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Chasing Colors in Japan: A November 2023 Trip

Chasing Colors in Japan: A November 2023 Trip

Old Nov 5th, 2023, 02:47 PM
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tp, Iím overwhelmed! Not only did you do a lot, but youíve written it all up! Iím exhausted reading your report but am awed by how much youíve done!

You asked when we were in the Alps - we were in Matsumoto, the gateway to the Alps, on October 26-29, and we saw some beautiful foliage. We were then in the Okuhida region from the 29-31, and the colors were gorgeous. And in Takayama (19/31-10/3) we had spectacular color.

A few thoughts, though I imagine youíve researched well. When you go to Takayama (busy but delightful) donít miss the wonderful Higashiyama walking course, a route through Takayamaís temple area. It was our favorite activity there and the colors were wonderful.

We arrived in Kanazawa on 11/3, and the change is noticeable. While there is some color in the foliage here, itís not nearly as much or as dramatic as in our earlier stops.

And you may not be thanking me for the visit to the Kanazawa Team Labs event at the castle. It depends upon your tolerance for crowds. We went last night and found the crowds and lines to enter the exhibits unbearable - and, even though itís an outdoor exhibit, there are still loooong lines to enter and too many people. We left shortly after entering. I suppose if you go when it first opens, it may be better. Of course, weíre here on what turns out to be a beautiful Sunday on a holiday weekend, so it might be an unusually busy night.



Last edited by progol; Nov 5th, 2023 at 03:03 PM.
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Old Nov 5th, 2023, 03:04 PM
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How wonderful for us who are coming soon to read almost live reports. Much appreciated.
Btw, I have a very low tolerance for crowds - yes, I know, Japan might not be the perfect location for people like me but then again, it is Japan that I want to see so I'll compromise.
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Old Nov 5th, 2023, 03:25 PM
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Wow, I'm impressed you did all that right off the plane! Looking forward to following along.
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Old Nov 5th, 2023, 04:59 PM
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Meiji Shrine and other Shinto shrines (big ones at least) is where shichi-go-San is celebrated. The day is Now 15 but people will take their 7-5-3 year old kids dressed in kimono on the weekends before and after the 15th. So, go to MJ this weekend or next, ok to ask to take photo. It is the cutest thing. Also weddings then.
girls age shichi 7 or san 3
boys age go 5
shichi go san. 7-5-3

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Old Nov 6th, 2023, 03:08 AM
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Hakodate is a bit cooler than Tokyo, highs in the mid 60’s during early afternoon. Pleasant walking weather around the Motomachi district, the morning market and red brick warehouse areas. Fall colors starting to show but unseasonably warm this far north.
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Old Nov 6th, 2023, 03:40 AM
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Originally Posted by curiousgeo
Hakodate is a bit cooler than Tokyo, highs in the mid 60ís during early afternoon. Pleasant walking weather around the Motomachi district, the morning market and red brick warehouse areas. Fall colors starting to show but unseasonably warm this far north.
I think itís been unseasonably warm in many places. We were just in Kyoto and we were told that. Here in Osaka itís been near .80. Finally tomorrow cooler temps are forecast.
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Old Nov 6th, 2023, 07:05 AM
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Trip Report Chasing Colors in Japan: A November 2023 Trip Reload this Page > Reply t

This Sounds Incredible
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Old Nov 6th, 2023, 08:42 AM
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Mara, perhaps we're used to it. When we go to Asia or Australia, we typically try to leave in the evening and arrive early enough to make the most out of our time on the ground. Both museums were worthwhile although I liked Ota a bit more. My favorite, though, is the Tokyo National Museum, which, unfortunately, we won't visit on this trip.

yestravel, how are your and gottravel's own trip?

progol, I try to organize my thoughts and my photographs at the beginning and at the end of each day so it's fresh in my mind. It helps me process and think about everything we've seen and done, given that it is a lot.

ak_rc, you will run into crowds in certain parts of Japan no matter what. But if you are willing to go early, venture off the beaten path, even a little, you will find that crowds aren't too bad. For example, when we visited Meiji Shrine on Sunday, we saw a lot of people from the Harajuku entrance to the main hall, but once we headed towards the Treasure Museum, most of the people dissipated. Same even at Senso-ji yesterday; the crowds were gathered in front of Kaminarimon, the main temple, and the street leading up to it, but there were only a handful of people at the Shinto shrine to the right and it was manageable in the smaller temples to the left. And this is Tokyo. I expect the crowds to be much lower outside of Tokyo, Kyoto, and perhaps a handful of other popular spots.

ms_go, thank you.

chinyen, glad you're enjoying it.

