Hikone Castle (彥根城)
another original castle of almost 400 years. Visited on a national holiday with more crowds though fine. Day temps dropped to less than 10C and drizzling at times.
Inside the castle, climbs along the wooden stairs were steep – as in Himeji Castle.
Hikone Castle – 1 of 8 sights in Biwako
sightseeing boat sailing in the moat
staff ringing bell
rainbow over Biwako while lining up to enter the castle
view from inside the castle
a beautiful landscape garden attached to Hikone Castle – not to be missed if visiting the castle.
an exhilarated swan
Hikone castle as the backdrop
Nikisaki-zakura – gifted from Mito
Had late lunch in shopping street close to castle. A udon shop had a fairly long line despite being close to 2pm. We chose the Aka-Oni (red ghost) udon served with famous local Omi-gyu (beef) in sukiyaki style – we were told to pour the entire hot soup onto the udon. This was the first time we had udon served with beef (commonly served with vege, tempura etc). Though we had waited for about 30 min, it was totally worthy 😀
Akaoni-udon served with Omi-gyu in sukiyaki style
Okashi sent to Japan Emperor
From Kyoto, train to Omihachiman and picked up a rental car for a day to visit temples in Kotousanzan (湖東三山), literally the 3 mountains in Eastern Omi (Biwako).
Driving itin – Omihachiman > Hyakusaiji > Kongorinji > Keisokuji > return car in Maibara (no drop-off charge)
Hyakusai-ji (湖東三山 百済寺)
Crowded but fine. Most were locals by bus tours. Followed uphill path to Hondo. Gorgeous koyo was around the pond. Spent about 1 hour+.
Kongorin-ji (湖東三山 金剛輪寺)
The most brilliant koyo of the day 😎
More crowded with mostly locals – parking lots for private cars and tour buses were quite full, despite on a weekday. Uphill path to Hondo and 3-storey pagoda was much longer and steeper at points, though the rewards were immense – koyo corridors and blood-stained koyo 「血染めのもみじ」 awaiting !
3-storey pagoda embedded in koyo
same for Hondo
small cemeteries along the path
Upon returning downhill, dropped by the landscape garden (close to entrance at the base) and koyo was not inferior. Plenty of photographers aggregated around the pond and the blood-stained koyo.
Bonus – Jugatsu-zakura (October sakura) was also blooming 😆
pond filled with fall leaves
Jugatsu-zakura also blooming
literally “chicken-feet” temple. Attempted to visit in last Nov but had to turn back due to long line of cars not moving with no sight of nearby car parks whatsoever.
Located in northern Omi-Nagahama so took nearly 1 hour from Kongorin-ji, even by expressway. Staffs guided cars to a temporary unpaved parking lot (free of charge). As it was close to 4:30pm, I rushed to it following signs and crowds walking in opposite direction. Took about 20 min after some ups-and-downs, passing by farms on the way.
Renowned for carpet-like fallen leaves and indeed it was. Hondo was closed but still worthy to visit. Stayed for about 15 min and by the time I returned to the car park it was almost pitch dark.
Hondo – closed
tea farms on the way
snack shops – would like to stop by
is located in the western mountains overlooking Kyoto city. The temple ground is huge and plenty of temple buildings are scattered on the mountain.
From the bus stop there is a meandering steep climb before reaching the Sanmon – entrance gate. Inside the temple ground, we followed the route and reached Yakushi-do in Okunoin. Nice views of Kyoto city in the distance, apart from peak koyo everywhere.
We spent about 2 hours and were grateful. There were not many visitors though we had to return early to the bus stop to line up. Apart from the locals, most were from Taiwan.
600-year old pine tree with long extension
Kyoto city in the distance
Sanmon from inside
After late lunch in Kyoto station, we headed to Yamashina by train in 5 min, took a taxi at the station and reached Bishamon-do in about 10 min.
The area opened to visitors were relatively small. Koyo was also at peak and not crowded. We spent less than 1 hour.
Teppanyaki dinner in Granvia Kyoto hotel
ordered the same seafood and beef course as in last Nov 😀
Sagano Scenic Train ride (Torroko Train)
Managed to book this highly popular scenic train ride from Arashiyama to Kameoka 1 month in advance.
The train station was filled with visitors – most were in tour groups. Apart from locals, the other majorities were from Taiwan, mainland China and Thailand.
While we were seated on the right, in the beginning the koyo scenes on the left bank of the Hozugawa (stream) were more photogenic.
Torroko train arriving at Arashiyama
Train at Kameoka ready to return
boat ride on Hozugawa
headed up to the Observatory. Nice views of Arashiyama and Hozugawa.
