Visited World Heritage Daigo-ji (醍醐寺) on a fairly cold day (below 10C). Have visited twice for sakura but this is the first time for koyo there.
Passed by Karamon and Niomon, reached the Shimo-Daigo (Lower Daigo) where Hondo (Main Hall) and the 5-storey Pagoda (1000+ years old) are located. Headed further up to Bentendo (featured photo) in gorgeous koyo.
Benten-ike with reflections
Treasures in Sanboin and landscape garden
Also visited the Reihokan, a fairly large museum keeping a significant collection of historical artifacts including documents, scriptures, paintings and sculptures. No photo is allowed inside.
On the next morning, strolled around our hotel overlooking Kamogawa near San-jo. Took JR Haruka express train to Osaka/KIX as usual, though this was our first time riding on a Hello Kitty Haruka.
On next morning we visited Konkaikomyo-ji (金戒光明寺). Apart from koyo, a special opening was held to exhibit its treasures not opened to public normally.
We entered the Miedo (Main Hall) where the treasures were exhibited (no photo is allowed). On the back side, we entered a beautiful landscape garden. Stayed for about 1.5 hours.
Konkaikomyo-ji (金戒光明寺) – special openings
Rock gardens depicting the live stages of Genku – founder of Kokaikomyo-ji
Shimo-kamo Jinja (下鴨神社)
After lunch we visited this World Heritage, also famous for love/marriage. Bumped into local family posing for wedding photos. Exited the Jinja to the south through Tadasu-no-Mori – a preserved forest.
Arrived at Kyoto station by limo bus from Arima onsen town around noon. Dashed to our fav Kaiten-sushi shop, serving seasonal fresh seafood from Hokuriku.
After dropping our luggage in Kyoto hotel, we headed to Tenju-an – a subtemple in Nanzen-ji. While the latter is filled with loads of tourists, there were relatively less visitors in that afternoon when we visited.
Apart from landscape gardens, it also has a small pond with reflections of peak koyo.
Left after an hour – on the way out with different perspectives.
After checking out from onsen hotel in Nara/Tenri in early morning, drove to Katsuo-ji in Minoh town – in the northern outskirts of Osaka Prefecture. While the original plan was to drop by the Minoh falls nearby, the mountain road was pretty congested outside the car park of Katsuo-ji (on Sunday). Thus, we decided to visit Katsuo-ji (勝尾寺) first. Turned out it was a right call in the end.
There were many visitors. Apart from the locals, we noticed many Thai-speaking visitors – surprise.
Hondo (Main Hall)
Kachi-daruma (winning Daruma)
There are numerous daruma dolls (large and small) inscribed with the character Katsu (winning) in the temple area. People pray for winning-luck in all aspects including success in academic tests, business, sports etc.
After staying for 1+ hour, we decided to leave for the Minoh Falls. Unfortunately, the road leading to it was blocked (on weekends in peak koyo season). Though there is another road approaching from the Minoh downhill, we decided to drop it as we had to catch an express bus (whose tickets had been booked) to Arima onsen in early afternoon.
Returned car in nearby Senri new town and had brief lunch. Arrived at Arima onsen town at around 3:30pm. It was flooded with visitors around the bus station on narrow mountainous roads. As this was our 3rd visit, we went to the onsen hotel for check-in right away.
Visited Akame 48 falls (赤目四十八滝) in Mie Prefecture as a day trip. The car park was full (on weekend) when we arrived at around 10am. Car key was surrendered to car park staff for parking.
Commenced our hiking close to 11am, where there were many people on the way. The falls are spread out along a deep and narrow gorge of about 4km, heading uphill with plenty of rocky stairs along the trail – some are slippery. We turned back after 1+ hour for lunch at the entrance where there are more local eateries.
Akame 48 falls (赤目四十八滝)
It was lucky to have another nice day with blue sky and peak Koyo. At the entrance the Japanese giant salamanders could be watched living in tanks, though most of them were immobile. After lunch, we strolled around the local shops displaying Ninja related artifacts/toys before returning to Nara/Tenri. The ancient Iga Ninjas were trained in the mountains/gorge in Akame.
Returning to Yoshinoyama we visited the World Heritage Kinpusen-ji (金峯山寺) in Naka Senbon.
