Changing leaf colour in Kayosan

By | Category: Photorial, Travel destinations

Last month, Aidan and Jen were in Japan. It coincided with some spectacular colour changes in the leaves. Primarily travelling in the south of the country, these images make you realise that it isn’t just New England or Oregon in the USA that should attract us to leave these shores but Japan should be an Autumn destination as well.

Usually it is for spring and cherry blossom time that visitors plan to visit Japan. These peak months can be busy but, last month, there weren’t that many overseas visitors taking in the changing colours of Japan. In Kayosan we saw what we think was the best sights of changing leaf colour.

Kayosan is around two hours from either Kyoto or Osaka and is a popular destination with both Japanese and foreign tourists. Those used to thundering across Japan in bullet trains will be surprised at the change of pace as you have to take slow local trains (which have framed pictures of trains on the carriage walls) which are populated by school children and locals who seem a world away from the inhabitants of the fashion-obsessed cities. The last leg of the journey (included in your rail fare) is by a near-vertical funicular railway, adding to the sense that you are leaving the never-ending Japanese city sprawl behind.

For foreigners visiting Japan, Koyasan has two main attractions: the holy sights connected to the founder of esoteric Buddhism Kobo Daishi, and the opportunity to spend the night in one of over 50 working temples (shukubo lodging). In 2004, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization named Koyasan as part of the “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range” to its World Heritage List.

The Okunoin cemetery surrounding Kobo Daishi’s mausoleum is vast. Towering cedars line long paths leading to the mausoleum, around which are thousands of shrines and graves. So auspicious is Okunoin cemetery that, rather incongruously, some major corporations such as Panasonic (whose founder was from the prefecture in which Koyasan stands) have established corporate shrines among the ancient moss-covered family shrines. Monks from the local temples often do tours at night through the cemetery: hearing the story of Kobo Daishi from his own modern-day followers while being guided along the lantern-lit path can’t help but awaken some spiritual feelings which are only compounded as you wind your way back to your temple dormitory. During the day the cemetery takes on a completely different complexion, presenting itself as a welcoming woodland sculpture garden brimming with stacks of rocks forming the shrines.

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