Yoriko Inakazu at The Nippon Club, Sept. 6, 2007

A special reception and opening exhibition was hosted last evening at The Nippon Club for Yoriko Inakazu. The exhibition title is known as “Harmonizing Traditional Japanese Painting with Contemporary Aesthetics.” The paintings themselves are quite large and have many layers to them.She paints with gold and silver on linen paper. A friend of mine mentioned how Asian art is more two-dimensional than Western art and you can see this style is noticeable in her paintings. In her paintings, she makes use of very little warm colors. The backgrounds include a black, gray and blue with a charging dash of color. I was most impressed that her paintings were on linen paper. The roughness to spread the paint gives it a raw and natural feel. The exhibition continues for another week, so pop in during lunch or after work.

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Translator and Ms. Inakazu’s artwork
A pair of water lily paintings in the background

Date: 09/05/07 – 09/14/07
Time: 10 am – 6 pm (Closed on Sunday)
Location: The Nippon Gallery
145 West 57th Street New York NY 10019
(Between 6th & 7th Ave.)
Contact: info@nipponclub.org/212-581-2223
More info: http://nipponclub.org/upcomingevents.php#100

T. Ishizuka

 

Futuristic A-Typical Kimono Fabric Costumes

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I enjoyed participating in the opening reception for Ms. Naruo’s design last night at the Nippon Club. The clothing emphasizes geometric stitching and the materials are of very good quality, including silk and more. I felt a new pop and a traditional Japanese sense from her artwork. Moreover, one could try these dresses at the Gallery, which is a great opportunity for anyone to view this exhibition!

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Shuka Naruo in green dress

Details about the exhibition:

Capa Wearable Art Alluring kimono fabric costumes by Shuka Naruo
For two decades, Ms. Naruo has been making unique articles of clothing from kimono fabrics that are not only beautiful in color, but are also light-weight, exquisitely assembled and seasonally versatile. Her innovative approach to sewing is considered cutting edge in the clothing industry and presents a whole new level of creative contribution to the design world.

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Sample dress

Date: 09/20/07 – 09/26/07
Time: 10 am – 6 pm (10 am- 2 pm on the 26th / Closed on Sunday)
Location: The Nippon Gallery
Contact: info@nipponclub.org/212-581-2223

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Artwork portfolio

M. Fujiwara

Museum Paradise in Ito

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Dresses made of Kimono fabric at Izu Glass & Craft Museum

I first read James Clavell’s Shogun more than 20 years ago, so I’m rereading it out of curiosity, now that I know much more about Japanese history than I did back then. I’ve finished about one-third of the hefty novel’s 1,000-some pages, and I still find it fascinating for its depiction of life in Japan at the brink of the Edo Period. Its fictional characters are loosely based on real people and real events, including Englishman William Adams, who shipwrecked on Japan’s coast in 1600. Captured by local villagers and turned over to Tokugawa Ieyasu-the man who would become shogun-Adams went on to build Japan’s first western-style sailing ship in a village called Ito, on Izu Peninsula’s east coast. Adopting the Japanese name Miura Anjin-san and marrying a Japanese, this first Englishman ever to reach Japan remained in his adopted country for the rest of his life. I was in Ito a few months ago. It’s a pretty hamlet, hemmed in on one side by steeply wooded mountains and on the other side by the rocky Jogasaki Coast. Blessed with abundant hot springs and a pleasant beach, it has a lush, tropical atmosphere, with palm trees and flowering bushes that come as a surprise so close to Tokyo, less than two hours away. But what makes this town of 75,000 inhabitants especially unique is its astonishing number of private museums-more than 30 of them. I don’t think I could come up with a more bizarre collection of museums even if I tried.

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Izu’s famous Jogasaki Coast

I love going to museums, and one of the oldest and most well known in Ito is the Ikeda Museum of 20th Century Art, which opened in 1975 and boasts an impressive collection of mostly Western artists, including Warhol, Picasso, Renior, Willem de Kooning, Miro, Kokoschka, Matisse, and Chagall.

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Warhol’s Marilyn at Ikeda Museum

My personal favorite is probably the Izu Glass & Craft Museum, with an exquisite collection of Art Nouveau and Art Deco decorative arts, including figurines, vases, perfume bottles, jewelry and more by artists like Galle, Lalique, Tiffany, Erte, and Daum. All were influenced by the Japonism craze that swept through the Western world in the late 19th century, apparent in the frequent use of dragonflies, water lilies, orchids, and other Asian motifs. Van Gogh produced several paintings that closely mirror Japanese woodblock artists like Utagawa Hiroshige, Galle used one of Japanese illustrator Hokusai’s carp drawings for his relief of a carp in a glass vase, and Vuitton’s famous monograms are said to resemble crests used by Japanese feudal clans. The museum also exhibits Western clothes that show strong Japanese influences, such as cocktail dresses made from the cloth of a kimono.

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Izu Glass & Craft Museum

Art lovers can also take in the Izu Lake Ippeki Museum with works by Jean-Pierre Cassigneaul, the Izu Kogen Ceramic Glass Art Museum with Chinese works, the Izu Lake Ippeki Museum of Perfume with early-20th-century American and European perfume bottles, the Bohemian Glass Museum, the Brian Wild Smith Museum with original pictures and books including Mother Goose, the African Art Gallery, and the Antique Jewelry Museum with Victorian brooches, rings, and more.

There are also special-interest museums galore, including those dedicated to the teddy bear, dolls, music boxes and automatic musical instruments, stained glass, antique clocks, ammonites, cats, bird carvings, antique tin toys, clocks, and angels. There’s a wax museum sporting the likenesses of the Beatles, Charlie Chaplin, presidents Lincoln and Clinton, Jesus and his apostles at the last supper, the Japanese Imperial family, former prime minister Koizumi, and baseball star Suzuki Ichiro.

