Starting in mid September the “koyo front” slowly moves its bands of color south from Hokkaido to central and southern Japan and the end of November where it turns to winter, and many families will head to local parks, or to the mountains and countryside to enjoy the cooling temperatures and spectacular views of changing leaves.
As all the locals and expats know, Hiroshima is beautiful in all seasons, but it is especially beautiful in autumn. The weather is cool, the oysters are plump and juicy and the scenery is picture-postcard-perfect. Of course, like everywhere in Japan, Hiroshima has a number of places known for their autumn leaves both within the city and further afield. The leaves outside of the city usually arrive much earlier than in Hiroshima itself, so there’s still a chance, even now, to see them if you missed them elsewhere.
One of the best places to go is, of course, Miyajima, but as we all know here in Hiroshima, crowds of people flock there on the weekends and particularly during this season. Despite that though, there are still quiet places to be found on the island, especially if you go off the beaten track and explore a little. If you’re looking for photo opportunities, the red bridge at the entrance to Daisho-in Temple is spectacular with the surrounding red, yellow and orange foliage and this area is much quieter than the popular Momijidani or Maple Valley. The contrast of the temple buildings and leaves also offers a slightly different take on the average autumn nature photos.
If crowds really aren’t your thing though and you want somewhere completely different, where are the alternatives? Two of my favorite places, both within Hiroshima City and therefore, easily accessible, are Mitaki Temple and Shukkei-en Garden. Although Mitaki Temple is another popular place, depending on when you go, you may be lucky enough to have it all to yourself, especially if you go during the week.
It’s easy to get to from Hiroshima Station, just take the Kabe Line to Mitaki, or change trains from the Sanyo to Kabe Line at Yokogawa Station. Mitaki is the stop after Yokogawa or if you’ll feeling adventurous, you can actually walk from one side of the river to the other and then up to Mitaki Temple. Once you get to Mitaki Station, it’s a 20-minute walk to the Temple and it’s well sign-posted.
The other great place is Shukkei-en Garden, which is an easy walk from Hiroshima Station or can be accessed via the streetcar from downtown. The fine and sunny weather and clear, blue skies of autumn ensure that the leaves are spectacular during the day, but for a real treat, head to the garden after dark when the autumn leaves are illuminated. It will cost you a little bit of money for the entrance fee (260 yen for adults, 150 yen for high school and college students and 100 yen for children), but believe me, it is well worth it.
So yes, it may be the middle of November already, but there’s still time to see the leaves in Hiroshima and to enjoy the beautiful autumn weather before winter arrives. Don’t forget to take your camera! Enjoy!