I would like to introduce and recommend the best places for autumn colors viewing in Kyoto.
I have my 3 top places. They are 3 temples, located in the slopes of the mountains surrounding the city. My personal criteria is the abundance of maple trees, huge variety of colors and multiple variations of contrasts. In addition the buildings and the gardens add the taste of the traditional Japan.
No. 3. Yokokuji temple. Located in the West mountains of Kyoto. There is no public transportation to Yokokuji. If you don’t have a car and you don’t feel like paying for a taxi, but like me prefer walking and saving money, then take a bus from Nagaoka station and then from its last bus stop walk up slope for about 40-60 min. I visited Yokokuji on November 25, 2012 and the fact that it is so distant and little known was very favorable because there were very few people compared to all super crowded famous temples in the town.
No. 2. Komyoji temple. Again from Nagaoka station there is a bus that stops literally in front of the temple. There are even non-stop shuttle buses in the season.
Getting more and more famous for the autumn colors, this temple gets crowded in the peak of the season. People line before the entrance 1-2 hours before the opening to get the chance to shoot the empty alley and the gate with celebration decoration. But even if you cannot be there that early, the temple will stun you with its multi color corridor of maples. During the autumn viewing season the temple also opens its inner part with a zen garden, other time closed for the public. That is why I even more recommend visiting this place in the autumn. And again, the variety and the contrasts of colors are so amazing, that when I went for the first time I kept saying to myself that Kyoto is the most beautiful town in the World! It was on the same day, November 25, 2012 in the morning, before going later to Yokokuji. Here the photographers are many! I could experiment with the aperture mode and some of the bokeh pictures got very unusual colors.
No. 1. Maybe no one will be surprised – it is Eikando temple in the Eastern parts of Kyoto. The access to it, compared to the previous 2 temples, is much much easier – just a 15-min walk from Keage station of the Tozai line subway. Quite near to other hot sightseeing spots – Heyan shrine and Nanzenji temple. I first heard that Eikando has a huge variety of autumn colors 2 or 3 years ago, but I visited it just last year with a friend who is also a keen photographer and we just took everything we could from this temple! Surprisingly the peak in Eikando comes way earlier (or maybe it was just the autumn last year). We went there on November 15, 2014. It was AWESOME! The colors and their brightness were dazzling! The roofs and other elements of the architecture were blending so prettily with the leaves and finally – the pond and the stunning view of the bridge! Definitely it was the best autumn viewing in Kyoto!