Stayed in this historical ryokan in Naka Senbon of Yoshinoyama. Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣 秀吉) had stayed more than 400 years ago for sakura in its landscape garden. The utensil that he used – cha bento was on display.
Later when we were staying in another onsen hotel in Nara/Tenri, a documentary by a local Nara TV mentioned that the recent three generations of Japanese emperors had also stayed. The room that they had stayed with views of the landscape garden, historical artifacts were shown in that program.
cha-bento used by Toyotomi Hideyoshi
Note that the onsen served in that ryokan is not sourced locally but transported from nearby onsen.
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.
Hondo (Main Hall)
heading up to Sh
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.
Nishitetsu Solaria Kyoto hotel
Kamogawa from hotel room
~~~~~~~~ T H E E N D ~~~~~~~~
Visited Arashiyama again in peak koyo. Walked along the banks of Hozugawa in less crowds than in previous years (on weekdays).
Togetsukyo (Crossing Moon Bridge)
Lunch in Suiran – 2 years in a row
Prolonging life room
glimpse of its garden
Landscape garden inside Suiran
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
Miedo – Main Hall
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.
Dinner in our favourite izakaya in Kyoto
Stayed in Koroukan (鴻朧館) – an annex hotel of Gekkoen (月光園) in Arima onsen for the second time (3rd time for my wife). Having stayed in plenty of traditional ryokans, we prefer to stay in modern onsen hotels/ryokans from time to time.
Picked a Semi-suite room of 31 sqm with dinner serving Kuroge-wagyu. Turned out it was a right call. Apart from being spacious and on high floor, peak koyo was right outside the window.
Before dinner, we soaked in public onsen (as usual) in both ryokans. Views from the rotenburo in Koroukan was nice, though it was less gorgeous (on lower floor) than from our suite. On the other hand, the rotenburo in the main ryokan was on the other side of the valley, accessible by a short bridge. This is akin to Kurokawa onsen in Kyushu.
Kaiseki dinner with meticulous service
After breakfast, we strolled around both ryokans and the onsen town again before checking out. Took express bus to Kyoto station direct in 1+ hour.
views from the connecting bridge to main Gekkoen
====> Kyoto =====>
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)
heading uphill to Hondo
praying in 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.
view of pagoda
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.
On the next morning, we strolled around the onsen town again before checkout. Good that there were much less visitors.
Public onsen Kin-no-yu
Statue of Nene in front of Nene-bashi
Public onsen Gin-no-yu
statue of Buddhist monk Gyoki in 7th century
After checkout we took express bus to Kyoto direct.
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)
Rocks layered in 8 levels
bottom of gorge
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.
Zao-do (Main Hall)
Chrysanthemum also in season
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.
Giant Ginkgo tree
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.
Overall itin – KIX > Nara Prefecture > Arima onsen > Kyoto
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.
large sakura tree in the garden
Tanzan Jinja (談山神社)
Next, we drove downhill to Tanzan Jinja near Sakurai in less than 1 hour. It is famous for the unique 13-storey wooden pagoda in Japan. Besides, locals pray for love/marriage.
Gorgeous fall colours 🙂
Giant Ginkgo tree in golden yellow
Inside the Main Hall and Jinja ground
“Koi-Jinja” – falling in love
costume in Heian era
football in ancient style
Next, drove to nearby historical Hasedera (長谷寺) of more than 1,000 years. Had brief lunch in the temple town downhill. Climbed nearly 400 stairs before arriving at the Hondo (Main Hall).
Hasedera – chief temple
Hondo (Main Hall), 5-storey Pagoda
Outside the Hondo there is a large wooden deck with breathtaking views of the buildings below and the 5-storey Pagoda, surrounded by peak koyo.
Hondo – Main Hall
5-storey pagoda viewed from Main Hall