Japan is famous for its maple trees with tiny delicate leaves and in the autumn the trees put on a wonderful display turning amazing colors. The autumn leaves can be referred to in Japanese by either momiji or kouyou. Both words are written with the same kanji, 紅葉, which literally means "crimson leaves".
The Japanese love their four seasons and what hanami (cherry blossom viewing) is to Spring kouyou-gari (literally meaning autumn leaf chasing) is to Fall. Websites will give reports about the status of the kouyou front letting people know when the colors are likely to hit their peak in places famous for autumn colors. It is a popular activity in the fall to travel to see the changing leaves.
Lucky for me, one place known for beautiful fall leaves, Korankei Gorge (香嵐渓) in Asuke (足助), was not too far from where I lived in Japan. The gorge stretches just short of a mile upstream of the Tomoe River and is lined with maple trees. I had visited the gorge earlier in the spring and had found it a lovely place and promised myself to come back in the fall to see the leaves when they changed color.
I actually made more than good on my promise by visiting not once, but twice in the fall. The first time I visited after work when it was already dark. That may not sound interesting, but in November when the leaves are at their peak color, the trees are light up by spotlights at night for evening viewing.
I wanted to see the leaves during the daylight as well, but it was hard to make time with me being at work during the daylight hours during the week and the weekends quite busy. The first Sunday of December I was taking the JLPT (Japannese Language Proficiency Test) and when I was finished with the exam I headed to Asuke to visit Korankei Gorge as a little celebration and to relax. It was late in the day and already dusk, but I did have a little time before the sun set.
I'll start by sharing my pictures from the second trip first, since it makes more sense to see what the gorge looks like in the light before seeing it all lit up at night. The gorge has two red bridges spanning it and a typical visit would find a person doing a loop, crossing over the main bridge, walking along the paths along the river and then crossing over the smaller pedestrian bridge to circle back.
The paths along the river are quite lovely with the large maple trees seeming to create tunnels of leaves. It is hard to tell in pictures just how lovely it is.
The variegation of the scarlet leaves was really amazing and so flamboyant looking.
Along the main path were scattered some moss covered lanterns and some stepping stone paths.
Since it was the end of the season, many of the leaves had fallen, carpeting the ground in a sea of red with a few patches of moss still peeping through.
I especially loved how the fallen leaves crept right up the the river bank, half burying the stones along the water's edge.
At some points the river was quite still providing lovely reflections of the moss, stones and leaves.
In other areas the river rushed by creating tiny little rapids among the rocks.
I didn't have much daylight and by the time I crossed the pedestrian bridge the sun had set. Of course, there happened to be some yatai stands (festival street food stands) set up on the town side of the river so I grabbed a treat (or two, or three) and headed home.
Going back in time, on my first autumn trip to Korankei Gorge, as I approached the view looking at the small pedestrian bridge was stunning.
The lights made everything an amber colored wonderland that was reflected in the water. The leaves that were scarlet during the day now looked different shades of yellow and orange standing in stark contrast to the night sky.
There were a number of visitors to see the leaves, especially scrambling along the rocks along the bank to see the leaves better.
Taking pictures was hard since the light was low and I didn't have a tripod, but I didn't think about that too much because I was so enchanted with the spectacle of the illuminated foliage. It was quite surreal looking.
Here is a view looking up at the night sky and the leaves above me. Beautiful!
The small pedestrian bridge was popular with several people posing to take pictures there.
Both of my visits to Korankei Gorge were lovely (that's why I went twice!) and I would highly recommend visiting if you are in Central Honshu or Aichi in November.
Do you have a favorite memory of seeing autumn leaves? Where was it? Do you have a place you recommend to see fall leaves?