Sunday, November 7, 2021

Falling for Autumn in Japan (Over and Over and Over Again)

 -- Susan, every other Sunday

During my 2018-2019 "100 Summits Year," in which I climbed 100+ mountains in Japan and hiked in every season of the year, I promised myself I would return to the mountains to watch the seasons change every year, for as many years as I remain physically capable of doing so. 

2020, and much of 2021, made that a challenge (though, fortunately, not entirely impossible); however, with life in Japan returning to something more closely approximating normal, I'm back in the mountains,  reveling in the vibrant scents and colors of my favorite season. 

Japan has a long foliage season; the colorful autumn leaves get started in the mountains of Hokkaido (Japan's northernmost major island) in September, and by the time we start seeing reds and golds on the trees in Tokyo--usually in early November--Hokkaido is welcoming its first snow.

The foliage creeps south through the month of November, reaching Kyushu (Japan's southernmost major island) some time in December--giving leaf-peepers in Japan almost three months to enjoy the colors. (Have leaves, will travel...) 

Given the lack of travel and hiking opportunities in 2020 and most of 2021, I decided to make the most of this autumn, and headed up to Hokkaido for some hiking at the end of September. The leaves on Southern Hokkaido's leaves were putting on quite a show:

Foliage on Mt. Muine, near Sapporo

More autumn joy on Mt. Muine

Autumn colors on Mt. Iwaonupuri, Hokkaido

A flash of color on the summit of Mt. Muine, with Mt. Yotei peeping through the clouds to say hello.

Gold and Orange - welcome, fall!

Tochigi Prefecture, north of Tokyo, didn't start seeing it's first colorful foliage until two weeks ago: 

Colorful leaves on Nakimushiyama, Tochigi

Tochigi, when the leaves begin to turn

Yesterday, I headed back to Tochigi, for a day hike along the Ryu-ō-kyo ("Gorge of the Dragon King") - a lovely hike, and a great place to see autumn foliage when you time it correctly. The last time I tried, in 2019, most of the trees had already dropped their leaves, but yesterday, it was perfect.

The Kinugawa ("Angry Demon River") and autumn leaves

Fiery foliage, caught mid-turn

Reds and Golds along the Ryuokyo

The trees themselves are beautiful, and one of my favorite parts of fall, but they also remind me that life itself is constantly in a state of change. The more we try to freeze it, the faster it seems to flow. After making the decision to appreciate the days, and the seasons, more consciously, I found myself making trips like these more often. Now that I can take them again, I find myself appreciating both the trips and the seasons even more. 

Autumnal seasonal foods in Japan are nothing to sneeze at, either: 

but that's a story for another post.

See you in two weeks--and I hope you find a way to get out (or stay in) and enjoy the autumn too. 

1 comment:

  1. I love the autumn, Susan, and often wish it would linger longer than it does in the Northeast. Then again, at least we have one as opposed to much of the southern US that must struggle on with endless green and warmth. Your photos are great, so much so that I think I'll take another gander (please note the subtle reference to the many Canadian geese streaming south across our New Jersey skies) at your Autumn Leaves photos. This time, though, while listening to Nat King Cole's classic rendition of jazz's tribute to the transition.