Friday, November 26, 2010

The final blaze of autumn - touring around the Lake Biwa

Spectacular layers of autumn colors; crimson, vermillion, orange, brown, yellow, gold, ....
While I enjoy the season of mist, fruitfulness, and cool and crisp air through gradual changing of nature, I at last realize surrounded by the splendor of shades of autumn at this time of every year.

I went on an excursion to "kohoku" region, northern part of Lake Biwa, to enjoy the final blaze of autumn with my husband.  The highlights were the avenue of metasequoia (northwest side of the lake), Keisoku-ji Temple (northeast), and illuminated Genkyuen Garden of Hikone Castle (east).


Long avenue of huge metasequoia

We entered Meishin Expressway at Suita junction, changed highways to Kosei Road, travelled to the north,  and ran through under the tunnel of metasequoia.

We took lunch at a restaurant by the lake.

I felt comfortable hearing the soft rustling sound of waters.  Although there was no tide or smell of sea water, I recalled the beach of Suma in my hometown Kobe, which is clad with pine trees.


Driving along the zigzag winding road overlooking the lake is fun.  There are numerous cherry trees along the course: they are mostly bare trees now.   

Next our stop is Keisoku-ji.  We got off the vehicle and walked through herb fields and Japanese green tea fields. 

 Keisoku-ji (鶏足寺): it's official name is Hanpuku-ji (飯福寺). 

The old walkway is lined up with aged Japanese maple trees and there are over 200 maple trees in the precinct. The temple was founded about 1100 years ago.  It had many warrior monks during the Middle Ages, and had been powerful till the end of the Tokugawa shogunate (1868).   It was burned down to ruins in 1933.  

Does this look like a mere shadow of its glorious, prosperous past?  The remaining entrance path made me feel like it was a gateway to a fairyland.  However, the end of the steps were just ruins except for a small humble hut and trees, and then I felt the gateway itself might be a fairyland.  Elves' laughter might have been mingled with the cracking sound of fallen leaves under our feet and radiant angelic beings might have made the whole scenery sheer brilliant red all the more.

Leaves are shining as if recalling its past glorious prosperity.

 The path is losing shape by many people's tramping the way.

The Buddhist statues of the temple are enshrined in the Hall which was built by voluntary contributions of everyone concerned and these whole areas are taken care of by the local villagers.  This fact makes the scenery much more worth appreciating.  I looked back before leaving and saw the perfect collaboration of red and yellow leaves, bare trees, sasanqua, evergreens, moss-covered walls and stone-paved path.  This area would be sunk into silent solitude when the season is over.

After darkness had fallen, we entered Genkyu-en, a garden of Hikone Castle.  Hikone Castle is one of the four Japanese castles designated as a national treasure. The image you see is not an illusion but Illuminated maple trees and its reflection on the stillness of the castle's moat water. 

Mirror reflection in the pond of the Garden.  Too beautiful, too enchanting to be true!

I walked looking at the reflected maple trees and I had to watch out my steps.  If you lose sight of the border between reality and unreality, you might fall into the water.  I'd like to return when the moat water shows a mirror reflection of the cherry blossoms in the early morning of spring.

Crimson leaves ablaze in the sun looks like "the final burst of fire of life" to me.  There is a cycle from beginning to end spirally going forth, in a day, in a week, in a month, in a year, and in our life.   Japanese maple trees are the last to drop their red leaves, and then autumn gives way to winter. Soon fallen leaves will be whirling in the cold wind.

This is a modest souvenir of the tour, a wreath made of vines decorated with wild fruits and red peppers.


  1. Hi,Stardust.
    The red leaves are very beautiful! How many times did you go out for seeing autumn leaves this season? 今年の長~~いうだるような暑さのおかげで、今年の秋は赤い紅葉に恵まれましたね!Winter is just around the corner. Let'enjoy autumn and photography. See you!

  2. Yes, redrose, I've been out as often as possible to enjoy the gift of the season, but long distance travel is only this one. Just moving from one place to another in daily life, luckily we can enjoy wonderful view. Nara Park is four train stations away, but for me it's like my garden!

    You too enjoy photography!

  3. I enjoyed taking this trip with you! The leaves in their many colors form a beautiful tapestry - you've captured fall's changing kaleidoscope well. I personally love to photograph steps, and the two you have featured in this post lead the eye and the imagination to what is beyond. I believe this "kohoku" region would be beautiful in all seasons. PS How nice to see a photo of you in the sidebar!

