November 1st, 2013
It is really autumn! The days are dramatic, either bright and sunny, or heavy with threatening grey skies. Warmer clothes have been unearthed, and feet are clad in socks and covered shoes. Farewell, my lovely sandals – until next year!
Autumn will explode around us with the seemingly infinite hues of leaves decorating Kyoto. The hills will be carpeted in brilliant reds, golds, oranges, and browns. Temples will sport scenes to inspire even the most hesitant photographer to archive memories of a lonely leaf perched temporarily atop a moss-covered rock, or the bliss of the sun’s rays kissing a stand of trees overlooking a quiet zen garden. You will find your “senses working overtime” as you immerse yourself in the city.
If you are visiting Kyoto during autumn, make your visit special! Taste the season’s fare; inhale the rancid butter scent of fallen gingko seeds; feel the chilly blasts of almost-wintery breezes on otherwise gorgeous sunny days; hear the otherworldly tones of gagaku (traditional court music) being played at events at temples and shrines; and appreciate the colours. Always the colours.
One of the delights of autumn is the range of events held around the city in which important buildings and gardens are lit up at night. There are light shows at some venues and, at others, lights of different colours are focussed dramatically on entire vistas or a special highlight of the garden or building. On October 29th, I happened to walk past Shoren-in, on Jingu-michi and just south of Sanjo-doori. The light-up at Shoren-in is open until 10pm. I only had 30 minutes to whizz through, but managed to take some pictures on my iPhone. All I can say is that it was stunning, and I really can’t recommend it enough. It is not one of the really famous temples that everyone goes to, but is well worth a visit because of its Muromachi-era garden and imperial connections.
The maples leaves are still green in central Kyoto, as you can see in this photo from the Shoren-in Light Up! Probably it will be another 2 weeks or so until they change. Enjoy!