We’re in the Chugoku region of Japan!
|Upon crossing the Kintai-kyo bridge, you’ll feel as if you’ve traveled back in time
Based in Hiroshima for some time now, we previously visited Miyajima and Okayama.
To see Miyajima, feel free to click the links below.
For Hiroshima, here are the links.
And not forgetting Okayama, links below.
Once again from Hiroshima, this time we head for Iwakuni. Iwakuni is well known as one of the best spots to view autumn colors.
Here, the fall foliage is truly beautiful and one can really appreciate the wonders of nature and enjoy autumn in all its glory. Scroll down and read till the end, I’m sure you won’t regret it!
Iwakuni is a small city of 150,000 people in southeastern Yamaguchi Prefecture and is best known for its structurally unique Kintai-kyo Bridge.
Beautiful all year round, the bridge is particularly attractive during the cherry blossom season, which usually takes place in early April.
During the Edo Period, Iwakuni used to be one of the feudal domains of Japan. Its former mountain-top castle was reconstructed in the 1960s and counts to the city’s other tourist attractions.
For those who would love to visit Iwakuni, Iwakuni is easily visited as a side trip from Hiroshima.
|Crossing the Kintai-kyo bridge is like crossing into a whole new world
The Kintai-kyo Bridge has been Iwakuni’s most distinguished landmark and a subject of admiration for hundreds of years.
Completely made of wood and without the use of any nails, the bridge makes five bold arches onto massive stone pillars as it crosses over the Nishiki River.
Plans for the Kintai-kyo were first drawn up when strong currents had once again destroyed a bridge crossing the Nishiki River. A more durable bridge was commissioned by Kikkawa Hiroyoshi, the third feudal lord of Iwakuni, whose statue stands at the entrance to Kikko Park.
After the bridge was completed in 1673, it kept standing until 1950 when Iwakuni was struck by a violent typhoon.
With the country still exhausted from the war, the maintenance of historical and cultural properties suffered neglect. For this reason, the bridge that had stood for almost 400 years, collapsed as desperate townspeople looked on and futilely tried to divert the ferocious current.
|What lies beyond the Kintai-kyo bridge is the stuff imaginations are made of
Shortly thereafter, determined residents began constructing a precise reconstruction of their cherished bridge. It was completed in 1953.
Recently, Kintai-kyo has undergone the first renovations since it was rebuilt. Completed in March 2004, the renovation works were extensive and cost over two billion yen.
Rare for a pedestrian bridge in Japan, visitors have to pay a fee to walk across.
|Beautiful red, orange, yellow & green, all blend in perfect harmony
After crossing the Kintai-kyo Bridge, visitors are greeted by the statue of the man who initiated the bridge’s construction, Kikkawa Hiroyoshi, the third lord of Iwakuni.
In the area behind the statue, there are a number of sites of interest centered around Kikko Park, a spacious park with walking paths, plants and fountains.
During the Edo Period, the residences of the ruling Kikkawa family were located where Kikko Park now stands, and the retainers of the ruling family were located nearby.
Because of this, the area is now blessed with former samurai residences and museums featuring historic artifacts.
This gate belongs to a former samurai residence of the Kagawa family. Because the residence is still used, only the gate can be viewed.
The gate is believed to have been built in 1693, and has been well maintained.
Autumn in Japan
Colorful autumn leaves are known as “Koyo” in Japan.
Colorful leaves are to the Japanese autumn what cherry blossoms are to spring.
The viewing of autumn leaves has been a popular activity in Japan for centuries and today draws large numbers of travelers to famous Koyo spots, both in the mountains and in the cities.
Each year, starting in mid September, the “Koyo front” slowly moves southwards from the northern island of Hokkaido until it reaches the lower elevations of central and southern Japan towards the end of November.
Some trees around Tokyo and Kyoto remain colorful into early December.
What trees turn colors?
