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Written by: Michael Barbic
Date: 2011/10/04

Fall is steadily progressing with temperatures dropping below freezing and more and more leaves changing color every day. Kamikōchi is starting to fill up with visitors again with loads of Japanese tourists keen on seeing one of Japan's most popular destinations at this time of year. Only one thing is on their minds, and that is seeing the changing colors.

I can't say that I've ever met a non-Japanese person so crazy about seeing leaves turn colors. Back home in America, it was just a common sight to see grand, old oak trees fade in color as September/October came around. I guess this Japanese craze must have to do with the fact that many people here spend the majority of their lives pent up in cities with little or no connection to nature. For them, a trip out to nature is a real treat. With that said, however, seeing the fall colors in Kamikōchi really is one of the best places to see them. And with the mountains soon to be dusted with snow, the scenery is only going to get better. This really is the time of year I long for the most -- well this time and winter, of course. After all, I need my snow.

Hiroha-Hebi-Noborazu (Japanese Barberry Bush) Turning Red

Above, this hiroha-hebi-noborazu (Japanese barberry bush) has begun to turn red. This bush is covered in sharp thorns reflected by its name, which literally means that snakes are unable to climb it. 

Next, standing out amongst the crowd of green, this harunire (Japanese elm) has turned beautiful shades of red and orange.

Harunire (Japanese Elm) Standing Out

With cherry trees being quick to change color, this uwa-mizu-zakura (Japanese bird cherry) below, as well as other miyama-zakura and takane-zakura, have started turning colors now.

Uwa-Mizu-Zakura (Japanese Bird Cherry) Changing Colors

Last, this purple-leaved ōkame no ki (viburnum shrub) is a unique sight. Usually when people think of this season, red, orange, yellow, and brown come to mind. While some people might think of purple, usually it remains a color only imagined when actually seen.

Ookame no Ki (Viburnum Shrub) Turning Purple

From here on out, the leaves in Kamikōchi are going to continue to change and start falling soon. At Dakesawa, roughly half of the trees have already changed in color. So, it is only a matter of weeks until tree branches become barren. With the green still left in the forests mixing with the changing colors, some might say that now is the most beautiful time to see Kamikōchi.

And while tourists are once again growing in numbers, don't let that keep you from experiencing the beauty of the season. A bit further of a walk into the mountains will reward you with a much less crowded path and more peaceful time. This is also going to be your last chance at doing any climbing until spring, so get up high while you still can and while there is still some color left up there. You might even get a chance to see some great snowy scenery mixed in with the fall colors. That would guarantee some pictures to write home about. I don't know if it gets much better than that...

 

Source of Information:

- Kamikōchi National Park Guide Website (http://npg-alps.net/)