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  • Writer's pictureRei Tsuru


I know it's not a time for autumn photos, but I have so many beautiful shots from my short autumn trip to Yamanashi! While hanami, or the Sakura blossom season, is undoubtedly Japan's most famous season, I personally prefer Japanese autumn. The weather is milder, and you can sense a sweet and spicy scent in the air, even in the heart of the city. The light takes on a golden hue, adding to the ambiance.

In Japan, the Momiji season - when Japanese maples turn a striking shade of red - is a particularly unique time. The beauty first appears in the mountainous regions, where it is cooler, which is why we chose to visit Yamanashi prefecture in early November.

Yamanashi is a large prefecture that borders Tokyo to the east and Nagano to the north, with most of its area covered by forests and mountains. The sacred symbol of Japan, Mount Fuji, is located within its borders. You can reach the beautiful locations of Yamanashi from Tokyo in just 2 hours by car, making it an ideal destination for a one-day trip.

Personally, I have never used trains to travel around Fuji's locations. Instead, I rely on my friends for guidance and details on the route. Fortunately, I was traveling with one of my best friends who is an avid Japan lover and had a BMW that was a perfect fit for the trip. Its scarlet color resembled the autumn leaves, making it the ideal car for this adventure.

We kicked off our adventure at the crack of dawn, departing from a station in Kanagawa, where Lina picked me up in her car. You know that feeling of anticipation when you wake up early, still feeling a bit groggy, but eager to hit the road for a long drive with breathtaking mountain vistas and a steaming cup of coffee at the gas stations.

The first location we visited left us shouting with excitement - it was the most stunning forest I had ever seen! The colors were unbelievably vibrant, and the soft carpet of dried leaves rustled satisfyingly beneath our feet. Even as someone who doesn't consider themselves a huge nature lover, I couldn't help but feel absolutely happy in that moment.

We were incredibly fortunate with the weather - it was so warm that I even felt comfortable wearing a T-shirt. As someone who is accustomed to the perpetual cold of Russia, taking a walk through a November forest without a jacket felt like something out of a fairytale for me.

I wasn't exaggerating when I mentioned the leaves being a bloody red - we had arrived at the peak of the momiji season. The colors were so intense and breathtaking that I couldn't help but be in awe of nature's beauty.

That's actually quite amusing - whenever I come across a beautiful road, my first thought is always "this looks like something out of Need for Speed!" When I was a kid, Need for Speed Hot Pursuit was one of my all-time favorite games on PlayStation 1. I was so impressed by the landscapes, routes, and soundtrack that I could spend hours riding along my favorite roads in the game.

Typically, I'm not a big fan of sunny weather for photography - the shadows tend to be too harsh, and the contrast can be too strong to find a good composition. However, the combination of a blue sky and warm golden and scarlet leaves was simply perfect.

We were both a little disappointed that we didn't have a model with us at the time - photos with a person in the frame tend to be more engaging and visually interesting. Despite the fact that we are both photographers, we hadn't dressed for a photo shoot because we wanted to prioritize comfort on our trip.

I couldn't resist spamming my entire Instagram feed with these autumn photos - they were just too beautiful not to share. It did feel a little strange, though, because my usual preference is for a cold color palette and cityscapes and these photos were so different from my usual style.

I can totally imagine that - a silver Lamborghini Countach tearing through the mountainous roads of Yamanashi, just like in the game! It's no wonder that it's still my favorite car - the Countach is a true classic and an iconic symbol of speed and style.

To be honest, I couldn't even tell you the name of the shrine we stumbled upon during our trip. I'm pretty sure Lina doesn't remember it either - we just happened to come across it randomly.

I have to say, this group of stone lanterns was one of the most photogenic I've ever come across.

I adore photographing the dragons in temizu at various jinjas in Japan. They are unique and striking subjects.

Of course we took some shots of each other as a keepsake.

The combination of grey and red looks absolutely stunning!

Can you read 紅葉 ? There are two different ways: kōyō and momiji. Momiji refers specifically to the maple leaves that turn red in the fall, and is a symbol of the Japanese autumn season. Kōyō, on the other hand, refers to the broader process of leaves changing color in the fall, and is more of a complex concept than a simple word.

In Japan, there is also the tradition of "紅葉狩り" (momijigari), which can be translated as "red leaves hunting". This centuries-old tradition, similar to hanami during sakura season, can be enjoyed in many ways such as hiking, having picnics under maple trees, and taking walks in parks.

In Japan, autumn begins at the end of September, like in many countries in the Northern Hemisphere. However, the leaves start changing color to red in the north of the country around mid-September and end their transformation around mid-December in the south. Most cities in Japan experience their peak of autumn foliage during November.

Searching for the vibrant autumn-colored leaves is a popular activity among both locals and international tourists in Japan. It has even influenced the creation of maple-shaped cakes and cookies, and sometimes the leaves are used as decoration when serving meals. In addition, the leaves themselves can also be eaten, such as maple leaf tempura, which comes in various varieties.

Many festivals and events are held during this season such as the Kurama-dera fire festival in Kyoto, Takayama autumn festival in Gifu, and Jidai Matsuri in Kyoto. There are also various autumn foods and drinks to enjoy such as hot sake, sweet potato dishes, and chestnuts.

Every year, the Japan Meteorological Corporation (JMC) releases a forecast of the expected dates for koyo and the estimated best viewing dates. This forecast is updated several times throughout the season based on factors such as weather conditions and temperature changes.

To be continued!

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