  4. Barb,
    I'm glad to know you liked the trip, and yes, "kohoku" region has lots of charms in all seasons.

    I hear Keisoku-ji is kind of deserted mountain temple during off-season. I'd love to return there in May to see the world of different colors. I do love fresh translucent green maple leaves.

    Like you, I love to see and photograph steps, arches, or curving paths, which make me excited and curious with anticipations.

  5. I've never been to Kohoku but I've heard there is beautiful spot of red leaves or cherry blosso
    m in Kohoku. That may be this. I like the 8th photo. Very red,crimson,scarlet in all around in the photo. I think it's difficult to fill with red. Nice shot.

  6. "There is a cycle from beginning to end spirally going forth, in a day, in a week, in a month, in a year..."
    I like this phrase very much, and I also sometimes think about samely on passing time.

    I would like to visit Lake Biwa when many monthly spirals will over and spring will come.
    I've heard that there is a good lake-side dog cafe.

  7. Thank you, sarari. Actually I went there attracted by the view of your favorite photo, crimson all around. Not only the maple leaves but also the stone steps were covered with red tapestry of fallen leaves. If you choose right time, that scene will unfold before your eyes.

    When my kids were young, we often travelled around Lake Biwa. I like the place where waterfront and mountains are near at hand like Kobe. After long interval, my husband and I two of us, started exploring there again. There is a little deserted feel in "Kohoku" , which I love.

  8. Haricot,
    Spring is another beautiful time in the circles of life starting all over again. I remember having lunch viewing the lake beyond the cherry branches with blossoms. Enjoy your trip with your loved dog next spring!

  9. Hello.

    Your photography captures the characteristic of Nara fantastically.
    It may be the Japanese beauty itself.
    Your hometown is most suitable to express Japan.

    The stage in the world.
    I recognize that it is infinite.
    The scale. The beauty. The profound. . .
    All of them transcend Japan.
    It is really grand.

    Both you and I will leave this small island.
    You have the talent that is good for the the world wide stage.

    Thank you.

  10. You have such a beautiful blog...all the photos on your sidebar are just lovely. The photo of you is lovely.

    The old walkway lined with aged Japanese maple trees does look like a gateway to a fairyland! The local villagers have done a wonderful deed in taking care of their surrounding natural beauty. Lovely post.

  11. Thank you, ruma, for visiting and leaving the encouraging comment.

    Even in this small country where I've lived all my life, there are so many places I've never been and I don't know.

    As you say, world is infinite. I know little about world, and the more I know, the more I want to know about world.

    My experiences of oversea travel is limited. Thanks to the Internet, I can see people's thoughts and feelings by the words added to the pictures. I often find we have more similarities than differences.

    Keep up good work of sending information about Japan to the world from your viewpoint, and with your shodou.

  12. Wanda,
    Thank you for your visit as always.

    The photos on my sidebar are all my favorites: some are from the website (you can know the source by a click) and others are my own.

    We share the exactly same feelings about the gateway and local people's care. I'm glad to know that.

  13. I like to take pictures of the reflection on the warter as I feel refection seems to be more real and beautifull. Don't you think so?

  14. Thank you, snowwhite, for the comment.

    I agree: with the reflection on the water, pictures get more beautiful and interesting. However, regarding whether "more real" or not, I'm not sure, though reflection makes things look more real if they are shown with real thing, not only reflection. And almost same thing can be said to shadows.

  15. The colored leaves of the temple have an atmosphere peculiar to Japan.
    It may be the treasure of the country.

    Thank you.

  16. Thank you, ruma, for revisit.

    There are many temples beautiful with autumn foliage, but I'd never seen entirely red world like this till then. I think so, too: Keisoku-ji is a treasure of the country. It is taken care of by the local people. You don't have to pay for entrance or for parking.

  17. I've seen the bride-like-cherry trees by the Lake Biwa in full bloom!It was my first spring in Japan, in 1984, and I felt like being part of a huge wedding ceremony where many brides were showing off their dresses! An image that remained with me after so many years....because it was the first time to realize the magic beauty of Japanese cherry blossoms.

  18. Gabriela, thank you for reading this and leaving a comment. I know how you felt when surrounded by the beautiful brides wearing pale pink dresses. They must have casted a magic spell on you.

  19. im interested with this tour..
    will visit to osaka/kyoto by end of NOV til early DEC..
    how i can ask u? or even ask u to tour us around this area..

  20. Yoko, fiquei encantada com as fotos, pois o outono é minha estação preferida. Porém, tenho notado, que onde moro, no Brasil, as folhas não ficam mais com os belos tons avermelhados do outono. Isso me entristece, pois é uma estação repleta de beleza.
    Parabéns pelas fotos! Mais um abraço.


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