A Trip Back in Time

We set out to explore the sights and sounds of the Japanese capital for a second day, this time focused on the northern and eastern parts of the city center. We spent our morning in the neighborhoods of Yanaka, Nezu, and Ueno, the latter which we visited during our previous trip and the former two being new ground for us. Yanaka was such a joy to wander around and get lost. Walking around its narrow streets and alleyways, we imagined being transported back to old Edo, the former name of Tokyo before it acquired the status "kyo" or capital. Buddhist temples abound everywhere we turn. Most of the interiors weren't open but we were free to explore its grounds, small gardens, and atmospheric cemeteries. A couple of the larger temples are Tenno-ji with the vast Yanaka Cemetery outside it and Daigyo-ji. Also very enjoyable was a stroll down Yanaka Ginza, with small stores selling produce and other items and hole-in-the-wall restaurants that are very Japanese.

Nearby is Nezu with a Shinto shrine of the same name. We enjoyed a visit to the shrine and watched a few children dressed up in traditional wear get their photographs taken with family members for Shichi-Go-San, or 7-5-3, which mrwunrfl explained. The main hall is beautiful, all made out of wood, painted red, and decorated with gold ornamentation. Near the main hall is a small set of red torii gates leading to an upper shrine dedicated to Inari, or the fox deity.

From Nezu we made our way to Ueno Park, the site of several of Tokyo's - even Japan's - most prominent museums. As today is Monday, all the museums were closed. The Tokyo National Museum is extensive and full of Japanese and Asian art - many national treasures. Had we not had the fortune of paying a visit to the National Museum during our last visit and had we not been limited in our time, we would have scheduled our visit to Ueno for a different day. Our goal for Ueno for today are some of the temples and shrines found at the southern end of the park. We visited Toshogu Shrine with its many massive stone lanterns, prayed at Kiyomizu Kannon Temple, and stopped by Bentendo Temple situated in the middle of Shinobazu Pond.

We ate lunch nearby, at Tensuzu, a tendon and tempura place. The bowls of tempura over fluffy white rice, accompanied by good miso soup, were truly oishii.

Our bellies full again, we hopped on the subway to Asakusa and famed Senso-ji, a temple dedicated to Kannon, a Buddhist bodhisattva. We started at Kaminarimon, translated as Thunder Gate. The massive red gate made of wood is adorned with Buddhist deities and an equally large red paper lantern. Lining the street leading up to the main temple complex is a row of street stalls selling snacks and souvenirs. Senso-ji is the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo. For us, a visit to Senso-ji is not just for sightseeing purposes, but a spiritual one. We lit incense, said prayers, and wandered among some of the smaller temples. We also snacked on taiyaki, a type of bread in the shape of a sea bream filled with red beans, and green tea ice cream, both delicious. We spent almost a couple of hours at Senso-ji, definitely our favorite temple in Tokyo.

We retraced our steps back through Nakamise-dori, the street leading up to the temple, and exited back through Kaminarimon. From there we headed east, crossing the Sumida River, to visit the Tokyo Skytree, the tallest tower in the world. More crowded than our previous visit but enjoyable nonetheless. We drunk in the vistas of the city below and all around us, picking out familiar buildings such as Senso-ji and Tokyo Tower. We stayed at the top as dusk turned to night and the city's urban lights started to come on.

