ASK someone when the best time to visit Japan is and they will most likely tell you to plan your trip for the spring season. But if you can’t make it in the spring, don’t discount planning a trip in the fall.
Even without the cheerful pink of the cherry blossoms, Japan is just as beautiful. And the cool weather makes it pleasant, without the harsh cold that winter brings. Instead, you will see vibrant red, orange and yellow leaves from maple and ginkgo trees that line its streets.
And once you’ve done all there is to do in Tokyo, take a side trip to Yamanashi Prefecture for an explosion of these fall colors.
Views of Mt. Fuji are Yamanashi’s main selling point, but it has much more to offer.
A real favorite is the Shosenkyo Gorge. Located in the northern part of Kofu City, the gorge is part of the Chichibu Tama Kai National Park. If you like taking hikes, this should be on your bucket list.
For those who prefer a lighter pace, start your walk at the bottom of the Shosenkyo Ropeway.
A tour organized by the Japan National Tourism Office did just that. Before we went on the hike, we got on the Shosenkyo Ropeway, a short cable car ride to the top of a mountain. A roundtrip will cost you 1,200 yen.
The ride itself is a delight, as it showcases a colorful display of autumn leaves from different trees.
At the top is a magnificent view of Mt. Fuji.
There’s also a snack stop and souvenirs for sale, more trails for the adven-turous sort and a temple.
Once you’ve had your fill of the sights, head back down the ropeway and start your hike.
At first, it won’t feel like you’re going on an adventure. The small road is lined by shops selling crystals, souvenirs, fruits and ice cream.
Choose flavors from the usual chocolate to the Japanese favorite, matcha. I chose the grape. With vineyards surrounding Yamanashi, it’s no surprise grape-flavored ice cream is a hit.
From then on, the entire experience is a selfie addict’s dream.
First you’ll see the Sengataki waterfall. Then you’ll walk along the Arakawa River and see giant boulders. These rocks are incredible. You’ll walk through a particularly large one called Ishimon, which looks like a doorway of stone.
After that, you won’t know where to look next. Everything is magnificent, you’ll feel like you’ve wandered into a story.
The rock formations against the autumn leaves make it impossible to take a bad photo.
Continue walking and if you find the need to rest your eyes from the onslaught of natural beauty, stop by some of the noodle shops and listen to the sound of the water while you down some hot noodles. Hoto noodles are the specialty of the region, so you might want to give that a try.
If you’re not the type who likes the exercise, the views will more than make up for it. You won’t need special hiking boots, as the trails are pretty safe. I even came across some hikers in stilettos while some parents pushed their children’s strollers along.
If you think your vacation needs a good dose of nature, this is a must.
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on January 11, 2018.
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