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Japan: Fall colors Kyushu, Matsue, Naoshima, Nakasendo, Kyoto, Tokyo

Japan: Fall colors Kyushu, Matsue, Naoshima, Nakasendo, Kyoto, Tokyo

Old Oct 31st, 2020, 01:15 PM
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Japan: Fall colors Kyushu, Matsue, Naoshima, Nakasendo, Kyoto, Tokyo

I tried starting this report a few months back but none of the links to photos that I posted worked, so Iím giving it another try, this time by inserting the photos directly into the thread.

Well, it's been 12 months since we got back from our third trip to Japan, and our first to see the fall colors. After our first two trips I posted very long, detailed accounts of our experiences, with advice and tips for future travelers, but I realize after all this time that that is never going to happen with this one. So instead, I'm just posting our itinerary, as well photos and brief descriptions. Here is a quick synopsis of our itinerary:


Fukuoka 2 nights
Kurokawa Onsen 2 nights
Hagi 1 night
Matsue 2 nights
Okayama 1 night
Naoshima 1 night
Osaka 1 night
Nakasugawa/Nakasendo Trail 1 night
Nagoya (for the Toyota plant tour) 1 night
Kyoto 5 nights
Tokyo 4 nights

Last edited by russ_in_LA; Oct 31st, 2020 at 02:09 PM.
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Old Oct 31st, 2020, 01:46 PM
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Fukuoka: Dazaifu


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A ritual cleansing at a fountain just outside

Torri gates up the hillside

Gourds instead of emas

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The beginning of fall colors outside the National Museum

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Old Oct 31st, 2020, 02:06 PM
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Kyushu: Oita Prefecture

The smallest castle in Japan is found in Kitsuki, where they let me wear actual 300-year-old samurai armor. That helmet was really heavy! Then it was off to Fugatoji temple, with a history of over 1300 years. Next, the longest and highest pedestrian bridge in Japan for a view of the changing fall leaves (the sun wasn’t always cooperating), and then a stroll through the hot springs onsen town of Kurokawa Onsen.



Kitsuki

Kitsuki

Kitsuki

Kitsuki

Fugatogi

Fugatoji

Kokonoe ‘Yume’ Otsurihashi or Kokonoe ‘Dream’ Bridge

Kurokowa Onsen

Calling the 20th Century

The beginning of fall colors in the Kuju Mountains

Last edited by russ_in_LA; Oct 31st, 2020 at 02:10 PM.
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Old Oct 31st, 2020, 03:12 PM
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Title edited at request of the OP.
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Old Nov 2nd, 2020, 10:32 AM
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Fukuoka: Reprise

The following was meant to be posted ahead of the Fukuoka pics.

Our trip started a bit too early for fall colors in Fukuoka, but we will see them starting to turn in the next few days. I particularly liked the wall of gourds hanging outside the Dazaifu temple. Traditionally, prayers on little wooden tablets call ďemaĒ are affixed near a temple or shrine; however, in ancient times gourds were used to transport water or medicine, so they have come to symbolize health and long life.

We also saw a lot of families with little boys, adorably dressed in traditional attire. We discovered that this was for Shichi-Go-San, a rite of passage and festival day in Japan for three- and seven-year-old girls and five-year-old (and less commonly three-year-old) boys, held annually on November 15 to celebrate the growth and well-being of young children.




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Old Nov 3rd, 2020, 02:55 AM
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Thank you for your wonderful pics!

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Old Nov 3rd, 2020, 03:05 AM
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I’m loving your report and photos! I’ve been enjoying your earlier reports as well and savoring them as I hope that we will be able to visit Japan next fall. Your photos are so tantalizing and have definitely increased my desire to visit! Thank you for taking the time to do this.
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Old Nov 3rd, 2020, 10:30 AM
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Kurokawa Onsen: Takefue

We rented a car in Fukuoka for five days for the drive to Kurakowa Onsen, and then on to Hagi, returning it in Matsue. Driving on the left as an American wasnít too bad, as I have driven on the left in the Carribean, although that was with an American car with the steering on the left. The hardest adjustment was having all the interior controls reversed. It took me five days to stop turning the windshield wipers on whenever I wanted to signal a turn.

