see Arashiyama, (AKA Storm Mountain) where lies the bamboo forest.
The entire walk-able area in the bamboo was packed with people, so we decided to climb the mountain itself. It wasn’t a difficult hike, and with a minimal amount of effort we were greeted with beautiful views looking over the city of Kyoto. When these parks and areas were built they were meant to incorporate the distant scenery into the design. When we were walking around we were walking about the same pace as an older Japanese couple and their mother. At one point they heard my friend and I speaking in Japanese so they stopped to speak with us when we were sitting at the top of the mountain overlooking the city. Though I never got their names, they were very kind to my friend and I. We talked a little about where we were from and why we were in Japan. They told us they came from the Sakai area to see the fall colors. It was nice to be able to converse with them since I don’t often get approached by Japanese people, so it was nice to make a small connection and helped me build confidence in my language skills. The entry-fee also came with a ticket for tea and a snack which was welcome after briefly getting hailed on on top of the mountain.
While there we also visited Tenryu-ji which was originally built in 1345. It is a designated Special Place of Scenic Beauty in Japan which many people (including myself) are always eager to see. Of course, this place was crowded too, though very beautiful. I tried to get some pictures that didn’t make it look as such.
Our last stop for the day was Kodai-ji which is one of the more historically famous temples in the area. Kodai-ji was built by the widow of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, one of the “three unifiers” of Japan, for her to pray to him before eventually being turned into a school for Zen Buddhism.
My friend and I got there at the perfect time, it was just after sunset but still light. We only had to wait about five minutes to get in, and could still take in all of the beauty to be seen by day. However, during this time of year a lot of the temples will stay open past dark, and put up lights for “night time viewing”. The folks at Kodai-ji also put on a short light show displayed on top of a sand garden. Throughout the day, my friend and I kept mentioning how orderly and neat everything and everyone was despite the large crowds. As is normal in Japan, crowds were not noisy and there was almost no trash on the ground – something I’ll definitely have to get used to again when I go back to America!