Lunch in Kyo-Suiran
Suiran is a luxurious ryokan in Arashiyama – have not stayed though. Reserved for lunch and strolled around its garden with nice views of Hozugawa.
Lunch was delicious apart from nice service. The dining room was fully occupied.
A few days later this ryokan was featured in a local TV program, showing its Presidential Suite.
garden with nice views of Hozugawa
garden view from our table
Steamed Tai fish
Myoshin-ji / Taizo-in (妙心寺 / 退藏院)
Before calling it a day, we visited Taizo-in in Myoshin-ji, which is a large complex consisting of many subtemples.
Taizo-in is a relatively small landscape garden. However, it has rock gardens, mini-rapids, a pond and a hollowed bamboo for listening to water music from water droplets. It was serene and we sat down for 15 min before leaving.
Entrance to Myoshinji
Entrance to Taizon-in
water music that can be listened to
Back in Kyoto – 3 years in a row in late November for peak koyo. Picked some nice spots with much less crowds.
D1 – Shinnyodo
D2 – Sagano Scenic Train (Torroko train ride) > Arashiyama Park > Myoshin-ji / Taizo-in
D3 – Yoshimine-dera > Bishamon-do
Tetsugaku-no-michi – the Philosopher’s path
dropped by it across the road from Shinnyodo to remember those days when we first visited Kyoto for koyo 18 years ago.
Back in our fav hotel in Kyoto facing the lit-up Kyoto Tower and Higashi Honganji in the distance.
Had first dinner in our fav Izakaya near Kyoto station.
Kyoto Tower from room
our fav Kyoto dessert
It was a sunny day on next morning. Took Kintetsu rapid commuter train to Nara from Osaka. Walked to Ukimido while passing through the Nara Park.
Nara Park – Ukimido (浮見堂)
watched by deers
good subject for painting
this attracted plenty of photographers
Lunch in local restaurant outside Todaiji (2nd time) serving local beef. I ordered the Hitsumabushi style.
Surprise visit – while heading towards Isuien, we dropped by this garden entrance. Upon enquiry, entrance fee was waived for foreigners. The landscape garden was quite large and we stayed there for 1 hour+.
It used to be privately owned, subsequently acquired by the Nara Government and opened to public.
Kofuku-ji – Chuo Kondo (興福寺 中金堂)
On our way back to Kintetsu Nara station, dropped by the Chuo Kondo (Central Golden Hall) which has reopened since Oct 2018.
pamplet on its treasures
Eastern Golden Hall and 5-storey pagoda
southern Octagonal hall
Visited the Kobe City Arboretum (神戸市立森林植物園) while heading back to Osaka. Noticed from the local koyo report that it had reached peak while we were in Takamatsu.
As it was on a Friday afternoon, the crowd was not huge though the queue for the free shuttle bus to nearest Kobe-Dentetsu train station was quite long. Stayed for 1hour+.
- Cross-section of Giant Sequoia in the visitor centre
- Japanese Antelope of 27 years old
Cross-section of Sequoia in TIC
On next morning car was returned in Takamatsu and took high-speed ferry to Sodoshima – literally “small beans island”. Picked up a reserved Kei car for 4 hours upon arrival.
drove uphill to top ropeway station at about 600m and dropped by a tea house at about 300m. In the end we noticed that koyo was at peak in latter rather than at the summit. Though Kankakei can be reached by bus and ropeway, we rented a car to avoid potentially long lines in peak koyo season. Indeed, there were many visitors at the top ropeway station.
koyo at 300m
views from observatory prior to summit
views from observatory near top of ropeway station
next we drove downhill for lunch in Olive road station. Nearby there is an olive park where olive has been first grown in Japan for 100 years. It attracted plenty of visitors as it was also the venue of a local movie shot a few years ago.
venue where local movie was shot
views from onsen hotel in Takamatsu
Sodoshima in the distance
Yashima in the distance
square watermelon produced in Zentsuji city
After brief lunch in Okoke boat pier, we headed to Okuboji via expressway. Being the #88 temple with 1300 years of history, there were pilgrims, apart from usual visitors. Koyo was also at peak.
Next we headed back to Takamatsu city where we stayed 2 nights. Prior to hotel checkin, we visited this beautiful landscape garden. As it was after 4pm, there were not many visitors.
After checking out of the Iya onsen hotel on next morning in chill and wind, drove further inside the valley to visit Kazura-bashi – a bridge made of mountain vines.
Iya valley views along the way
koyo and biwa waterfall around the bridge
Oboke boat ride
next we headed to Oboke for a boat ride. It was smooth and lasted for 30min.
crouching lion rock
ghost village legend displays