Zao-do (Main Hall) is a huge wooden structure with 3 huge statues of Zao Gongen inside (no photo is allowed). Also dropped by Nyorin-ji (如意輪寺) which is part of the world heritage.
On the next morning, drove uphill to Kami and Oku Senbon after checkout. Roads are mostly steep, winding and narrow that it can barely allow 2 cars on either direction so had to steer slowly. It was worthy as gorgeous koyo tunnel awaited at an observation point in Kami Senbon !!
Afterwards, we left Yoshino and headed north to Shoryaku-ji where it is surrounded by a forest of 3,000 trees in a multitude of colours.
Giant Ginkgo tree in golden yellow and other trees weaved into colourful palettes.
Had late lunch in a local and inexpensive Kaiten-sushi shop. Checked into onsen hotel in Tenri for 2 nights. Had coffee-cake sets in nice and spacious coffee house.
It was the second and final koyo trip in 2019. We visited Kinki area in 10 days in late to end Nov focusing on spots in Nara Prefecture in the beginning, before returning to Kyoto as in the last few years.
Upon landing in Osaka/KIX, picked up rental car and drove to Mt. Yoshino in Nara Prefecture. Arrived at historical ryokan Chikurinin Gunpoen (竹林院群芳園) in Naka Senbon after 4pm. No sightseeing as it was getting dark (sunset before 5pm). We stayed there for 2 nights.
On the next morning, visited the historical landscape garden in the ryokan which is famous for sakura, where Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣 秀吉) had visited more than 400 years ago. Koyo was in peak.
On the next morning, headed up to Ginsendai after checking out from the Sounkyo onsen hotel. The temporary shuttle bus had much less passengers and after 35 min it arrived at the trailhead at over 1500m.
It was a cloudy day while sunlight pierced through clouds from time to time. The trail leading up to Akadake was less muddy in the beginning though after 15 min it was in snow and puddles as in Kogen onsen. Further up the trail was narrower and completely covered in some form of hardened snow. Arrived at a viewing point where koyo could be viewed (unblocked by trees). Koyo had clearly past its peak in pale red as expected due to snow and higher elevations. Stayed for about 10 min and returned.
Tenninkyo / Hagaromo Falls (天人峡/羽衣の滝)
Returned to Sounkyo for brief lunch before noon. Drove to Tenninkyo about 100km away (3rd visit). Arrived at around 2pm+ and followed a flat trail of about 600m to Hagoromo falls. That trail had been closed for a few years due to landslides and was reopened recently.
In our 2nd visit 10 years ago the observation deck was at a higher and closer point where the Y-shaped falls could be seen in full. Sadly, the onsen hotel we stayed in 2004 had been closed.
While on the way to our onsen hotel in Furano, dropped by Biei before sunset for Daisetuszan, Mt Tokachi range on the distant horizon, Family trees and Ken & Mary tree.
New Prince Furano Hotel – 3rd stay and sumptuous western dinner course.
Returned car in Furano station on the next morning and took Chuo express bus back to Sapporo on another rainy day.
Next we headed further up to Midori-numa (緑沼), another gorgeous koyo spot. As it was one of the few spots with wooden benches and where eating was permitted, it was full of hikers at nearly noon time.
Did not rest and continue uphill to Ezo-numa (エゾ沼). Koyo was less impressive than in our 1st visit in 2004.
Next was Shikibu-numa (式部沼) which was probably the most gorgeous pond of the day.
Arrived at Daigaku-numa (大学沼) whose resting area was entirely covered in snow and puddles. Took a brief rest and quickly consumed an onigiri where eating was also permitted.
Spoke to park patrols on-duty and attempted further uphill to Kogen-numa but had to give up. That trail had become very slippery due to snow and mud all submerged beneath mountain streams. By then it was past 1pm, chilly at probably 5-6C and many hikers had returned. It was at the same location that wife and I had reached in 2004.
Upon descent took some quick snaps on some swamps such as Kamo-numa, Basho-numa etc.
Finally returned to the trailhead at almost 3:30pm. Took the last shuttle bus (seated) back to the temporary parking lot. Drove back to the onsen hotel at around 5pm – exhausted though grateful.
** Lessons learned
Apart from proper mountain hiking gears including waterproof hiking shoes and trekking poles, renting waterproof plastic boots up to shin (on spot) might be a better solution to trails strewn with muddy puddles, mountain streams and possibly snow.