Autumn is a magical time in Japan. The leaves start to wither, earlier in the countryside and in northern Japan, and at about late-November to early-December in Tokyo’s open areas like Showa Kinen Park. Called koyo, Japan’s parks and forests turn into a sea of red, yellow and brown especially when seen with a backdrop of maple and gingko trees. Autumn is widely considered to be the favorite season of most Japanese, and it was with much luck that my visit to Tokyo last week fell right smack in this season.
Editor’s Note: Here are more autumn leaves viewing spots in Tokyo.
With very little time, I shortlisted a few nice autumn viewing spots. Places such as Hibiya Park in central Tokyo, the Rikugien in Bunkyo Ward as well as Shinjuku’s Gyoen are considered to be some of the best autumn viewing spots in Tokyo. Since I only had time to visit one or two places, I eventually decided on Gingko Avenue or Icho Namiki in Aoyama and Showa Memorial Park (Showa Kinen Koen) in Tachikawa in western Tokyo.
the rows of gingko trees in icho namiki in aoyama, the leaves were still a bit green
Upon arriving in Tokyo, I literally dropped my bags at my lodging in Asakusa and took the metro to my first stop, Gingko Avenue. Also known as Icho Namiki, this is widely considered to be one of the most accessible among Tokyo’s autumn viewing spots, with places such as Omotesando and Roppongi being within walking distance. During autumn, the leaves of the gingko trees here turn a bright yellow, making for a pleasant stroll. I was there on a Saturday afternoon and it seemed that a large part of Tokyo descended down to Gingko Avenue at the same time. However, as it was still a bit early in autumn, the leaves were still a bit green.
photography seems to be the national pastime in japan
Leaving dissatisfied, I then decided to pull out all the stops and made the 40 minute or so journey to western Tokyo, further inland to Tachikawa where the climate is slightly cooler to that of central Tokyo. I braved the long commute on the maze that is Japan’s local train network, to do something otherwise considered mundane as visiting another park.
just superb… the colors were wild
Showa Memorial Park is perhaps the best place to see autumn colors without leaving Tokyo. The park was originally built in 1983 to commemorate 50 years of the Showa Emperor’s (Hirohito) reign. All the autumn colors can be seen here, from the fiery red of maple to the bright yellow of gingko. At an area of nearly 2 square kilometers, the Showa Memorial Park is huge. The best way to see it is to rent a bike which costs about 600 yen, through an 11 kilometer biking trail.
all i can say is, wow!
The scenery was indeed magnificent. Hues of yellow and red greeted me as I walked towards the entrance. After paying the 400 yen entrance fee, it then dawned upon me that the rest of Tokyo probably had the same idea of coming here. The place was jampacked! But at the same time, I couldn’t help but be amazed at how the Japanese actually appreciate these little things. Autumn fascinates me because I live in a tropical country. But these people who live in an industrialized country with plenty of diversions to keep them busy and who must have seen autumn colors every year still get all excited at seeing leaves turn brown in November.
leaves turning into a fiery red
The thing about Showa Memorial Park is that it is virtually unknown to tourists. Its location in western Tokyo is probably why. The crowd is overwhelmingly Japanese, with a few expats and the odd tourist here and there. But it truly is a gem of a place.
cute kid – or as the japanese say, “kawai!!!”
How to go to Showa Memorial Park:
Take the JR Chuo line from central Tokyo towards Takao. Get off at Tachikawa station. Showa Memorial Park is about 10 minutes walk from the station towards the northwestern direction (there are signs that lead to the park)
Best time to see autumn colors in Tokyo:
Generally, it is from mid-November to early-December. The central parts of Tokyo get it a bit later, at around last week of November/first week of December while the western parts get it earlier at around mid-November.