Cherry Blossoms & Autumn Leaves of Yamanouchi
Anyone who lives in or has visited Japan will know that spring and autumn are exceptionally beautiful times of year.
The weather is pleasantly warm, skies are typically big and blue, while two stunning occurrences capture hearts and imaginations – the cherry blossoms of spring and changing leaves of autumn.
Yamanouchi is a fantastic place to witness both! Here are our tips of where to see the blossoms and leaves at their best:
CHERRY BLOSSOMS / April
Known as ‘sakura’, the cherry blossoms of spring are truly beautiful and wandering below the pink and white canopy of delicate flowers is perhaps the quintessential Japanese experience.
Yamanouchi’s higher elevation means that the bloom is later most other areas, typically occurring from the first or second week of April onward.
Notable spots to see the blossoms in Yamanouchi include the ‘Kodaizakura’ which is estimated to be over 850-years of age yet retains a glorious bloom each spring – pictured above with map. One of several historic trees located in the Uki Ward of Yamanouchi, the trees in this area are best accessed by car or taxi, and once there explore the area on-foot.
Within easier walking distance of Yudanaka Onsen and Shibu Onsen, the area around Daihiden Temple and its celebrated World Peace Kannon is also known for its impressive bloom.
A short walk from either town, visitors in spring should make sure to head to the temple to enjoy the blossoms and learn the history of the Kannon. The towns of Yudanaka and Shibu run along the Yomase River, another notable spot for enjoying the cherry blossoms.
Trees run along lengths of the river, best enjoyed on-foot or by bicycle and can be easily spotted by simply walking to the river and heading toward the canopies of white and pink. Finally, the road leading through Kanbayashi Onsen to the monkey park also boasts some impressive trees, typically blooming in late-April due to the higher elevation of the village and the park.
The best trees around located in the lower areas of Kanbayashi, around Hotarutei – a popular restaurant housed in a 160-year old converted mansion – and surrounding the nearby guesthouses. For more information and suggestions, please see our ‘Cherry Blossoms’ page.
AUTUMN LEAVES / October to November
Known as ‘koyo’, the leaves of autumn are cherished by many Japanese and seeking them out is something of a national pastime. Typically occurring from October to November – depending on the location and weather conditions that year – Yamanouchi is home to some beautiful koyo spots including Kanbayashi Onsen, Shiga Kogen and Kita-Shiga Kogen.
While the monkey park doesn’t have a huge number of trees which turn in colour, there are some spectacular autumn leaves as you move through Kanbayashi Onsen – as the photo below shows – toward the park trail.
Around the midpoint of Kanbayashi Onsen, Enza Cafe has mixed indoor and outdoor seating including a large terrace – one of the best spots to sit and enjoy the stunning ‘momiji’ that rises above.
Enza serves a delicious seasonal menu of meals, snacks and drinks which combined with the stunning leaves overhead, entices guests to sit, relax and enjoy the best of Kanbayashi in autumn. Of course, throughout the area, there are also some beautiful individual trees including in the towns of Yudanaka and Shibu.
For the best autumn leaves in Yamanouchi, make sure to head to Shiga Kogen – one of Nagano’s best known koyo spots. Shiga can be easily reached using local buses or a taxi, and once there, is best explore on-foot.
The area is vast and spread over varying elevations, meaning that the leaves will be at their best at different times; and though being at its most beautiful, Shiga is likely to be quiet – a beautiful and tranquil place to enjoy Japan’s beautiful autumn leaves. For the best views, head to either of Shiga’s ropeways – Higashidateyama or Yokoteyama – or the area around Biwaike (Biwa Pond) – as pictured above with map above. Nearby Kita-Shiga Kogen is also blessed with some stunning leaves which can be enjoyed using the Skyland Express Ropeway.
Rising above the clouds, the ropeway ascends to an observation deck, cafe and walking trails from where visitors can enjoy some of Nagano’s best autumn leaves. Hiking Shiga and Kita-Shiga in autumn and enjoying one of its three ropeways is an ideal way to enjoy the leaves, while savouring the view from the cafes at the top of each.
Quite simply, visitors to Yamanouchi in autumn will experience Nagano and Central Japan at its most beautiful. For more information and suggestions, please see our ‘Autumn Leaves in Nagano’ page.