An Autumn in Japan

Tripoto
11th Nov 2017

‘Mother Nature has the best box of crayons’

-Anonymous

You’ll know this quote holds absolute truth when you step into Japan. Be it during the Autumn or the Sakura/Cherry Blossom time. Koyo or Momijigari, like they call it in Japan is a tradition of visiting areas during fall-foliage, where leaves have changed their colours. The magic of yellow-orange foliage are sure to take you to a different world altogether. You are sure to leave a piece of your heart behind.

Photo of Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Sagaogurayama Tabuchiyamacho, Ukyō-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan by Sneha Prabhu

Exploring Japan would never be enough. The least you could do during your first visit is walking down the lanes of bustling Tokyo, strolling through the scenic grass fields at Hakone, getting meditative in the gorgeous shrines of Kyoto, de-stressing in one of the many gardens, relishing the local Sushi(if you’re a sushi fan!) or the Yakitori(the skewered/grilled meat/veggies), enjoying a Sake or a Shōchū with the locals & sleeping in a traditional home.

Photo of Tokyo, Japan by Sneha Prabhu

Best time to see the autumn colours:

Allow yourself for a visual treat while smelling the crisp air and soaking yourself in the gorgeous carpets of the fiery red maple leaves. Typically, the autumn foliage season starts in Mid-September. But the forecast varies as per the geographical regions in the country. For eg. Hokkaido which falls in the north, experiences autumn approximately from late September to late October whereas the prime touristy cities of Tokyo & Kyoto show their ‘true colours’ somewhere between mid-November to early December. So, before you embark on your fall trip to Japan, don’t forget to check the autumn calendar of that particular year. https://www.jrailpass.com/blog/japan-autumn-leaves-forecast is the site we referred to check the calendar for our 2017 trip.

Photo of Daigoji Temple, 1 Izaki, Fukuchiyama, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan by Sneha Prabhu

Getting TO Japan

Tokyo would be the ideal place to start your holiday from anywhere around the globe. There are two airports in Tokyo – Haneda & Narita. Haneda is a better bet to land as its closer to the city. Narita has better shopping experience, so maybe you can try flying out through Narita.

Getting Around Japan

The Japan Rail pass commonly known as the JR pass is quite pocket friendly & helpful for planning long distance train travel. The pass is valid on almost all trains operated on the nationwide network of JR (Japan Railways) including shinkansen. The minimum number of days the JR pass is available is 7. Also, the validity period is based midnight to midnight rather than 24 hours which means if you start using your pass on noon of day1, it will expire at midnight of day 7 instead of noon of day 8.

Suggested Itinerary ( 11 days):

Day1: Arrive in Tokyo by evening

Day2-3: Looking around Tokyo

          Shijuku Gyoen

          Yoyogi park

          Shibuya crossing

           Tokyo skytree

          Tokyo tower

          Ueno park

          Sensoji shrine

Day4: Nikko National Park

Day5: Hakone

Day6-7: Exploring Kyoto

          Daigoji temple

          Kiyomizu-dera temple

          Gion

Day8: Arashiyama Bamboo forest & Kinkaku-ji Temple

Day9: Nara

Day10: Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Shrine

Day11: Return to the den!

Exploring in & aroundTokyo

Living true to the reputation, the rapid Tokyo-Metro makes it possible to cover a lot of sightseeing spots easily in a day’s time. Shinjuku Gyoen & Yoyogi parks are amongst the largest & the most popular parks in Tokyo. While Shinjuku Gyoen is located at a short walk from Shinjuku station, Yoyogi Park is right outside the Harajuku station. Shibuya crossing (the world’s most populated crossing), Tokyo skytree & the Tokyo tower are a few touristy places that you can easily add to the day’s list. Though Ueno Park is a must visit during the Cherry Blossom season, you can check out the night illuminations at this garden in autumn too.

Day 1
Photo of Shinjuku Gyoen Park, 11 Naitomachi, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan by Sneha Prabhu
Photo of Yoyogi Park, 2-1 Yoyogikamizonocho, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan by Sneha Prabhu
Photo of Tokyo Tower, 4 Chome-2-8 Shibakoen, Minato, Tokyo, Japan by Sneha Prabhu

Sensoji Shrine

Tokyo’s most colourful & popular temple Sensoji, also known as Asakusa Kannon is located in Asakusa. A vibrant shopping street at the entrance of over 200 meters, called Nakamise leads to the main entrance of the shrine. Don’t forget to try the fun fortune teller machine on the right hand side of the entrance. It has a wishing jug that spills out bamboo numbers after you shake it while saying your wishes. After you collect your small paper, read your result and tie to the rack in the temple. But good luck and bad luck could be part of the result. It’s fun though!

