Category Archives: Koyo

Koyo or Momiji is Japanese for fall foliage

JP 2022 Dec Koyo Tokyo (Part 1)

Took Hokuriku Shinkansen to Tokyo direct in less than 3 hours. There were plenty of vacant seats in the non-reserved cars till Nagano.

Stayed in Shibuya – one of our fav areas and keen to find out how it might have evolved after new buildings like Shibuya Scramble Square have sprung up in the last few years. Overall it was as busy as in the past.


Rikugien (六義園)

Our first visit. Although Koyo has slightly past peak, there were plenty of local visitors on a normal weekday.  It is a beautiful landscape garden with well designed trails, interspersed by streams, ponds and bridges.  Stayed there for 1 hour+.




On the next day we headed to Kamakura and Shonan – our fav spots outside Tokyo metropolitan.  It happened that a festival was held in the Tsuruoka Hachiman-gu, where we found many youngsters in school uniforms, apart from many locals.



In the evening, met up with local friends who had arranged a Japanese dinner in a traditional restaurant in Omotesando, which served produce from Niigata Prefecture.  It was such a nice reunion in Japan post-covid 🙂




======>   Tokyo (Part 2)   ======>


JP 2022 Nov Koyo Kansai

Visited Japan in end Nov after the border has reopened to international tourists. It was a 14-day trip from Kansai to Tokyo via Hokuriku – visiting Fukui Prefecture for the first time.

Overall itin – KIX > Osaka > Arima onsen > Kyoto > Fukui > Kanazawa > Tokyo


Landed in Osaka/KIX and it roughly took about 40 min to exit into the arrivals lobby, despite possessing the 3 QR codes generated by the Visit Japan Web, and there was no line in immigration.

Headed into the Osaka/Umeda by limo bus and checked into Hotel Granvia Osaka. To our surprise, there was a super-long line on Sunday evening (maybe due to the GoTo program as most were locals) and it took like 50 min to get our room key on the highest Executive floor.

Had our first dinner in Japan (in almost 3 years) in a local “kappo” in West Umeda. Food was so delicious – esp the tempura items.  Felt a bit sorry for the shop – we’re the only customers in that evening until around 8:30pm when we’re about to leave. 



On the next day we took express bus to Arima onsen (our 3rd stay) in 1 hour.  After dropping our luggage in the onsen hotel, we hiked up to the Zuihoji Koen (Park), passing by the familiar temples and the public onsen bath along the way.  There were some visitors – all locals but not crowded. A senior couple asked me to take photos for them and he offered a handshake after knowing that we’re from Hong Kong.

Koyo had clearly past peak – the driver of the hotel shuttle bus told us it was 1 week ago.  We knew it but that’s the earliest timeline we could visit Japan 🙂


Koyo in Arima onsen and Zuihoji Park


2nd stay in Kourokan – annexed ryokan of Gekkoen, Arima onsen 


Main Chef Omakase course (5 sets daily)



======>   Kyoto (Part 1)   ======>



JP 2022 Nov Koyo Kyoto (Part 1)

It was raining on the next morning in Arima onsen and Kinki area.  Returned to Kyoto around lunch time by express bus.  Lined up outside our fav sushi shop beneath the Kyoto station before checking in Hotel Okura. Stayed in room facing the Higashiyama area for the first time.  Some famous landmarks such as Chion-in, Nanzenji, Eikando etc could be identified with the help of a brief map on the window pane.

There was a light haze in Higashiyama after rain had stopped.




Had breakfast in our fav coffee shop chain in Teramachi. It was quiet with few customers – unlike its shops elsewhere. Besides, it has a mini-Japanese garden inside.

Dropped by Honno-ji (本能寺) next door, at the back there is a small temple dedicated to Oda Nobunaga and his sword grave.  Honnō-ji is most famous for the Honnō-ji incident – the assassination of Oda Nobunaga. In that incident the original temple had been burned down whereas the current temple was subsequently rebuilt.

Teramachi, Kyoto


Seiryo-ji (清凉寺)

Visited this temple in Arashiyama – as recommended by a respected local Sensei.  It stores several national treasures of Japan (photos not allowed), including a small wooden Buddha statue* originated from India, brought to China during the Southern dynasties and finally brought to Japan during the Song dynasty 1000+ years ago.

Though koyo was off-peak in the landscape garden at the back, there were some brilliant spots on its premises.  Visitors were sparse.

*本尊 赤栴檀の釈迦如来(国宝)




=====>   Kyoto (Part 2)  =====>


JP 2022 Nov Koyo Omihachiman

On the next morning we took JR Kaisoku (rapid) commuter train to Kusatsu, Shiga Prefecture (in about 20 min direct). Picked up a rental car and headed to Oike-ji, Koka in about 45 min (< 25km away), due to busy traffic on national roads.

It was quiet and the head monk received and briefed us with a video. The landscape garden is serene. We stayed for less than 1 hour.


Oike-ji (大池寺)


Lunch in Morishima Honten (毛利志満 近江八幡本店)

drove to this 100+ year old shop whose beef cattle are raised in its own farm. The grilled Omi-gyu (近江牛)  was delicious. The restaurant was quite full and thus we had to wait for a while w/o reservation.