The maple tree is the indisputable king of autumn colors. As a matter of fact, the word “autumn colors” is written with the same kanji characters as the word “maple tree”; pronounced as “momiji”.
Maple trees are native to Japan and can be seen in their wild form in forests. Furthermore, humans have cultivated over a hundred varieties of maple trees over the centuries for decorative use.
It is some of these cultivated maple tree varieties that come with the most brilliant autumn colors, turning gradually from a beautiful green into yellow, orange and finally a shiny red.
Maple trees are used widely in Japanese gardens, and the temples and traditional gardens of Kyoto are some of the best places to admire them. But they are also encountered in forests, mountains and city parks.
Arguably the second most popular tree for autumn colors is the ginkgo. The leaves of the ginkgo trees do not turn red. Instead they turn into one of the most brilliant yellow colors that nature has to offer.
Ginkgo trees are more easily found in temples, shrines, urban parks and along city streets than in nature. The Metropolis of Tokyo has chosen the ginkgo as its symbol tree.
The variety of trees found in the mountains naturally differs somewhat from that found in the cities and gardens, especially in the higher elevations.
The king of autumn colors in the higher elevations of mountainous Japan is the nanakamado. Nanakamado is a Japanese Rowan, a shrub whose leaves behave similarly spectacular as the leaves of the maple tree.
The nanakamado offers particularly nice sights above the tree line where the shrub sometimes monopolizes entire mountain slopes.
Another beautiful tree in the higher elevations is the karamatsu. A karamatsu is a Japanese larch, the only conifer to change colors and lose its needle shaped leaves, in autumn. The larch tree rivals the ginkgo tree with its brilliant yellow colors.
Among the many other trees and shrubs found in Japan, some produce nice autumn colors, while others go directly from green into an unremarkable brown.
Among the more attractive other trees are the Japanese zelkova (keyaki), the beech (buna), the Japanese horse chestnut (tochinoki), various vines, the birch (shirakaba), the Japanese lacquer tree (urushi) and rhododendron (tsutsuji).
The leaves of cherry trees (sakura) also changes into a reddish orange, but not a particularly brilliant one.
A final contributor to autumn colors are grasses. Known as kusamomiji, this word means; “grass autumn colors”. Some types of grasses in marshlands and on mountainous plains and slopes can provide attractive yellow colors that sometimes fade into a fascinating red.
The marshland of Oze National Park is one of the nicest places to enjoy viewing autumnal foilage.
When do trees turn colors?
Because of Japan’s great north-south extension, autumn leaves can be viewed somewhere in the country for nearly three months!
The season starts around mid September in the highest mountains of Hokkaido and then gradually moves into lower elevations and more southern latitudes until reaching Tokyo and Kyoto in the second half of November.
In some locations, colors can be enjoyed into December.
Depending on temperatures during the preceding months and weeks, the timing of the autumn leaf season can vary by a few days to one or two weeks from year to year.
Unlike Cherry blossoms
, which usually last for only one week, autumn colors can usually be enjoyed over a couple of weeks or so and are therefore a little bit easier to catch than the blossoms.
Where to see autumn leaves?
Autumn leaves can be enjoyed in various ways.
During the early phase of the season, the colors are mostly found in the mountains where entire slopes turn orange, yellow and red, and provide some of the most amazing seasonal scenery.
Hiking is the most rewarding way to see the colorful leaves in the mountains, but many spots can also be conveniently reached by train, bus or ropeway.
In the second phase of the autumn leaf season, the colors descend into Japan’s cities, where they can be viewed in parks and gardens.
Among the highlights are the autumn colors in the temples gardens of Kyoto
where they beautifully complement with the buildings’ elegant architecture.
Links to Kyoto, can be found below.
Almost surreal is the sight of the trees during evening illuminations(LINK HERE), which are held at selected gardens and temples
Go to the official website of Rail Europe – Train tickets , essential for traveling all around Europe can be found here along with train schedules, timetables & more!
I hope you did enjoy this post and found it informative.
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