Falling for Japanby Joy Pecknold
When it comes to the colors each season flaunts, I’m partial to autumn’s fiery spectrum, and Japan has these shades in spades—be it on fallen leaves or ancient temples. Exploring Miyajima, Kamakura and Tokyo last fall, I was dazzled by the hues, history and culture.
In the Hiroshima Prefecture, Miyajima Island is known for centuries-old Itsukushima Shrine, a World Heritage Site, and it’s great Torii 200 meters offshore. Both painted a vermilion color, the shade is said to keep evil spirits away.
There are many other shrines and temples, including Senjokaku, which translates to “Hall of One Thousand Tatami Mats” to denote it’s Miyajima’s largest structure. Taking in the vibrant trees that pepper the mountainside from here is a spiritual experience of its own.
Thought to be sacred messengers from the gods, tame Sika deer have free run of the place and mingle with the tourists looking for a handout—anything remotely edible will do.
On Sagami Bay in the Kanagawa Prefecture, Kamakura is a quaint seaside town packed with temples and shrines and one very special Buddha—The Giant Buddha or Daibutsu. Presiding over the Kōtoku-in temple, the 765-year-old bronze statue is approximately 44-feet tall and 93 tonnes.
Wooded hills surround the area, and wandering the network of trails which connect many of the spiritual sites is satisfying enough, but there’s also the beaches. Less crowded in the fall, Yuigahama Beach is a walking distance from Daibutsu and, with weather permitting and a wetsuit, it’s a good spot to give surfing or windsurfing a go.
Even Tokyo has its fair share of fall’s finery. Shibuya is home to a 134-acre oasis of miscellanea; Yoyogi Park boasts Harajuku girls, hip hop dancers and rockabilly gangs, as well as its own shrine and forested footpaths.
Covering roughly 850 square miles, nearly twice the size of New York City, the best way to see a lot of Tokyo in a short amount of time is to head up one of its skyscrapers.
One stop at the Mori Art Museum in Roppongi Hills offers two kinds of views—one of the city, as its located on the 52nd and 53rd floors of the Mori Tower, and another of an ever changing collection of contemporary works. When it comes to delivering a visual feast, Japan—be it its tiny islands or sprawling metropolises—never falls short.