October 23, 2014

Autumn Colours Series (1): Kamikochi

With rain pounding down endlessly throughout the whole summer, summer gave way to autumn almost like abruptly, catching foreigners from tropical land like me totally unawares, as we are used to long, seemingly never-ending summers. I couldn’t help exclaiming to myself: what? Summer is over already? Seriously? It dawns on me that I cannot afford to lose any more time as my once-in-a-year reunion with autumn colors is at stake. So here I go, chasing after the autumn colors which move swiftly down from the high mountains.

The term “red leaves” can be quite misleading as autumn colors present you with much more than shades of red. It is also inaccurate to assume that autumn colors point only to maple leaves, even though it remains the type most popular among travellers. What I find equally if not more mesmerizing and breathtaking are the low growth of trees dotting the high mountain areas, painting the landscape in shades of yellow and red, as  I saw luckily in Karasawa a few years back. It was by far the most beautiful autumn colors I have ever encountered. I doubt if anything can surpass the feeling of awe and wonder that enveloped me at that time. But don’t rush to purchase your ticket yet, as the autumn colors there are already over, and snow will fall up there soon. Make it a plan next year though, around late September or early October. I count it among the spots that you have to visit at least once in your lifetime.

Of course, I will not get you all excited without offering an alternative. Now is the prime time to pay a visit to the nature wonderland Kamikochi, which is located just one and a half hours away by bus from Takayama. Again, I am not after the regular red leaves there, but the pine trees that turn golden when autumn sets in every year. Last year when I first travelled to Takayama in early November, I was told the leaves had all dropped. Having learned a hard lesson last year, this time I got the timing just right, and the pine trees awaiting me there did not disappoint. It is best to set aside one full day, so you can take a leisurely walk along the river while soaking in the spectacular views surrounding you. I recommend you get off not at the last stop, but two stops before at Taisho-ike, from which you walk towards the bus terminal, on the way admiring the Taisho Pond as well as Mt. Yake. Don’t forget your bear bells to keep the hungry bears at bay. You might also prepare some autumn tunes to sing along. The noisier you are, the less likely you will run into a bear, so they say. Good luck!

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