Being a girl who lives in tropical Singapore where it is summer all year round and trees are always flushed with green leaves, destinations with autumn and winter offer a refreshing and exciting change in landscape.
I love it when trees start to prepare for winter, ceasing photosynthesis and turning their leaves into enchanting hues of gold, orange and red. Come winter, trees turn bald and give their surroundings an air of mystery.
Somehow, autumn in Japan is especially beautiful. Streets lined with Ginko trees turn into gold, while parks and conserved temples filled with maple trees transform into a sea of red. The view is even more spectacular up on the hills and mountains, where different trees change into their own autumn dress and offer a technicolour vista.
Kyoto is one of the destinations of choice for viewing autumn foliage, and on this trip the good husband and I spent four fine days seeking out some of the best views.
First stop, Tofukuji.
The Buddhist temple was packed with people on a weekday morning, most of them being tourists on group tours. While the temple is a magnificent piece of architecture, the star of Tofukuji during autumn is in fact Tsuten-kyō bridge and the vast park that sits on its other end. The park is home to a variety of trees, so imagine the dazzling display of colours during autumn!
From Tofukuji we walked on to Fushimi Inari Taisha, a shrine propelled into international stardom by the movie, Memoirs of a Geisha.
Fushimi Inari Taisha isn’t quite known for spectacular autumn foliage but we wanted to walk through the thousands vermilion torii gates, each donated by grateful devotees.
After all that walking, one will surely get hungry. No worries. There are plenty of food stalls and traditional eateries surrounding Fushimi Inari Taisha, most selling soba, udon, inari sushi and grilled quail and fish.
The sun was just about to set by the time we were done at Fushimi Inari Taisha and had filled our tummies with hot udon and tasty inari sushi. It was time to make our way back to Kyoto city and head for Kiyomizu-dera.
Kiyomizu-dera sure knows how to make the most of its renowned autumn foliage. For a certain period in autumn, the magnificent temple lights up after dark, literally putting its best trees in the spotlight. The result is a dark temple complex bathed with spots of red and gold highlights.
The experience could be quite romantic if wasn’t for the massive crowd – be prepared to join a snaking queue to get entrance tickets and then jostle shoulder to shoulder with everyone else inside the temple complex.
The all-day drizzle started to intensify by the time we got our tickets, and became a proper shower when we were half-way through the temple. It was not funny being squashed by so many people while trying to dodge umbrellas that threaten to poke my eyes out. It was hardly enjoyable and we were out as soon as we could. What a shame.
But we are sure of better days tomorrow when we head to Arashiyama!