The leaves in Hiroshima change color about one month later than they do in Ohio. Last autumn we never really got a good look at the fall foliage during its peak. Around the time the leaves were in color in the city, we took a trip up north into the mountains to Sandankyo Gorge, only to discover that the leaves change a couple weeks earlier in the countryside. Guess it's a bit cooler. Then we took a trip to Miyajima, but due to some confusion we completely bypassed the park with all the colorful maple trees, and after taking the ropeway to the top of Mount Misen, the crowds were so thick that we couldn't get a ride back down until after dark, thereby missing all the scenery in the park.
Having learned from last year's experience, this year we were determined to do it right, and we did.
We took a trip up to Sandankyo on Nov. 9 and caught the park at the perfect time. It was a much better trip than last year, when it started thunderstorming as soon as we got off the bus, which made for a long, wet, very chilly trek to the waterfalls for which the area is named (san = 3; dan = step; kyou = waterfall). Though unlike last year, it was very, very crowded. There was a steady line of people hiking along the path in both directions. Sometimes that made it difficult to get good photos, but really I guess that was to be expected. As the Japanese like to say, "Shou ga nai." (It can't be helped.)
Since we wanted to catch the express bus home, Joe and I didn't have time to hike all the way to the waterfalls this time, but that was OK. We really just wanted to see the leaves. Very, very pretty.
Then this past Saturday we headed to Miyajima and met up with another JET friend and some of the girls in her English club. For a few of the girls, it was their first time to Miyajima, which I thought was odd. There's a world famous UNESCO World Heritage Sight practically in their backyard, and by high school they'd still never seen it? I guess it's not so uncommon. And really, when you think about it, how many big tourist attractions in our area back home are there that we were never in a rush to see? I mean, they're always there.
So first we paid an obligatory visit to the famous orange gate and the pagodas.
After stopping for lunch — oysters, the island's well known for them — we took a walk through Momijidani Koen (literally, "Japanese Maple Valley Park"). It didn't disappoint either, with lots of trees blazing brilliant orange and red.
So it was nice to get out and enjoy nature this month.
The only disappointment this year has been the trees in our neighborhood, which were butchered just as they started to turn a pretty gold. I came home one afternoon a couple weeks ago only to find a crew of Japanese guys swarming the trees lining the sidewalk between the train station and my house, hacking off every last limb. Horrified, I ran back to the apartment to retrieve my camera and then came back out to photograph them, much to their amusement.
The trees outside my house now look like they belong in a Hitchcock film. *tear*
I can only assume this severe pruning was necessary to prevent these trees from getting too big around the power lines, and the Japanese killed two birds with one stone by trimming them just before the leaves fell, thus eliminating the need for leaf pick-up. Trees along the streets look this way all around my area of the city now. Too bad.