Tokyo may still be green, but in the Yamanashi highlands autumn’s koyo fall colours are on full display. 

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As I mentioned in my last post, we’ve had a record hot and long summer here in Tokyo and region. Until a couple of weeks ago, I still sported quick-dry, ultra-light t-shirts during the day. After one last, record-breaking gasp of summer, however, on Saturday, October 12th, when the day’s high hit 31, we’ve settled into seasonal averages and the promise of autumn’s cooler temps – great for spending time out of doors! – and a gentle (?) decline into winter…

Autumn may still be new to Tokyo, but in the highlands of Yamanashi prefecture a couple of hours north, the area around the Yatsugatake mountains is already a tossed koyo salad of autumn greens, yellows, oranges, and reds.

R. and I made the trip this weekend, spending the night at a pension in nearby Oizumi but our days in and around the resort town of Kiyosato.

Of course, being so close to Tokyo, the area is choked with tourists bumping fenders and piling off buses in oblivious swarms of silver hair and high end camera equipment.

To make matters worse, Typhoon Wipha, which blew through the area a few weeks ago, has left several forest and riverside trails flooded.

Still, according to the master-san at our pension, 2013 is the best autumn leaves season in several years; the views around Higashizawa ohashi bridge, where many of these pictures were taken, bear that out.

And not all the trails are flooded: the paths through Utsukushii no Mori, “Beautiful Forest”, are damp and choked with sa-sa bamboo grass, but make for a relatively easy uphill bash to an observatory at 1542 meters with a great view of Yatsugatake.

From the observatory, there is apparently a trail to the top of Akadake, the highest of Yatsugatake’s eight major peaks. bornplaydie.com posts a trip report

… The Story of How Yatsugatake Got Its Eight Peaks, as imagined by me

Mukashi, mukashi

Once upon a time, Mount Fuji was not the tallest mountain in Japan: Her older  sister Yatsugatake challenged Fuji for that honour.

One day, the two mountain goddesses got into a dispute over which was taller.

The Amitabha Buddha, who had been watching the dispute, placed a gutter between the two and put water in it. When the water ran from Yatsugatake to Fuji, proving the former was taller, the latter become so enraged she literally blew her top, knocking Yatsugatake’s summit into eight lower summits.

And that is why, to this day, Fujisan is the tallest mountain in Japan, and Yatsugatake has not one but eight summits on her broad shoulders.

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