Kyoto Momiji Walk

Kyoto is one of the world’s premier places to watch foliage. It lies in a basin surrounded by mountains and natural woodlands. The entire area is interspersed with hundreds of temples and shrines. Many of them incorporate gardens that are painstakingly kept to allow for impressive autumn colors.

 

During high season (autumn foliage and cherry blossom) almost all temples and shrines are open to the public. Opening hours are usually from 9am to 5pm, the entrance fee often around ¥500.

 

Of all foliage, the Japanese maple sticks out most from the color palette. Its crimson tones are that dominant that the term momiji (maple) has become synonymous with autumn leaves. Visitors from Europe are probably most unfamiliar with these reddish tones, as the species went extinct there during the ice ages.

The colors’ intensity and progress varies, of course, from year to year, depending on the weather. Well, if you go in the second half of November, you should see some brilliant autumn colors for sure. A great resource when planning your trip are the autumn color reports from japan-guide.com. There are more sources like that; some even provide you with detailed information for individual locations (Japanese-only, use Google Translator).

 

Kyoto is basically a bicycle city. Many places of interest are within a radius of about 10km or less. Negotiating your way around the city is easy as its street layout is based on a grid pattern. You can resort to many low-traffic, one-way backstreets, making cycling a relatively safe affair. There are a couple of bike rental shops spread throughout the city that will cater for your needs.

Of course, you could hire a car too. This will, however, set you back at least ¥5,000–10,000 per day. It may also confront you with some unexpected bureaucratic hurdles. Depending on your nationality, a Japanese translation of your driving license may be required.

 

An easier alternative is public transport. The city has an extensive network of local buses. Using them, however, can be tricky at times, unless you read Japanese. Also, it may get you into some time-consuming traffic congestion. Rush hour is no fun on Kyoto’s main thoroughfares.

 

Better use Japan Rail or one of the local train operators. A great deal for accessing the city’s eastern districts is the one-day pass from Keihan Railways (¥500). Hankyu Railway, which network stretches as far as Osaka, is offering another attractive one-day ticket (¥800).