Koyo: Leaves of Autumn

While the cherry blossom season in spring is a more well-known aspect of Japanese scenery, koyo (colorful leaves) also create beautifully stunning landscapes. As autumn replaces summer, Japan’s trees slowly begin to shift from the dark greens of summer’s rainy season to the vibrant bright red, orange and yellows that characterize koyo.The island of Hokkaido in the north of the country is the first to experience the changing of foliage in September; gradually the so-called “koyo front” spreads ever southward until reaching Kyushu.

Autumn leaves at Ueno Park

Koyo viewing has been a popular pastime in Japan for centuries with the first record being 8th century poetry from the Heinan period. Popular novels such as “Tales of the Genji” around the same period helped to further create a culture of viewing and hunting for koyo sights. Over the centuries people have maintained the tradition of autumn leaf viewings and in fact modernity has created new avenues to attract more people to the beautiful sights where leaves are the most colorful. With the advent of photography and much greater ease of travel of modern times, the pastime has still remained a key cultural phenomenon in the same way that cherry-blossom viewing is.

As someone with an interest in photography and beautiful landscapes, the dazzling display of bright colors during this season is magnificent. The eyes are bombarded by many shades of reds and yellows while entire mountains come to life with color. It is no secret that Japan is already a photogenic country but more so in seasons of color like the autumn-leaf and cherry-blossom seasons. If you happen to be in Japan during this period then koyo viewing is an absolute must.

Koyo viewing in Ueno

Generally there is about 20 or so days when viewing leaves is the most optimal due to the fact that afterwards the leaves begin to wither and fall as winter sets in. Some of the places that are most popular for viewing are Kyoto with its large array of maple trees and their brilliant red leaves, Ueno Park in Tokyo for the vibrant yellows and oranges and Hakone because of its landscape and variety of tree colors. Regardless of where you view the autumn leaves the sight is still a very memorable one and truly worthwhile.



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