Tokyobling's Blog

More Autumn Leaves at Mount Takao

Posted in Nature, Places by tokyobling on December 4, 2013

Two weekends ago I visited the famous Mount Takao, probably the most visited mountai/nature park in Tokyo. People here love seeing the seasons changing so the getting out of the city to watch the changing colors of the autumn leaves is almost as popular as getting out in spring to watch the cherry blossoms. It always feels unreal to visit this mountain as you get onto a normal commuter at the worlds busiest train station, and step off an hour later, surrounded by an almost overwhelming amount of nature.

Among all this nature there is also quite a bit of culture, as the mountain is home of one of the more powerful buddhist temples in Japan, founded all the way back in 744 A.D. The temple’s statues, markers and stones are scattered along the path to the temple and makes for some very photogenic scenery!

Mount Takao is officially just over 599m tall, but in the old days it used to be over 601m. A couple of big earthquakes early last century forced officials to recalculate the mountain and it appears to have shrunk a tiny bit. There botany of the mountain is also quite varied and has been intensively studied, yielding a stunning 63 new plant species first discovered (by science) at this mountain.

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Mount Takao Autumn Leaves

Posted in Nature, Places by tokyobling on November 27, 2013

Japanese love to feel and see the changing of the seasons, and the two major seasonal indicators are the cherry blossom viewing in the spring and in autumn, the viewing of autumn leaves. It’s even a major part of every day conversation – people will ask about this years autumn leave viewing season, get recommendations on where to go and when to visit what places. It is a chance for many near-urban communities and nature reserves to drum up business as city people venture out en masse to sample the fresh mountain air. Nature has also guaranteed a certain fairness in the game of getting the most tourist visitors – the famous areas for cherry blossom viewing gets no visitors during the autumn leave viewing season, and vice versa. Even pine trees, that aren’t very popular for viewing in any season at least has a certain economical value so it all evens out.

I and what felt like most everyone else living in Tokyo visited Mount Takao in Tokyo’s western Hachioji City last weekend to get our dose of autumn beauty, and although there is both a cable car and a lift system to ferry people past the difficult part of the walk the lines were hour long so I did like so many other well equipped people and walked all the way up the mountain, about all 3.8km, which is an easy thing on flat terrain but slightly more strenuous at a steep angle. Still, there were plenty of people with small children or elderly grandparents in tow! Japanese have always loved the outdoors and you’ll see many well kitted up people and even quite a few in their ordinary office clothes – like me. Mount Takao has a lot of fantastic Japanese Cedars that look unbelievably massive. Many of these are so old that they have started decomposing from the bottom while the top is as vigorous as ever, and the best ones are even fenced in to stop people from wearing them out by getting to close. There’s supposedly quite a lot of wildlife over here but in all the times I have visited I have never seen anything bigger than a butterfly or a hawk, but I would love to catch one of the little Maimaikaburi beetles, the “little hunters of Mount Takao” who prey on snails and worms. Warning signs tell us that it is very advisable not to look them too close in the eye since they can squirt noxious stuff that is very painful to get in your eyes. The walk up the mountain is made interesting by the many statues nestled in the side of the mountain, popular with tourists and pilgrims alike.

Mount Takao is easily accesible from Shinjuku on the Keio line, to Takaosanguchi station (高尾山口駅), and the walk to the cable car and lift stations are lined with excellent soba restaurants. If you have the health and the opportunity I recommend walking up the mountain at least once, although the lift is pretty fun too. If you want to take it easy or are worried about your health I recommend the cable car especially off seasons when it is not so crowded.

I still find it insanely difficult to get decent shots of nature stuff, but I am getting more practice this season. More photos to come!

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Autumn Leaves of Gingko – Meijijingu Gaien

Posted in Nature, Places by tokyobling on November 21, 2013

Us busy bees in central Tokyo don’t get too many chances to experience the changing of the seasons, between futon and office desk, apart from the changing in temperatures, but one early morning I passed through one of Tokyo’s premier spots for autumn color watching, the Icho Namiki, a gingko tree lined avenue through Meijijingu Gaien. In 2007 all the urban gingko trees in Japan were counted and it turns out that there are 570 000 of these living fossils spread out over the country, the Icho Namiki being on of the most famous spots, mirrored in Osaka by the central Midosuji Boulevard. As most people who have been around gingko trees in the fall, when their fruit starts falling, it can be a very smelly place indeed. To avoid the problem of smell officials selected only male trees which bear no fruit for these special avenues and boulevards. Female trees are scattered all over Tokyo though, and much more popular than you’d think as the fruit can be harvested and turned into delicious snacks with the proper know-how. The gingko leaves are unique in that they are fan shaped, and have not changed in the 270 million years we have have managed to track them, at that time, the Permian, the ancestors to dinosaurs and mammals were probably munching on gingko leaves and fruit, making it one of the few food stuff that humans share with dinosaurs!

Right now in Tokyo the weather is fantastic, crisp cold air, brilliant sunshine and vivid colors. Even the last of the noisy summer insects have given up for the season and so the evenings are quiet again for the first time in many months. Many tourists visit Tokyo in the spring to enjoy the sakura. Why the wonderful yellow autumns aren’t more popular I have no idea! The Icho Namiki is easily accessible from Aoyama Ichome station, Gaienmae Station or the JR Shinanomachi station and it is yet to peak. Expect lots of people in the weekends.

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Shizuoka Blossoms – Shimoda City

Posted in Nature, Places, Special.T by tokyobling on July 23, 2013

In late March I went to the Izu peninsula west of Tokyo to photograph cherry blossoms for the Special.T campaign. I took these photos of cherry and plum blossoms as well as a fruit tree with what could possibly be yuzu or maybe bitter orange (which would explain the fact that they seem to be totally unmolested by the local kids). Izu is famous among cherry blossom chasers, the people who live for following the cherry blossoms blooming around the country, the reason being that these are the earliest blossoming trees on the Japanese mainland! Even in late March they were in full bloom only in this garden in Higashiizu City, in most other places they had already gone past full bloom and I was lucky to find these trees still in bloom, at the Inatori Onzen hot springs. There’s plenty of stuff to see and do in Higashiizu so I think I will be back there soon this year.

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