In the spring the Japanese go out to admire sakura (cherry blossoms) and in the autumn they go out to admire koyo (autumn leaves). In the Netherlands we also have four seasons, so I’m familiar with autumn leaves, but I’m mostly familiar with the leaves’ ability to turn into a dangerous slippery mass after some autumn rain and have never really stopped to admire the colors of the leaves still on the trees. So when Yasu told me about this popular Japanese pastime this year, I was eager to try it. The best place to do it is Kyoto, and we’ve been wanting to go since October. We’ve had to postpone our leaves admiring session several times though, the first couple of weekend because the leaves simply hadn’t turned red yet, then Yasu had a couple of business trips to Tokyo, and just last week it was pouring rain, but today we finally got to admire some red, orange and yellow leaves!
We went to Nanzenji (at least that’s what we believed the whole time we were there, but I just found out we actually ended up at Eikando Zenrinji, which is right next to Nanzenji on the map), some temple in Kyoto with a whopping ¥1000 entrance fee which was a little waste of money because we never even entered the temple or its pagoda, because we were just there for the leaves. And even though it’s Monday, it was still super crowded everywhere, especially on the city buses (which is the way to get around Kyoto city), I thought people would be busy at work today. But thankfully, huge masses of people didn’t take away from the beauty of huge masses of colorful leaves.
Somewhere on the temple grounds we discovered a lovely little outside eatery, where Yasu decided to teach me something about traditional Japanese desserts.
We had some zenzai, warabi mochi and of course complimentary hot ryokucha, if you have no idea what all of this is, here’s a video of Yasu explaining everything to me:
The desserts were interesting and not bad, but not great enough for me to eat much more than you just saw in the video. Before all the autumn and dessert excitement we had some brunch at a tiny restaurant in front of the temple. We chose that place as there really wasn’t another decent choice, but mostly because they served a special Kyoto dish, nishin soba. Which is a bowl of hot soup with buckwheat noodles and herring. But not raw herring, like we love to eat in the Netherlands, but herring cooked in some way that made it taste sweet and salty. I’m not sure if my description makes it sound delicious or disgusting, but it actually tasted very good and we were both disappointed at the small amount of noodles in the bowl.
It was a sunny day, and the colors of the leaves were beautiful, but the leaves were already starting to die and many had already fallen from the trees. So we were a little late in the koyo season, I can only imagine how stunning the autumn sceneries were last week.