The foliage season is approaching, so, although every street and corner is good enough to spot some red leaves, here below is a small list of places where to go for best viewing nature's signs of the changing season (koyo
in Japanese) in Kanagawa prefecture. All these places start to see some changes in the foliage come end of October and throughout November, roughly.
My neighborhood in fall
Arguably the best place where to go, Kamakura, offers plenty of locations as its numerous temples all come with gardens where seasonal trees allow visitors to enjoy the sacred grounds year-round. In particular, the main temple in town, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, sits in the middle of a large forest, with maple and cherry trees scattered all around the premises and turning a deep red come October. Also, because the main temple hall is on higher grounds, from up there one can get a view of the cherry-tree-lined boulevard that runs from the seaside all the way to the main gate.
Tsurugaoka Hachimangu main gate
Forests around Kamakura
My recommendation, however, is to rent a bicycle in Kamakura and ride around town, as many are the smaller and bigger temples to discover. Just follow the red of the maple leaves. Kamakura can be reached within 30 minutes from Yokohama Station on the JR Yokosuka line.
11. Sankeien Garden
This Japanese style garden is located a mere 30 minutes bus ride from Yokohama station, it was privately owned by a silk trade businessman who wanted reproductions of famous historical buildings from Kyoto and Kamakura be built on his property, totaling about 20. The entire garden is harmoniously arranged such that each season is highlighted by skillful choices of plants and flowers. Sankeien is a perfect spot to evade the buzzing city life and immerse in fall colors.
10. Negishi Forest Park
Very close to Sankeien is this park, also known as Shinrin Park, which used to be a horse racetrack as the ruined grandstands show. Other than being huge, with both open grassy ground and shaded space, the park features a terrace that's perfect to admire the autumn foliage. Nicely paved walking trails also offer chances to see leaves up close during a relaxing stroll. The park is located about 20 min walk from Negishi station, on the JR Negishi line from Yokohama.
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Part of a national park, Hakone is a mountainous area with hot springs and forests. The area is rather wide, and is a preferred destination for hikers, especially during the fall. But for admiring the foliage, there is no need to plan day-long treks; Lake Ashi, tucked in the center of the park, is the place to be. All mountains around the lake flush in different shades of red and yellow, reflected on the lake surface. On clear days, this already great view is improved by the towering presence of Mt. Fuji in the background. To get to the lake, best is to take a train from Yokohama to Odawara via JR Tokaido line, then switch to a bus to either Hakone-Machi or Moto-Hakone.
8. Sagami Lake
This is an artificial lake created by the building of a dam on Sagami River, located in the far north west side of Kanagawa prefecture, at the border with Tokyo prefecture. It is reachable from Yokohama within one hour, on the JR Yokohama line to Hachioji and then switch to JR Chuo line. Similar to Lake Ashi in Hakone, this location is perfect to view the golden colors of fall within the lake scenery. Rowing and pedal boats can be rented to fully enjoy the surrounding nature. Hiking along the many trails around the lake is also popular. One of those trails connects Sagami Lake with Mt. Takao.
The lake and the start of foliage in Sagami Lake
7. Mount Oyama and Temple
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This gorgeous peak belongs to the Tanzawa National Park. Hiking to the summit is recommended, as the views from the top of Oyama are gorgeous, extending all the way to Sagami Bay. Especially recommended when all the foliage around flushes red. The gateway to the region is Isehara station, on the privately owned Odakyu Line. From Isehara, one can move towards the several peaks belonging to the Tanzawa mountain range. Also within reach is the Oyama Afuri Temple, which is easily reachable by first taking a bus from Isehara to Oyama Cable stop and then hopping on the cablecar all the way up to the final stop. The temple is already more than enough for red leaf viewing, but the more adventurous can continue from there to reach the mountain top.
6. Kanazawa Park and Zoological Garden
This park is halfway between Kita-Kawakura and Kanazawa-bunko. From Kanazawa-bunko, it is possible to take a bus and get off at Natsuyama Sakaue. There are about 400 varieties of trees that allow for a very long foliage season, for the joy of visitors. Also, the zoo in the premises of the park is perfect to entertain children.
5. Mitsuike Park
Fall colors are gorgeous in this park, ranging from red to brown to yellow, mixed with the green of the water plants free floating on the surface of its three ponds (from which, its name). Although this park is more famous for cherry blossoms in spring, I love the way it looks in autumn too, thanks to the wide variety of plants and trees. The park area is large, allowing for many people to either lay down on the grass or play. The park is located a short bus ride from Tsurumi station on the JR Keihin-tohoku line.
The ponds of Mitsuike park reflecting the foliage
4. Soji-ji Temple
Also in Tsurumi, a few minutes walk from the station there is one of the most famous Buddhist temples in all of Japan. Soji-ji is also home to about 150 Zazen monks, and they can be seen almost floating around, silently, along the headquarters corridors. More than red foliage, gingko trees are predominant here, causing the ground to be covered by a soft carpet of golden leaves.
Soji-ji Temple main shrine and forest around it
3. Yamashita Park Avenue
Tucked between Yokohama's Chinatown and the water of the bay area, Yamashita Park is ideal to enjoy Koyo without leaving town. Other than the park itself, the avenue that marks the boundary of the park, together with Nihon Odori road nearby, is also lined with gingko trees. It is recommended to reach the park on foot directly from Yokohama station, as the stroll can be seen as a journey from the crazy noisy streets near the station, through the modern, breezy and spacious Minatomirai cluster, all the way to the park.
Walk from Yokohama Station to Minatomirai
Alternatively, the closest stations to Yamashita Park are Motomachi-chukagai or Kannai, on the JR Keihin-Tohoku/Negishi line.
2. Yamate Hill
Continuing the stroll from Yamashita Park towards the hill, one can reach Yamate area, which is famous for being the favorite location by foreign merchants and traders that begun to deal with Japan. The urban landscape there still retains its European charm, rich in urban green and colonial style houses. In fall, this area is more pleasurable to walk through, thanks to the chromatic display given by the white of buildings, the foliage, and the sea views.
View form Yamate hill, with the old European cemetery in foreground
This place is very close to the Kannai area where Yamashita Park is. In addition to the canal side foliage, visitors will discover a pretty nice neighborhood of Yokohama. Once an entertainment district, Hinodecho is today an artsy and hipster neighborhood with plenty of art shops and cafes.
The canal that runs through Hinodecho