There are over 30,000 naturally occurring onsen hot springs, and over 3000 onsen resorts in Japan, so there is no better introduction to Japanese culture than an overnight stay in a traditional Japanese onsen ryokan, where an elaborate dinner is the highlight of the stay. In Kurakowa Onsen we stayed at Takefue, which was our major splurge of the trip. The setting in the forest was spectacular, the room with private hot spring was gorgeous and comfortable and the service second to none. In addition, there is a sprawling series of pools, nestled among the bamboo on the property where one can book for a private hour of relaxation. Dinner was a lavish affair, with multiple courses taken in our room while wearing traditional yukata robes. They let us choose our own from a variety of patterns, Sam choosing one with bunnies. All in all, a fantastic experience.



The path to our room


Private Onsen in our room


We were able to book this area for an hour to enjoy the multiple pools in the bamboo forest.


Dinner is served


Cooling off on the terrace

Nighttime in the garden
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Old Nov 3rd, 2020, 10:32 AM
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Thanks everyone! More to come.
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Old Nov 4th, 2020, 09:36 AM
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Shimane Prefecture: Hagi, Iwami Ginzan silver mine, Izumo Taisha

We set out from Kurokawa Onsen for our first trip to the Shimane Prefecture, in the Chugoku Region. Our first stop was Hagi, a small city known for its pottery, located along the Sea of Japan. The town lies about half way between our departure point and Matsue, and the four-hour drive was smooth and uneventful, mostly on the fast and sparsely used toll roads. The town is not a must see for a first-time visitor to Japan, but it as has a very nice former Samurai district, shops selling the local pottery, several interesting temples and shrines, a park with castle ruins and a former school turned into an art museum. After a fairly uninspired overnight stay in a generic hotel, we proceeded toward Matsue, with a couple stops along the way.

The first stop was at the Iwami Ginzan, a historic silver mine in the Shimane Prefecture, which was declared a World Heritage Site in 2017. The most significant silver mine in Japan, it was discovered in the 16th Century and was mined for nearly 400 years. Although touring the mine shafts was interesting and the walk there through the forest was beautiful, more impressive to me was the historic Omori Town area, a time-capsule of a town, which developed to support the mining industry, and includes museums, historical residences, shrines and temples. It is very well preserved and features some period businesses and residences, such as a barbershop from the 1800ís, or the Kumagai residence, a beautifully restored merchant home. The highlight for me was the Gohyaku Raken, a series of caves, filled with 500 statues of Buddhaís followers in various poses.

After a quick lunch we headed out for the Izumo Taisha, considered the oldest shrine in Japan, dating back to the early 700ís. This is easily done as an hour-long train ride from Matsue, but given we only would only have two days to explore that city, we decided to stop along the way, instead of doubling back. We approached through the very modern town and parked in a multi-level parking structure, showing how popular (and commercialized) the shrine has become. The complex is located in a very pleasant park, which was a delight to wander through, despite the crowds, but access to the centrally located main hall is not accessible to the general public. It is possible, however, to walk around the outer fence and view several more shrine buildings standing around it.

