I'm always out and about experiencing new things in this fascinating country, but of course not everything I see and do deserves it's own blog post. These are just a few places that may not be the "most" interesting (I have no funny stories or great insights), but all deserve a mention for their sheer beauty, if nothing else. Because one thing I've realized with all my travels is that places are a lot like people, some are really interesting, some are just pretty, and the lucky ones are both!
Japan is known for having distinct beauty in each of the four seasons. Brightly colored leaves in the fall, being one of the most beautiful in my opinion. Unfortunately, I didn't get out and photograph as many places as I had hoped. Generally speaking, you need to get out of the hustle and bustle of Tokyo to fully appreciate landscapes that are rich in autumn foliage, but even within the city itself there are some parks and gardens that showcase the dramatic color changes of the season. Take for example this relatively small park within Tokyo, Otaguro Park. It has a small entry lane, lined with ginko trees that turn bright yellow. Throughout the rest of the park, you could find maple trees in every shade between yellow, orange, and red. With the combination of the near perfect temperatures during this time of year, and the beautiful colors of the changing leaves, it's no wonder that fall is my favorite time of the year.
It's a mountain that is technically IN Tokyo. Realistically, it is about a 1.5 hour train ride from downtown Tokyo, but it makes for a great day trip out of the city and into nature. There are several different hiking routes up and down the mountain for those that want to take the trek. There are also options of a chairlift and ropeway that each go part way up the mountain. The main route is completely paved, easy to walk and family friendly. (I saw kids as little as 1-2 years old walking this path!) About halfway up the mountain, where the ropeway ends, are some shops, restaurants, the Takaosan Yakuoin Yukiji Temple, and a monkey park. So there is something for everyone! From the summit on a clear day you can see Mount Fuji in the distance, and in the opposite direction, the Tokyo skyline and the famous Skytree. And as I mentioned before....they have monkeys here so it's probably pretty obvious that I recommend visiting if you have the chance!
With over 3,000 plants and over 100 varieties, it's easy to see why this is the home of the Bunkyo Azalea Festival. Every April, Nezu Shrine is the destination location for those who want to see these vivid flowers in all their glory. I would estimate that maybe only 60% were in full bloom when I was there, but it was still a sight to be seen. The bright pink and white flowers contrasted against the green trees and the vermillion torii gates. Add to the scene the flock of young school kids that were there when I visited, in their navy school uniforms, and the whole rainbow was represented!