From there, it was back on the subway - to Nihonbashi and Ginza. We strolled down the main boulevard, our evening passeggiata of sorts. We didn't enter any of the high-end department stores but enjoyed window-shopping. We couldn't resist some of the smaller boutique stores and wound up making some purchases. We stayed in Ginza for dinner, dining at Heigei, a good-quality Hong Kong-style Cantonese restaurant. Its offerings include a few basic dim sum dishes and the usual items on a typical Cantonese menu. Everything tasted fresh and was prepared thoughtfully and deliciously. From Heigei it was a 5-10 minute walk to our hotel.
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Old Nov 6th, 2023, 10:10 AM
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I am getting hungry. Tendon is a personal fav.
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Old Nov 6th, 2023, 03:28 PM
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tripplanner001, your timely updates are pure gold. not only are they helping me in last minute planning, but they're getting me very excited about the upcoming trip. we just got over a very bad first covid infection ever during which we lost any zeal for traveling. in any case, you have one very grateful traveler in Canada who can only hope to repay you the favour.

Did you have to make reservations for Tensuzu and Heigei?
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Old Nov 6th, 2023, 03:51 PM
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We loved Yanaka and rhe Nezu shrine! The Nezu shrine, in particular, was very special. Not on the tourist trail, it felt very local.

We also loved Rikugien Gardens. It’s small but beautifully laid out. We didn’t get to see the illuminations there (we tend to hole up at night and stay in our local neck of the woods) but I’ve seen photos and they’re quite stunning.
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Old Nov 6th, 2023, 04:44 PM
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Originally Posted by tripplanner001
Mjs, thatís awesome. Iím with you on dining, and actually love the department store options in Japan. And the ubiquitous food stalls in the train stations, from cafes to ekibens. Even 7-11s and Lawsonís have interesting selections. Itís been a while since Iíve done a mileage runs, as there are fewer worthwhile these days.

hewholovestravel, will do. I will share as I go along. Where does your trip take you?

curiousgeo, unpredictable weather to say the least, but I suppose unpredictable is the predictable these days. I was definitely expecting it to be colder than it is right now.

arjunsingh5685, Japan is unique and good anytime; I fell in love with it when we went in February. But Iím hoping for some special moments enjoying the koyo.

chinyen, thank you.

mrwunrfl, sounds fun. Someday weíll make it to the north too.
I don't have a full itinerary set just yet, but I'm definitely thinking of hitting up Tokyo and the Kansai region like you mentioned. Kyoto is high on my list as I've heard such great things about the temples and gardens. Your idea of also balancing major cities with some lesser visited areas is really appealing too. I love exploring places off the beaten path.

It sounds like you really did your research to plan the perfect foliage chasing route. I bet those scenes are just magical this time of year. Any particular spots you're especially hoping to see with good colors? Also let me know if you find any cool festivals or events happening during your travels.
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Old Nov 6th, 2023, 09:23 PM
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Hi tp! We loved our trip. 8 days in Tokyo, 3 weeks in Taiwan, all new to us and then 3 days in Kyoto and 3 in Osaka which is new to us. Taiwan is a fascinating culture and we enjoyed it. But my heart remains with Japan and we are already trying to figure out when we can get back. We fly home Wednesday and I will enjoy following along with you.
enjoy!
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Old Nov 7th, 2023, 09:45 AM
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mjs, how could anyone go wrong with crispy tempura made with fresh ingredients and fluffy, white rice. The sauce also makes a difference though.

ak_rc, we did not make reservations for either. Tensuzu is small by American standards, but I guess typical of a local Japanese establishment. Had we arrived about 10 minutes later, we would have had to wait. We were a walk in at Heigei and the staff had no problem seating us at 8:00.

progol, Yanaka is special, isn't it? Glad you had the opportunity to enjoy it. I don't believe the evening illuminations are available yet. The events typically coincide with the foliage, and it is still too early for the leaves to turn in Tokyo (although I did see some muted yellows at Yoyogi Park).

hewholovestravel, Nikko, the Japanese Alps, and Kyoto. After our visit to Nikko, we expect the leaves to have already fallen in the Alps.

helloim_tay, thank you.

yestravel, welcome home. Glad you had a very good trip. I'm mixed about Osaka based on what I've read although I haven't been. Anything particular you would recommend? I know the food is supposed to be good, although it is in most places in Japan. The stop made sense as we will be flying out of Kansai at the end of our trip.