Next up: Matsue Ė one of the highlights of our trip


Hagi

Hagi

Hagi

Hagi

Hagi

Beautiful walk to the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine

Beautiful walk to the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine

Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine

Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine

Omori Town Barber Shop

Gohyaku Rakan Omori Town

Gohyaku Rakan Omori Town

Gohyaku Rakan Omori Town

Izumo Taisha

Izumo Taisha

Izumo Taisha
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Old Nov 6th, 2020, 01:38 AM
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I would love to visit Japan as soon as this pandemic is over
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Old Nov 7th, 2020, 12:18 PM
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Originally Posted by NorenePalmer View Post
I would love to visit Japan as soon as this pandemic is over
You will love it!
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Old Nov 7th, 2020, 12:55 PM
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Matsue

We were very impressed with Matsue, our last stop in the Shimane prefecture. There was plenty to keep us busy for two full days and nights, with a varied assortment of sights, such as the renown Adachi Art Museum, the garden of which is consistently named best garden in Japan; Matsue Castle, one of Japanís largest original castles, completed in 1611; a small but well preserved samurai district; the residence and museum of Lafcadio Hearn, a western author who introduced Japan to much of the rest of the world; the Izumo Taisha shrine, previously described; and Yushien Garden, which is famous for its peony displays in the spring and was starting into fall colors during our visit. Although itís possible to visit all of these places by walking, bus or train, we were happy to have had a car for the Adachi Museum, Izumo Taisha and especially Yushien, in order to save travel time and not be locked into bus and train schedules.

We loved our hotel, the Minamikan Ryokan, with its excellent location on Lake Shinji, right where the Ohashi River meets it. We enjoyed starting and ending our days with a view of the lake, watching fisherman bring up nets brimming with the areaís local clams, or taking a bath in the wooden soaking tub, with a view of the lake and the gorgeous hotel garden below. We had two wonderful kaiseki dinners and two delicious breakfasts in the restaurant, where they alternated tables and dining rooms so that guests enjoyed a different view with each meal. The hotel staff was wonderful and the hospitality warm and welcoming. We would go back in a heartbeat


The Yushien Gardens are dreamy

Yushien Gardens

Yushien Gardens

Yushien Gardens

Yushien Gardens

Yushien Gardens

Matsue Castle

Matsue Castle

Matsue Gokoku Shrine

Matsue Gokoku Shrine

Matsue Gokoku Shrine

Behind this unassuming door in the back of a shop a delicious lunch awaits

Nothing like a giant glass of sake!

Waiting for my soba noodles

Minamikam Breakfast

Minamikam Breakfast

Minamikam Room View

Minamikam Tub view

Minamikam Gardens

Last edited by russ_in_LA; Nov 7th, 2020 at 01:09 PM.
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Old Nov 7th, 2020, 01:12 PM
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Adachi gardens: rated the best garden in Japan

Adachi gardens: rated the best garden in Japan

Adachi gardens: rated the best garden in Japan

Adachi gardens: rated the best garden in Japan
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Old Nov 7th, 2020, 01:35 PM
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Okayama

Okayama was just an overnight at a train station hotel to break up the trip from Matsue to Naoshima. For the second trip in a row, we ran into someone in Japan that we know from California, this time in the lobby of our hotel. Crazy, I know! Before dinner we made a quick loop through the Korakuen gardens, which we saw five years before during cherry blossom season, and Okayama Castle, beautifully lit up for the fall koya festival.

Last edited by russ_in_LA; Nov 7th, 2020 at 01:39 PM.
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Old Nov 7th, 2020, 01:58 PM
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Naoshima and Teishima Islands

24 hours on Naoshima Island was a total art and architecture immersion experience. Almost the entire island is devoted to various art installations, such as the Art House Project, in which artists take empty houses and turn them into works of art, a single installation in each one. It is also a Mecca for fans of architect Tadao Ando, who works primarily (but not exclusively) with concrete. At least five museums were designed by Ando, as well as the Benesse House hotel, which is also filled with artwork and is itself a work of art. But perhaps the most iconic image from the island is the enormous yellow pumpkin dotted in black by Yayoi Kasuma.

The next day we headed to neighboring Teshima Island for a quick visit to the Teshima Art Museum, a massive amorphous structure resembling a large water droplet, with two large oval openings to let in the light and bird sounds from the outside. We were the first people inside and being in the space all alone was a meditative, almost spiritual experience. Unfortunately, no photos allowed inside, so the interiors I have posted are images that Iíve copied and reposted.


