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The kouyou (red leaves) of Kyoto

JAPAN | Tuesday, 25 November 2008 | Views [9478]

The kouyou of Takao.

The kouyou of Takao.

There is a reason to go to Kyoto in the autumn: kouyou, or red leaves. It doesn’t matter where you go or what you do, these beautiful multi-colored trees are all around you in various arrays of color: vibrant green, rich yellow and orange, and the most amazing shades of red.


I started off my morning meeting some friends at the JR Kyoto station. We all grabbed day bus passes and started off our journey to Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion, well known as a tourist attraction for those coming to Kyoto. Since it was a national holiday there were scores of people out and about to enjoy the brisk morning air and the beautiful scenery. We grabbed our tickets, headed in – well, shuffled more like it – and stared, breathless, at this amazing wonder of architecture. For all that I had seen Kinkakuji before, three summers ago, it is still a marvel to behold: this amazing brilliant gold building surrounded by serene water and seasonal accompaniments, such as the aforementioned brilliant red leaves.


After soaking up our fill of the sight we headed out for some much needed refreshments. Alas, we picked the wrong restaurant and definitely the wrong day: it was a cafeteria-style Japanese restaurant and it was packed. After getting seated and ordering we had to wait an agonizing hour for our food: my tendon, or tempura and rice, was just about the most unappetizing thing I have eaten in Japan so far besides natto. It was soggy, well-undercooked, and bland enough to be tasteless. Note to self (and to those out there): don’t bother eating at a restaurant near a famous attraction. It will disappoint, I am quite sad to say.


Our next stop was Takao, in the north-west corner of Kyoto. It was an ideal place to visit another beautiful sight but far away from the crowds, much-less touristy than the famous temples, and perhaps a bit sporty when you realize just how many uneven steps you need to climb to get to the top of Mt. Takao to find the hidden gem of a temple: Jingoji. A lovely temple nestled in the forest surrounded by trees of multi-colors; it was the perfect stop for us to snap more photos of red leaves without all the crowd interference.


By the time we made it back down the temple to our bus stop the day was getting on and our plans of hitting up Arashiyama were dashed due to the early sun set time so we headed over to the well-known shopping district of Shijo for some distraction. Unfortunately, the further we got into the heart of the city the more traffic we had to deal with so we got off a stop early and arrived at our destination on foot faster than the bus (traffic jams abound!). Whenever I am in Shijo I always stop into Random Walk, the English bookstore, to pick up a few new reads. Books acquired, dinner was found at a cute café called simply Harry’s Café that was far superior to that of lunch (my taco rice was quite good) and then our goodbyes were said.


I found myself sardined on the train ride home, as happened on the ride to Kyoto, and then spent the rest of my night curled up with my newly acquired book. It was a relaxing way to end my eventful day.

Tags: autumn, culture, fall, japan, kouyou, kyoto, red leaves, shrine, temple

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