Kyorinbo (教林坊)

Next we drove to Kyorinbo, which was the most brilliant koyo spot in this visit !!  Re its website it was founded by Prince Shotoku (聖德太子) in early 7th century AD.

There were more visitors though not crowded. 



The more brilliant spots were around Hondo (main hall) and opposite Shuin (library). 

Out of the blue, it suddenly rained. Thus, almost all visitors sought for shelter in Shuin. After 10 min or so, it was getting heavier and even small round white pellets rained down – our first experience !  Luckily it wasn’t those large hailstone and no one seemed to be hurt.



Omihachiman (近江八幡)

Next we drove to the canal area of Omihachiman.  Dropped by the Hakuunkan (literally white cloud hall) – in European architecture which now serves as the tourist information centre.  As traffic was fairly heavy along the way, we did not stay for long and returned to Kusatsu. 




=====>   Kyoto (Part 4)   =====>


JP 2022 Nov Koyo Kyoto (Part 4)

On the last day in Kyoto we visited Kaju-ji (勧修寺) in Yamashina.  Did not stay long as Hondo and other halls were being renovated so a bit noisy.  There were a few visitors that morning.  



Daruma-ji (Horin-ji)

達磨寺 (法輪寺)

Returned to Kyoto city to visit Daruma-ji, where there are hundreds of daruma dolls in various sizes.  Unexpectedly on the second floor, there’s a room containing the mortuary tablets of Japanese movie directors, actors, actresses, singers of the last century.  



This sums up our 5-day stay in Kyoto in this trip. Overall, it was generally less crowded in Kyoto, though we did not visit Gion nor the Higashiyama area.

Next we’re heading to Hokuriku.


=====>   Echizen Kaigan, Fukui   =====>


JP 2022 Nov Koyo Kyoto (Part 3)

Enko-ji (圓光寺)

On the next day we visited Enko-ji in north-eastern Kyoto.  It was founded by Tokugawa Ieyasu, the shogun who brought about the Edo Period.  It was fairly crowded despite on a normal weekday. 

The rock garden Honryutei (奔龍庭) depicts a dragon soaring in sea of clouds manifested by stones+pillar rocks and white sands respectively.  It’s quite unique in all the rock gardens that we’ve visited.


The landscape garden Jyu-gyu no niwa (十牛之庭) is famous for its maple trees whose koyo has also past its peak with mostly fallen leaves on the ground.


Slightly uphill there is a small grave with a wooden plate indicating the tomb of Tokugawa Ieyasu, though his actual remains could be buried elsewhere. However, the view of northern Kyoto was wide and far on clear days.  What a clever positioning of the grave !



In the inner temple area there is a small bamboo forest Ohkyo chikurin (応挙竹林).  And a small exhibition hall inside the Kondo.



Kyoto Botanical Garden

After brief local lunch we visited the Kyoto Botanical garden. It was huge though we focused mainly on the area where there were maple, Gingko and sakura trees. It was not crowded and we stayed there for roughly 1.5 hours before having a coffee break in the cafe adjacent to the entrance of Kitayama subway station.  




=====>   Omihachiman  =====>


JP 2022 Nov Koyo Kyoto (Part 2)

Lunch in Suiran, Arashiyama – 3rd visit



Katsura river, Arashiyama



Toji-in (等持院)

Took Randen train to Toji-in, which is famous for its landscape garden, though koyo was clearly off-peak. It’s also the Ashikaga dynasty’s funeral temple and all fifteen of the Ashikaga shoguns were buried here. It was serene with a few visitors only.




=====>   Kyoto (Part 3)   =====>


JP 2019 Nov Koyo Kyoto (Part 4)

Visited World Heritage Daigo-ji (醍醐寺) on a fairly cold day (below 10C). Have visited twice for sakura but this is the first time for koyo there.

Passed by Karamon and Niomon, reached the Shimo-Daigo (Lower Daigo) where Hondo (Main Hall) and the 5-storey Pagoda (1000+ years old) are located. Headed further up to Bentendo (featured photo) in gorgeous koyo.


Daigo-ji (醍醐寺)


Benten-ike with reflections



Treasures in Sanboin and landscape garden



Also visited the Reihokan, a fairly large museum keeping a significant collection of historical artifacts including documents, scriptures, paintings and sculptures. No photo is allowed inside.


On the next morning, strolled around our hotel overlooking Kamogawa near San-jo. Took JR Haruka express train to Osaka/KIX as usual, though this was our first time riding on a Hello Kitty Haruka.




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JP 2019 Nov Koyo Kyoto (Part 2)

On next morning we visited Konkaikomyo-ji (金戒光明寺). Apart from koyo, a special opening was held to exhibit its treasures not opened to public normally.

We entered the Miedo (Main Hall) where the treasures were exhibited (no photo is allowed). On the back side, we entered a beautiful landscape garden. Stayed for about 1.5 hours.


Konkaikomyo-ji (金戒光明寺) – special openings


Rock gardens depicting the live stages of Genku – founder of Kokaikomyo-ji



Shimo-kamo Jinja (下鴨神社)

After lunch we visited this World Heritage, also famous for love/marriage. Bumped into local family posing for wedding photos. Exited the Jinja to the south through Tadasu-no-Mori – a preserved forest.





====>   Kyoto (Part 3)   ====>