Day 2

Pink evenings at Sensoji Shrine

Photo of Sensō-ji, 2 Chome-3-1 Asakusa, Taitō, Tokyo, Japan by Sneha Prabhu

Nikko national park

If you have limited time in Japan, an enhancing full day excursion to Nikko can be easily planned as it’s accessible within 2 hours from Tokyo by JR or Tobu railways. The lavishly decorated Toshogu Shrine & the Shinkyo Bridge (which stands at the entrance to Nikko’s temples & shrines) are the highlights of Nikko. Depending on the weather, you can easily include Lake Chuzenji & Kegon falls to you day’s itinerary.

Day 4
Photo of Nikkō Tōshō-gū, 2301 Sannai, Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture, Japan by Sneha Prabhu
Photo of Shinkyo Bridge, 234 Provincial Road, Feixian, Linyi, Shandong, China by Sneha Prabhu

Hakone- One of our favourites!

With the serene mountain scenery & the pampas grass fields, you’re sure to make a blissful escape from the pacing Tokyo. A relaxing Onsen (hot springs), a cruise ride from the shores of Lake Ashinoko, the mesmerising view from the Hakone Ropeway & a happy ride on the Tozan railways amidst the mountains sums up to a beautiful day at Hakone. On a ‘lucky weather day’, you might be able to spot the majestic Mount Fuji from the ropeway too. Don’t forget to try the Owakudani Black Eggs here as some locals say, eating those eggs can add seven years to your life. Woohoo!

Day 5
Photo of Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan by Sneha Prabhu
Photo of Hakone Ropeway, 1300 Gora, Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan by Sneha Prabhu

The Hakone Free Pass by Odakyu Railways can be purchased at major railway stations and ticket counters along the Odakyu Railway Line. It’s super pocket friendly as it provides unlimited use of Odakyu-affiliated buses, trains, boats, cable cars and ropeways in the Hakone area. Not to forget, you can get away with the queues at all your stops saving a lot of time too.

A thing to remember- Hakone is not accessible through JR, it's Odakyu Railway that operates between Tokyo's Shinjuku Station and Hakone-Yumoto Station.

 Kyoto & Day trips around

Kyoto, the former Imperial capital of Japan, carries a reputation of its rich & cultural heritage. Unless you plan to unwind yourself for a week or more, it’s impossible to cover over 400 beautiful & traditional shrines that this city owns. Irrespective of the fact that each shrine is a first–rate attraction in its own, here are a few shrines recommended by us that we say are a ‘crime to miss’ & can be covered within a limited stay-time in Kyoto. Kyoto is also the heart of Japan’s geisha world. You’re sure to spot many tourists all decked up in rented kimonos, living out their Japanese fantasies.

Day 7
Photo of Gion, Japan by Sneha Prabhu

The Fushimi Inari-Taisha

To top the list, is this head shrine of God Inari, located at the base of the mountain, also named Inari. Famous for its thousands of vermilion gates that lead into the sacred Mount Inari. There are many vermilion-coloured buildings too on your way, souvenir shops and smaller structures selling charms. The Fushimi-Inari is right outside the Inari station which can be reached within 10 mins from Kyoto station by the JR line. Bonus- JR pass works here!

Day 10
Photo of Fushimi Inari Taisha, 68 Fukakusa Yabunouchicho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan by Sneha Prabhu
Photo of Fushimi Inari Taisha, 68 Fukakusa Yabunouchicho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan by Sneha Prabhu

Daigo-ji Temple

The autumn views around the Daigo-ji temple, a designated world heritage site, are nothing less than postcard paintings. The Bentendo Hall with the picturesque bridge & lake at its base are a stunning treat to the eyes. This shrine is a 15-min walk or a short community bus ride from Daigo station.

Day 6
Photo of Daigoji Temple Nio-mon Gate, 22 Daigohigashiojicho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan by Sneha Prabhu

Kiyomizu Dera

Make sure to catch the sunset views at the Kiyomizu-dera (literally "Pure Water Temple") with the sea of fall colours in the backdrop. The easiest way to get here is by bus (number 100 or 206-15mins) from Kyoto main station. Closest stops are Gojo-zaka or Kiyomizu-michi, from where it’s a 10 min uphill walk to the temple. The shopaholics have a bonus of finding some cute souvenir shops along the slopes of the temple.

Photo of Kiyomizu-dera, 294 Kiyomizu 1-chome, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan by Sneha Prabhu

If you wanna adorn the lovely kimono for a day, you can head to Gion, the geisha town. It’s very close to Kiyomizu-Dera. Several shops along the lanes of Gion have professionals who’ll do the white make up and help you dress in a bright kimono before a photo shoot! You can also stroll Kyoto for more pictures.

