Autumn Hits a Golden Peak in Karamatsu

They call me mellow yellow…

 –Donovan Leitch

The Japanese Word “kouyou” (that’s KO- as in “code” and YO- as in “yodel”) is used to refer to autumn foliage in general.  Due to obscure conventions of written Japanese that I won’t try to explain here, the word can be written with the characters 紅葉 (“red leaves”) or 黄葉 (“yellow leaves”), and yes, both of those sets of characters can also be pronounced “momiji”…just bear with me here.


“Kouyou” usually conjures up images of fiery red maples lining the paths of temple grounds and forests around Japan.  What we’re now seeing in Karamatsu, however, is closer to the yellow variant and a brilliant flourish of golden foliage has appeared to compliment the mountain scenery.  However you spell it, it’s quite a sight:


Having been blessed with many warm days this past October, we can now see trees which have stubbornly held onto their leaves as well as others that have shed them in a manner more typical of this time of year.  In the daytime, the sunlight brings out their color while increasingly chilly autumn winds cause them to sway gracefully.


These pictures were taken fromthe Nakanose area and Tashiro Bridge, respectively:


As of October 28th, the foliage at Karamatsu was said to have reached its peak.  From now on, we will see a gradual decline in the fullness and intensity of colors around the park, but should be able to enjoy some remnant of kouyou for the next couple of weeks (which is a good thing as a couple of weeks is pretty much all we have).


Here are a few more snapshots of scenes around Kamikochi, beginning with Mount Yake:




And the Hotaka Range:



As you can see, the gentle yellow hues of the foliage in the foreground pay a perfect compliment to the mountains on the horizon.  If you have a chance to get out here in the next couple of days–preferably when it’s sunny–by all means, take it.




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The weather has been taking a sudden turn for the chillier in the past few days, with frost in the mornings and cold nights.


There were reports earlier this week of morning lows of -5 and frost on surfaces at Kappa Bridge.  The once cheerful hues of yellow which have covered the forest paths have also received a coating of frost:


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And this was the scene at the Dakesawa Marsh:


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You can probably sense the cold just by looking at these pictures.  They are powerful reminders that our days of casual strolls along the walks of Kamikochi are numbered and also that warm gloves, thermals, fleeces, and warm jackets are the new fashion/function statements of choice here.


Don’t let that scare you off, however.  A friend of mine visiting from Scotland recently took a couple of days out of a brief (12 day) visit to Japan to explore the Karasawa area and reported that he had a “brilliant time” and enjoyed “great weather.”  Clearly, we can still expect a few warm days before the closing ceremony on November 15th.


It truly has been a fantastic autumn here in Kamikochi and it’s not over yet!


Sources of Information:


National Parks Foundation website:


Gosenjaku Group website:


Shirakabaso Hotel website: