By Nikki McMullan
Looking outside during a Japanese autumn, nobody can fail to be impressed by the exceptionally beautiful rainbow of colours seeping from the trees as the countryside prepares itself for the onset of winter. Japanese people, resident foreigners and tourists alike all look forward to this annual display of nature at its very best and many people travel great distances to see the leaves at their various stages of transformation.
So where should you head to see the autumn foliage at its best? The former head of Kinki University’s hiking club, Professor Okumoto, told me that Hiroshima has a wealth of great spots from which to witness the autumn leaves. His personal favourite is Sandankyo Gorge up in the north west of Hiroshima ken: ‘Easily accessible by bus, it’s a great spot for walkers all year round but at this time of year it’s exceptionally beautiful. The maples, which are the main source of colour throughout Japan in this season, are not to be missed.’
If you are keen to venture further afield, Professor Okumoto recommends Daisen (the highest peak in the Chugoku area, situated to the north of Hiroshima in Tottori-ken, particularly famous for its beaches) and Jakuchikyo (a mountainous area in the north east of Yamaguchi, only around two hours’ drive from Hiroshima city).
For those of you less inclined towards the outdoors but still keen to see what Japan’s autumn has to offer, Miyajima is an easily accessible weekend trip, and Kyoto is also a viable and worthwhile option: ‘The north of Kyoto is particularly worth a trip,’ recommends Professor Okumoto. ‘Walk down the Philosopher’s Path. It’s very memorable.’
Mr. Okumoto couldn’t help but add that his own university’s grounds, near Saijo, are also blessed with an abundance of fine maples, all of which will, he said, turn red this Sunday. When I gave him a quizzical expression at this very exact date, he told me that the students’ matchmaking carnival takes place this Sunday and the trees are well known for turning red on this day out of embarrassment at the students’ antics!
So whether this is your first autumn in Japan or your twenty-first, make sure that you take some time out to relax and take in the breath-taking array of colours that Japan is so famous for. But be quick – leave it for too long and you’ll miss it!