Kinkaku-ji temple

This golden pavilion whose top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf is built overlooking a large pond making a stunning view for its visitors. It has burned down numerous times throughout its history but the present structure was rebuilt in 1955.

Day 8
Photo of Kinkakuji Temple, 1 Kinkakujicho, Kita, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan by Sneha Prabhu

Arashiyama Bamboo forests

The majestic bamboo grooves, located on the western outskirts of Kyoto are quite magnificent & make an impressive backdrop for your holiday photos. But, make sure you visit the bamboo alley early in the morning as it gets quite crowded post 8.30am. Arashiyama is less than 30 mins train ride from Kyoto main station & yippie, JR pass works here too!!

Photo of Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Sagaogurayama Tabuchiyamacho, Ukyō-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan by Sneha Prabhu

The photogenic gardens along the Tenryuji temple & the lakeside pathway to the Togetsukyo Bridge are sure to surprise you with Mother Nature’s creativity.Lake along the Bamboo forests

Lake along the Bamboo forests

Photo of An Autumn in Japan by Sneha Prabhu

Nara

A Compact city approximately 35kms from Kyoto. The magical forests, ancient lantern patterns & the walking deer(NARA) make Kasuga Taisha the most important Shinto shrine in Nara. The autumn sceneries in the Isui-en Garden are attractively serene & not to be missed. The entrance fee to this park is a little heavy on the pockets but it’s a definitely worth the visit. The Nara Park & the landmark Buddha at the Todaiji temple can also be conveniently covered in a day’s itinerary.

Day 9

Lantern patterns at Kasuga Taisha

Photo of Nara Prefecture, Japan by Sneha Prabhu

Nara Park

Photo of Nara Park, Zoshicho, Nara, Nara Prefecture, Japan by Sneha Prabhu

Isui-en Garden

Photo of Isuien Garden, Suimoncho, Nara, Nara Prefecture, Japan by Sneha Prabhu
Photo of Nara Prefecture, Japan by Sneha Prabhu

Shopping!

Japan, especially Tokyo is a shopper’s paradise. I wouldn’t be done even if I was given a week’s time. Be it the latest gadgets, the cutest of stationaries or the ever so pretty ceramics, you have it all there. The 100 yen shops which are like the dollar shops, offer everything under the roof. We would recommend Diaso or Seria as the best 100 yen shops that could be found in Tokyo as well as Kyoto.

For all the high-street shoppers, Shibuya would be the right place which has a string of brands like Zara, H&M, F-21 and UNIQLO. Shibuya also offers a lot many restaurants that you can a grab a bite at in between your shopping.

Our best buys in Japan also include a lot of face masks & creams that we picked from some handmade stores in Gion, & some organic green tea from the lanes of Kiyomizu-Dera (we were not a fan of the Japanese Matcha though).

Things to pack

With considerble amount of shrines & temples in Japan, it’s wise to bring shoes that slip on and off easily unless you enjoy untying and lacing your shoes every few minutes. Acoording to your own tolerance, make sure to pack your hand warmers & thermal leggings if necessary. Neutrals like creams & greys tend to stand out in your pictures against the autumn colors. Velvets look royal & elegant too!

Accommodation

Although accommodation isn’t a problem for all kinds of budget, we preferred booking Airbnbs at central locations as we wanted to enjoy an authentic stay.

Places we missed, but YOU shouldn’t!

Kamakura: A day’s trip from Tokyo, the great Buddha at Kamakura is second largest statue in Japan after the one in Todaiji-NARA. This place is also known as the Kyoto of eastern Japan due to its various cultural shrines & temples.

Hitachi Seaside Park: One of its kinds, it’s a stunning park in Hitachinaka, Ibaraki. It’s famous for its seasonal flowers- The Park’s iconic flower is the blue nemophila during spring & the hill is covered by green kokia bushes which slowly turn red as the weather turns cooler.

Hiroshima & Nagasaki: Also known as the re-born cities, these places also host some stunning parks & castles. The history lovers can definitely add these to the list.

Disneyland: We missed this fun seven themed land as it is located on the outskirts of Tokyo & would have required an entire day to explore it.

Day 11

An adorbale Disney store in Tokyo

Photo of Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan by Sneha Prabhu

Hokkaido: Hikers, Skiers, campers, cyclists wouldn’t wish for a better heaven than the untouched landscapes of Hokkaido. One place we would definitely go back to Japan for.

Picture Courtesy: clicked on iPhone.

That’s it for now!!! Sayonara! Any further queries welcome!

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