Icho Namiki and Todoroki Valley

Autumn has been a long time coming in 2019, but its arrival has coincided with the annual changing of the leaves. The Kanto region is blessed with an abundance of majestic autumn leaf viewing spots, and I have had the opportunity to visit most of these places over the past four years. For my fourth autumn in Kanto, I have endeavored to visit some new places, such as Todoroki Valley, which I ventured into last weekend.

I had previously visited the area last summer, and, to be honest, I wasn’t overly impressed with it at that time. It struck me as being no more distinguished than the area around the local creek near my parents’ home in Melbourne. I had heard that it showed its true colors in the autumn, though, so my expectations were higher this time around. I would have to say that, despite the gloomy weather on the day, those expectations were met.

The most impressive area of Todoroki Valley in autumn is the hillside temple known as Todoroki Fudoson. The balcony area of this temple is lined with a number of traditional Japanese lanterns, together with autumn leaves in close proximity to the balcony. The combination of the leaves and the lanterns captures the essence of autumn in Japan in its serenity and stillness. The grounds of the temple also feature stately ginkgo trees, whose leaves fall onto the roof of the temple in an almost Zen-like manner.

In contrast, the other destination that I headed to last weekend has become a perennial favorite spot of mine in autumn. Icho Namiki (or Ginkgo Avenue) is located near Aoyama-Itchome station in central Tokyo, and, as its name suggests, is an avenue lined with an impressive series of ginkgo trees. Fortunately, on this occasion, the light was perfect for photography. It was at sunset, when the warm, golden hues of the trees are enhanced immeasurably by the sunlight. The location affords many possibilities for photography, from wide-angle perspectives of the whole avenue, to otherworldly close-ups of a narrower range of trees. Oddly enough, the place that Icho Namiki most reminds me of is my hometown of Melbourne. Perhaps it is because the street itself doesn’t have any uniquely Japanese characteristics, and because Melbourne too, boasts some lovely autumn leaf viewing spots.

All in all, I feel that last weekend’s autumn leaf-viewing expedition was productive in terms of its photographic returns, and it was mentally soothing for the soul. Icho Namiki was busier in terms of pedestrian traffic, but didn’t feel overwhelming, while Todoroki Valley was a model of tranquility. Autumn in Japan is about more than just viewing and photographing autumn leaves, though. There is an atmosphere at this time of the year that evokes peacefulness and beauty, and it can literally make all of your cares dissolve in an instant. The only other time of the year that has a similar atmosphere is the spring. Autumn 2019 may have been a long time coming, but it was worth the wait.



serenity (noun) – a feeling of being calm or peaceful
perennial (adj) – always existing, or never seeming to change
all in all (idiom) – all things considered; on the whole
soothing (adj) – making you feel more calm and relaxed
evoke (verb) – to bring a particular emotion or memory into your mind