Shoguns, Shrine, Nature, and Yes, Koyo!

While we could have easily spent a third day, or even a fourth or a tenth in Tokyo, we opted to take a day trip out of the city - to Nikko. Popular with locals and tourists alike and shown in countless guidebooks and travel programs on television, Nikko is home to shrines dedicated to Japanese shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu and his successors, Buddhist temples, and Nikko National Park, with its beautiful mountains, lakes, and waterfalls.

Given the number of places to see and the potential size of the crowds, we opted for a very early departure out of Tokyo, with an aim to arrive in Nikko to coincide with the opening times of some of the places we wanted to visit. We hoped to be among the first visitors to Rinno-ji, which opens at 8:00, and Toshogu Shrine, which opens at 9:00. This meant we were on the Tohoku Shinkansen (which was a treat in and of itself) departing Tokyo Station for Utsonomiya at 6:04 and connecting to Nikko, arriving at a quarter to 8:00. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans. It rained on and off throughout the night and continued well past our arrival in Nikko. The rain came down hard. (In case you were wondering why we selected to visit Nikko on a rainy day, it was not raining in Tokyo or in Nikko when we left and a last-minute check of the weather indicated that the rain was not constant and scheduled to end by 10:00.) Instead of getting on the first bus available to take us to the temples and shrines, we opted to wait for the next one, hoping the rain would subside a bit. It did, only to pick up again by the time we arrived at Shinkyo, our first stop of the day.

Shinkyo, or shrine bridge in Japanese, is bright red like the Shinto shrines across Japan. Behind the bridge is a panorama of mountains covered with maple and pine trees. Today several of the trees had leaves in fiery red, to match the color of the bridge, along with orange and gold. Wow, such a beautiful sight. While we had finally found koyo in Japan, we paid the price for it by getting soaked this morning.

From Shinkyo, we climbed the steps up the mountain on which some of Japan's most important temples and shrines were built, placing it on the map. After passing a handful of unused structures, we walked up to Rinno-ji, the most important Buddhist temple at the mountain complex. The temple's main hall is huge, with three large statues, one of the Buddha, one of Kannon, and the other of another Buddhist deity. The building itself is a piece of work, with nice wood patterns and carvings and beautiful paintings. Surrounding the temple were delightful trees that screamed "look at me, look at me" in reds, oranges, and yellows. The adjacent garden, Shoyo-en, was small but particularly enjoyable with its bursts of autumn colors. How could we be so lucky?

After our visit to Rinno-ji, we continued on the main path up to Tokugawa Ieyasu's shrine. Wow, wow, and wow - what power and prestige the place exerts. The massive wooden buildings without a detail spared - the carvings, the colors, all of it. Everywhere around us was a feast for the eyes - there was so much to look at. We entered through the gates, visited the main hall, and went up the two hundred or so stairs to reach the mausoleum where the once-powerful shogun was buried. The only downside - the massive crowds; there were people everywhere: locals, tourists, school groups. The overwhelming crowds detracted from the visit a bit. And it was rainy this morning, let alone we visited on a Tuesday. We could only imagine what a nice weekend day would be like.

We also visited Futarasan and Taiyuin. Futarasan is a Shinto shrine dedicated to a mountain and the spirits within. Also a Shinto shrine, Taiyuin is associated with the grandson of Tokugawa Ieyasu. After about four hours at the political, religious, and spiritual citadel of Nikko, we were ready to leave, not because we've seen everything, but because our visit was short on time.

