Fall is a wonderful time of year in Japan, thanks to the incredible weather (albeit a little cold) and beautiful scenery. In Japanese there is even a specific word for autumn leaves... "koyo" (紅葉). This past Saturday I joined a few ladies from my church on a nice fall hike at Tsukuba Mountain to search for some koyo! Lucky for me, Tsukuba is towards the direction I live, so I didn't have to traverse too far to get there. Also, we were blessed with perfect hiking weather - clear blue skies and crisp air!! Thank you Lord!
We all met up in the morning at Tsukuba station and then took a bus up to the mountain. The bus ride took about 35-ish minutes and wasn't bad at all. The bus can take you to the Shrine at the base of the mountain, or to the start of one of the trains higher up (where we went). I was able to use my PASIMO and the bus was 700yen one way. I am always thankful for Japan's excellent public transit!!
At the start of our hike, we saw a small childrens amusement area...that had this FREE giant slide! So random, and so Japan.
We started the hike and it was pretty steep at first...just climbing over a bunch of rocks. Along the way, we saw this GIANT tree that had time stamps on it...saying it was over 2000 years old. YOWZA!
One of the most interesting things on the hike was the social atmosphere of it all. It was a Saturday morning, during peak "koyo" season, so there were a lot of people along the path. And since Japanese people are extremely active at all life stages, there were a lot of elderly people as well as children hiking the same path! It was so impressive. But since there were so many people, there were many moments when we all had to pause, wait in line, let the people coming down pass, and then move forward. It was this...silent understanding where everyone obeys the order without talking atmosphere that is so Japanese!!! Amazing.
Midway through the hike...about 40 minutes up...I started to see some beautiful leaves and an awesome view!
After...an hour and a half or so? (I kind of lost count hah!) we made it to the summit. What a view!
This particular summit (theres also a few other peaks) was super narrow so we all had to take turns walking up to the overhang and seeing the view. But, since this is Japan, everyone was so polite and proper...cheerfully obeying the unspoken rule of - take your photo quickly and move so others can come.
After that, we walked another 10 minutes to another peak...the bigger one that the rope way takes people to. There we found an oasis of snack booths and omiage shops! Also, I came to find out that Tsukuba is famous for this "frog oil" that has a whole story behind it of how it's good luck and heals people. So they had frogs everywhere! And these tiny gold one you're supposed to put in your wallet to bring you more fortune.
There is also a famous type of storytelling that happens at the top of the mountain, usually by an older ojisan (uncle). He usually tells the story of the frog oil with great passion and drama! The baseball team members that were there were very entertained.
At this mountain top oasis they had dango!!! (aka mochi... aka rice cakes) This type of dango was smothered in miso paste with walnuts in it...so good!!!
We enjoyed a restful lunch at the top of Tsukuba san...and then headed down around 1pm, in search of more koyo!!
The hike down took about an hour...and towards the bottom I started to see some color pop through the trees and I was getting so excited...EEEEKKKKKK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We finally arrived at the base of the mountain, where Tsukuba Shrine is...and we entered KOYO (AUTUMN LEAVES) PARADISE!!!! fo real...LOOK....
**insert all the HEART EYE emojis!!!**
The Californian in me was just in complete and utter awe. One of the ladies I was with even asked me, "oh wow Amie, is this your first time seeing leaves in Japan?" and I was like..."no, I've been here two years haha! I just..can never get used to this beauty!!"
We followed the road down that lead to the main shrine...and the entire path was lined with the most pigmented trees you will ever see! The brightest red, yellow, and orange on earth. Is God an incredible creator or what!?
We soon realized that we could have just taken the bus to the shrine and seen the foliage without having to do the hike...but I almost feel like the hike made it that much more worth it in the end!
And of course...there was a group of elderly people doing their proper post-hike stretching in complete unison. Amazing!!
And that folks...is Tsukuba mountain for you. A wonderful place of natural beauty and incredible fall leaves!! I was so grateful to spend the day with ladies from my church. It was a blessing to chat with them along the way and appreciate what our creator has created for us to enjoy! God has blessed me richly in my life here in Japan...with the people I get to spend time with, the experiences I get to have, and the views I get to see. AMEN!!