From around mid November, visitors from abroad and other parts of Japan started to flock to Kyoto for maple leaves viewing or momiji-gari. Kyoto is well-known for its momiji. I have heard that it is because we have alot of rain throughout the year that we could have these manificent autumn foliage to boast about.
For about half a month in November, I was closely monitoring the Autumn Colour Report for Kyoto on an English site and another report on a Japanese site. The rain, exams and school projects had prevented me from going on a momiji-gari spree like some of my school mates. But the beautiful colours at school were a source of severe distraction and I found myself being drawn away from school work to make some concrete plans for my own momiji-gari operation.
|Beautiful colours on school campus.|
Reading the reports was very helpful as they triggered off a sense of urgency and forced me to reset my priorities, something a serious student such as me would otherwise be reluctant to do. By that time, and what with seeing the amount of fallen leaves in the neighbourhood, I could hardly focus on my JLPT exam anyway. And so with the limited free time that I had, I went about researching on a good place where I could be sure to see splendid colours. And hopefully without the crowds getting in the way.
My teacher told us that some of the popular maples viewing temples such as Tofukuji, Eikando and Kiyomizudera would see huge crowds throughout the day during the momiji-gari season. She said there were even people who worked part-time as "queuers" to queue on behalf of visitors because the wait to get tickets into popular maple viewing temple spots could be pretty long.
|Arashiyama on 29 Nov.|
As I didn't have so much time to spare, I crossed out the popular spots mentioned above (although I learnt later from friends who went to these places that the queues were not that bad). Eventually, I decided that I should just head for Arashiyama since I had been there three years ago as a tourist but missed the autumn foliage at that time as it was still early then. To beat the crowds, I set off early one weekday morning with my neighbour and reached Arashiyama by about 8am.
Along the way, we saw many maple trees but the leaves were in decline. The colours were turning a dull red and many leaves were spotted and in no good condition for photographs. I was alittle disappointed that I might be too late this time but I was wrong. As we strolled along the Katsura River, we came across some great colours on leaves that were at various stages of colouring.
And then we turned into a nearby park and were greeted by many momiji trees in manificent gold and orange, although there were as many trees which had already shed many of their leaves. The sky was just getting less cloudy at that time and seeing the blue in the sky lifted my spirits as we had been getting too much of grey skies and rain during those past few weeks.
I thought the colours at that time had not reached their peak yet but they were splendid enough for me and my aim that morning was met. We spent about an hour and a half there and left the temple at about noon. After that visit, I continued to monitor the reports because I was toying with the idea of visiting the temple again after my exam on 2 Dec. However, by that day, the leaves were falling fast and the season had ended in that area.
As autumn comes to a close, winter will bring with it a whole new experience. In some places in the Kansai region, it has already been snowing. I sure am looking forward to receiving snow in Kyoto!