From here we traveled by bus to Nikko National Park. Due to the infrequency of the buses, we waited for more than 40 minutes for the half-hour journey to Kegon Falls and Lake Chuzenji. The trip to the national park involved switchback after switchback as the bus made its way up the mountains that surrounded Nikko, while my eyes focused on the beautiful koyo colors all around me. When we first reached Kegon Falls and looked at it from the viewpoint, I thought to myself "Oh, no. The trees, all the leaves are gone. Autumn had already come and gone in these parts. We were a couple of weeks too late." We nonetheless appreciated the ability to be here and witness nature's beauty. The falls are impressive, even if it is not among the largest or tallest we've seen. From here we walked to Lake Chuzenji, visiting the temple of the same name on the shore and its prized wooden statue of Kannon, enjoyed a walk on the lake, and had hot beverages at a cafe overlooking the scenery. There was no koyo by the lake either. We had wanted to venture further and visit a couple more waterfalls and viewpoints, but it was already 4:30 and nearing sunset - the downside of late fall and winter travel.

The trip back to Tokyo was a bit tedious. The bus from the various sightseeing stops to the train station runs infrequently, requiring about an hour wait at the bus stop before hopping on the trains. The journey took almost three hours.

Back in Tokyo, we enjoyed dinner at Kanimichi in Ginza, a block from our hotel. We knew we wanted crab during some point of our visit to Tokyo and it was a recommendation made by our hotel staff who also helped with reservations that morning. We ordered a king crab from Hokkaido to share, and it was prepared in several ways - sashimi, grilled over charcoal, tempura, and nabe or hot pot. The crab was oh so yummy. We also ordered a couple of sushi rolls and a beef dish, but this was enough for the four of us, even without a proper lunch (we mostly munched on snacks during the day, although traditional snacks that we very much enjoyed).

And to those of you who are used to my trip reports, the accompanying photos will follow. It is just taking me longer to organize our pictures.
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Old Nov 7th, 2023, 02:28 PM
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Hereís what I said about Osaka in FB
ďThe verdict on Osaka is, we like it. Itís a huge city with interesting architecture and neighborhoods. Like all of Japan great transportation infrastructure so easy to navigate.

The castle from the outside is beautiful esp at night, but we did not go inside. We visited three neighborhoods and each one was interesting in their own right. Also the area we stayed in was fun.

I like big city vibes and observing life in them. Osaka offers that big time. We passed on Osaka on our first trip to Japan and I was ambivalent about how long to stay here on this trip. Glad we stayed and 2.5 days was the right time for us.Ē

it wasnít about seeing specific sites other than the impressive castle, to me itís about individual neighborhoods. There are several museums. We went to one new art museum and enjoyed it.

Last edited by yestravel; Nov 7th, 2023 at 02:39 PM.
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Old Nov 7th, 2023, 02:43 PM
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It will probably sound random but for all of you who are already there or have recently visited Japan: what did you do for your water intake during the day while you're out and about? I normally carry refillable water bottle from home when I travel. Is that doable and the best solution in Japan to reduce waste? Thanks
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Old Nov 7th, 2023, 07:28 PM
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Water served at meals and I ask for Ďbig sizeĒwata, ďbig sizeĒ aisu wata
ubiquitous vending machines for Poxcari Sweat. Feel better about plastic bottle when put into can/bottle recycle bin
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Old Nov 8th, 2023, 12:43 AM
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Went to pharmacy on Sunday and did a voice translation of ĎI need a laxativeí. Bought what clerk gave me. Didnít work. Today i did a photo translate of package and it is an anti-diarrheal.💔
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Old Nov 8th, 2023, 03:13 AM
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tp, I see youíre off to Kanazawa soon. We really loved the city.

Iím sure youíll see the main sights, such as Kanazawa Castle and Kenrokuen gardens, but one of our highlights was visiting the DT Suzuki Museum. The simplicity and elegance of the museum reflects his Buddhist philosophy and the architecture is remarkable. We were a bit frazzled before visiting but found it to be a calming place to be. I highly recommend a visit there.
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Old Nov 8th, 2023, 03:15 AM
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Originally Posted by mrwunrfl
Went to pharmacy on Sunday and did a voice translation of ĎI need a laxativeí. Bought what clerk gave me. Didnít work. Today i did a photo translate of package and it is an anti-diarrheal.💔
Oops! Google translate is good, but it definitely has its moments!
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