JP 2018 Koyo Kyoto (Part 2)

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 are in tour groups. While we were seated on the right, in the beginning the koyo scenes on the left bank of the Hozugawa (stream) were more photogenic.



Arashiyama Park

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.



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.



===>   Part 3   ===>


JP 2018 Koyo Kyoto (Part 1)

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


Shinnyodo  (真如堂)



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.



Winter Illuminations

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.


===>   Part 2  ====>


JP 2018 Koyo Nara

It was a sunny day on next morning. Took Kintetsu rapid train to Nara from Osaka.  Walked to Ukimido while passing through the Nara Park.

Nara Park


Lunch in local restaurant outside Todaiji (2nd time) serving local beef. I ordered the Hitsumabushi style.


Yoshiki-en  (吉城園)

Surprise visit – while heading towards Isuien, we dropped by this garden entrance. Upon enquiry, entrance fee is waived for foreigners. The landscape garden was quite large and we stayed there for 1 hour+.

It used to be owned privately and recently acquired by the Nara Government and now 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 was reopened since Oct 2018.


===>  Kyoto  ===>


JP 2018 Koyo Kobe

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


===>  Nara  ====>


JP 2018 Koyo Shikoku (Part 5)

Sodoshima (小豆島)

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.



Kankakei (寒霞溪)

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.


views from observatory near top of ropeway station


Olive Park

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.


views from onsen hotel in Takamatsu


===>  koyo in Kinki  ====>


JP 2018 Koyo Shikoku (Part 4)

Okubo-ji (大窪寺)

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.



Ritsurin-koen (栗林公園)

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.



===>  Part 5  ====>


JP 2018 Koyo Shikoku (Part 3)

Kazura-bashi (かずら橋)

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.


====>  Part 4  ====>


Iya onsen hotel

Stayed in Iya onsen hotel, which is perched on a cliff overlooking a deep valley below. Its rotenburo is 170m downhill connected by a private cable car. Koyo was at peak in the valley below.

Sumptous Kaiseki dinner served with local river fish Amego, grilled Tokushima beef and abalone etc.

Our room #503 Aioi, means couple growing old together, has an ensuite rotenburo. As the public rotenburo (downhill) was just lukewarm, we soaked in our own rotenburo on next morning prior to breakfast.



JP 2018 Koyo Shikoku (Part 2)

Shiromine-ji (白峯寺)

Heading downhill we arrived at Shiromine-ji – #81 temple where koyo was at peak.  It was also the tomb of Sutoku Emperor (崇徳天皇白峰御陵).


Kotohira-gu (金刀比羅宮)

next we dropped by Kotohira-gu, which is the main shrine of Kompira shrines in Japan.

Climbed several hundred stairs to reach the main hall.  Nice views of Kotohira town and Sanuki-Fuji in the distance.


Lunch in a modern restaurant operated by Shiseido at the foothill.


Iya valley (祖谷溪)

After leaving Kotohira-gu in Kagawa prefecture, drove via a narrow and meandering mountain road for an hour into Iya valley in western Tokushima prefecture.

==>Stay in Iya onsen hotel


===>  Part  3  ===>


JP 2018 Koyo Shikoku (Part 1)

Visited Shikoku and Kinki – Kobe/Nara/Kyoto/Biwako for koyo (fall foliage) in mid to late November for 2 weeks.


Aerial views of Shikoku prior to landing in KIX

Shortly before landing, plane flew across Shikoku where it looked like to be the mountain ranges in Kochi and Tokushima Prefectures. A Wind farm is on top of the mountain ridge on the right photo.


In KIX, had sushi lunch in one of our fav sushi shops from Osaka/Namba.  Before checking in onsen hotel in Kobe/Minato, had a nice cake and coffee in Kobe/Sannomiya.


Dusk till dawn of Kobe harbour from balcony

Stayed overnight in onsen hotel for 3rd time to relax 🙂


On next morning, took Sanyo Shinkansen from Shin-Kobe and change at Okayama for JR express train heading to Shikoku for the first time via the Seto-Ohashi.  Arrived at Marugame around noon and pick up car.

Overall driving itin in Shikoku – Marugame > Zentsuji > Shiromine onsen (1N) > Goshiki-dai > Kotohira-gu > Iya valley > Iya onsen (1N) > Kazura-bashi > Oboke/Koboke boat ride > Okuboji > Ritsurin-koen > Takamatsu (2N), including day trip to Sodoshima by ferry.

It was our first visit in Shikoku (Kagawa and Tokushima Prefectures). In general, road traffic is less heavy than in the countryside of Honshu and Kyushu. Locals are nice, lodgings and dining are slightly less expensive.

Marugame Castle (丸龜城)

The Marugame Castle is one of the twelve original castles in Japan.  Climb was steep at some points though we were rewarded by nice views of Sanuki-Fuji in the distance. Also bumped into Jugatsu-zakura (October-sakura) and the 47th Marugame Chrysanthemum Festival.

Had late Sanuki-udon lunch in town. It was delicious and inexpensive. Since then, we have been craving for the same elsewhere 🙂



Zentsu-ji (善通寺)

The birthplace of Kobo Daishi, #75 temple in Shikoku 88-temple pilgrimage.

As it was raining, slowly getting dark and cold, we did not stay long and drove back to Shiromine onsen in Sakaide.


Goshiki-dai  (五色台)

literally five-coloured plateau. It has 5 peaks named in 5 different colours.  Drove uphill after checking out from onsen hotel, where the Shiromine-ji is closeby.

Nice views of the Seto Inland sea and the Seto-Ohashi in the distance from the observatory.


===>  Part 2  ===>


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