Yayoi Kasuma pumpkin

Lee Ufan Museum

Lee Ufan Museum

Lee Ufan Museum

Benesse House Museum

Benesse House Museum

Benesse House Hotel

Benesse House Hotel

Benesse House Hotel

View over Seto Inland Sea

Another Yayoi Kasuma pumpkin

Teshima Museum

Teshima Museum

Teshima Museum

Teshima Museum exterior

Teshima Museum exterior
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Old Nov 8th, 2020, 12:59 PM
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Stunning photos! I’m so enjoying your Japan reports - fascinating and beautiful!
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Old Nov 8th, 2020, 01:46 PM
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Originally Posted by progol View Post
Stunning photos! Iím so enjoying your Japan reports - fascinating and beautiful!
Thanks! I'm glad you found the other two reports, since I really tried to give helpful tips for first time travelers in those (especially the first). It's such a great destination for an independent traveler, and all the on-line tools available make the planning part a lot of fun. Amazing fall colors coming up as this trip progresses, so stay tuned!
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Old Nov 8th, 2020, 03:31 PM
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Kiso Valley: The Nakasendo Trail from Tsumago to Magome

The Nakasendo trail was one of five routes that connected Kyoto with Edo, which is called Tokyo today. There were 69 staging posts along the way. One can hike large parts of the trail, of which we covered 7.7km, leaving Magome with a climb of about 500 feet vertically, before descending by over 1200 ft to Tsumago. These are a couple of the ancient post route towns which were among the first in the nation to restore and preserve the traditional architecture, including burying electrical and telephone wires, to give a better idea of how it looked when they were first built. I took over 300 photos in the two towns and along the route, so it was really hard to edit them down to 20 something-ish. Note that I did not heighten the incredible fall colors. Those maple trees really are that vibrant!

Nagataki, our ryokan in Nakatsuwaga continued the amazing Japanese hospitality we have come to expect. We arrived to Nakatsuwaga by train in the morning and were picked up at the station and given a map of the Nakasendo trail by the ryokan owner. Since we were going directly to Magome to walk the trail, they dropped us off there and took our luggage back to our room. Later that afternoon, we took the train back to Nakatsuwaga, where they picked us up a second time and brought us to the hotel. Meals were well prepared and taken in our little stand-alone wood cabin, again with great service. The gardens were beautiful and the view of the fall leaves right outside our windows was wonderful. The shared bathing facilities in a separate building were not large, but since we were one of only two couples staying there that night, each couple had one of the two bathhouse rooms to themselves.


Starting from Magome

Temples and shrines along the way

Persimmons hanging out to dry

Home with traditional irori fireplace

Stopping for lunch

The trail through the forest

Water wheels are everywhere

Along the trail

Along the trail

Catching up on the local gossip

We were warned about the bears

Along the trail


Someone got creative with fallen leaves

Along the trail

Along the trail

Ringing the bells spaced every few hundred meters to scare off the bears (is a real thing).

Along the trail

Tranquility along the trail

Along the trail

The most beautiful public restrooms are along this trail!

Along the trail

Along the trail

Along the trail

Typical architecture in Tsumago

Garden of an ancient home turned museum in Tsumago

Irori fireplace in Tsumago

Sam in his robe at Nagataki
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Old Nov 9th, 2020, 09:11 AM
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russ in LA, I am enjoying your photos - thanks for sharing! I am thinking my next trip to Japan won't be until fall 2021 - I usually go in the spring so I need some more info about fall traveling which you are providing! When I was in Matsue a few years back I was able to travel to most of those same places by train and bus. Of course, that's not as convenient but I don't drive much at all at home and wouldn't in Japan... There is a lot of information online for bus schedules although sometimes only in Japanese. Also Tourist offices usually have schedules.

Looking forward to some more photos!!
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