But the weirdest museum of them all has to be the Ayashi Shonen Shojo Hakubutsukan, which translates loosely as the Mysterious Boys and Girls Museum. With a name like that, how could you not go? It’s packed to the rafters with a zillion items relating to Japanese and Western pop culture, including toys from World War II to the present, a Godzilla collection, clothing, sports memorabilia, album covers (from the Monkeys to Elvis), games, Marilyn Monroe dolls, oddities like a two-headed calf, dolls with a penchant for bondage and S&M (I am not making this up), and a house of horrors that is more grotesque than anything I have ever seen.

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Mysterious Boys & Girls Museum

All of which brings me back, in a roundabout way, to Shogun. Back in the days of William Adams and Shogun Tokugawa, it was fear of Western imperialism that prompted the shogunate government to outlaw the Christian religion and close Japan’s doors to outsiders for more than 250 years. Obviously, the ploy didn’t work in the long run, and global cultural exchange is so prevalent, that no one thinks twice about ordering sushi in Kansas or the ironic fact that almost all of Ito’s museums house collections of things Western.

As for Anjin-san, there’s a memorial dedicated to him at the mouth of Ito’s Matsukawa River, not far from where Adams built his ships. You can’t help but wonder what he or Tokugawa would think, if they came back to Japan today.

The Exhibition of Ei Kawakita in New York City

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Translator and Mr. Kawakita

October 18th, 2007 was the opening reception to Mr. Kawakita’s painting exhibition “Mu- On Space and Nothingness.” He has been an architect for many years, but has found a deep connection with architecture and painting. Most of his artwork comprises of spheres in the colors of black and white.

 

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Mr. Kawakita’s architectural buildings from his portfolio

As shown above in his portfolio, his architecture includes very modern design and simple straight lines. It was interesting to see the contrast of spheres in his paintings and lines in his structures.? It was impressive to see in his exhibition the perfect circles he created by thick brushes.

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Opening night for Mr. Kwakita’s exhibition at the Nippon Club

If you would like to read a more through introduction of his work, visit http://nipponclub.org/upcomingevents.php. His exhibition takes place 10/18/07 – 10/27/07 at the Nippon Club located mid-town.

Time: 10 am – 6 pm (Closed on Sunday)
Location: The Nippon Gallery, 145 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10019 (Between 6th & 7th Avenue)
Fee: Free
Contact: info@nipponclub.org/212-581-2223

T.I.

The Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO) Captured Alternatively

The Japan National Tourist Organization’s (JNTO) presence in an alternative fashion was captured at 60 Pier, Chelsea Piers in New York, Thursday November 1, 2007. JNTO was invited as a guest to The American Diabetes Association/Live the Good Life Gala 2007, where many sponsors and members gathered together to fundraise. The Association provided an entertainment theme of “Come Explore Seven Regions of the World.” Below are photos of dancers performing with music from around the globe. At the end of the evening, red goody bags were distributed, where JNTO donated 600 Yokoso! Japan pocket tissues (Yokoso means Welcome).

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Saeko Ichinohe (Japan)
Artistic Director/Choreographer
SAEKO ICHINOHE DANCE COMPANY
Website http://www.ichinohedance.org

A trio danced to Indian music after Japan’s kiku dance.
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Irish dance (Ireland)

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Salsa (South America)
To view a Youtube video of the salsa performance, click here.

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Belly dancing (Middle East)

The finale included African music with two various types of drums and two female dancers.

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The dinner after the multicultural dances.

T.I.

Japan’s Hippest Island

It was a bit disconcerting, being led to a bench in a pitch-black room and being told to sit there, wait, and let my eyes adjust until I could see. So I sat there for five minutes, maybe ten, worrying I’d be the first person in the history of this room who failed to see anything at all, when I finally made out a faint glow that gradually, ever so slowly, grew into an entire wall of light at the far end of the room. I was amazed I hadn’t seen it before, and when I was told I could get up and touch it, I groped my way across the room, arms outstretched, until I bumped into a rail barrier that prevented me from going any further, leaving me grasping nothing but thin air.

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Now this was an art installation with attitude! And it was only the beginning of a day on Naoshima, an island in the Seto Inland Sea that’s devoted to cutting-edge contemporary art and architecture that lifts visitors out of the ordinary and propels them on a journey of discovery. As a precursor perhaps of contemporary art to come, Naoshima eschews the confines of the usual museum experiencs: spectators looking passively at paintings on a wall, in favor of installations that provoke thought and demand participation. Known as the Benesse Art Site Naoshima, it offers two striking museums, interactive installations housed in traditional buildings, and outdoor sculptures spread throughout the island in a combination of beauty both natural and manmade.My experience described above took place in Minamidera, one of four commissioned, permanent Art House Projects, which team artists with traditional architecture. Designed by renowned architect Tadao Ando, Minamidera is a starkly simple building of blackened cedar (a traditional method for preventing fire and infestation) constructed to house James Turrell’s Backside of the Moon. Kadoya, a 200-year-old farmhouse, contains a darkened room with an installation by Tatsuo Miyajima, who designed a shallow pool with 125 submerged colored numbers that blink on and off at various frequencies, each one representing a human life and controlled by an islander who determines the number’s lifespan. Go’o Jinja is an Edo-era shrine that has been transformed by Hiroshi Sugimoto with the addition of glass stairs and a narrow underground passageway that leads to a traditional tomb-like room. At Kinzo, a 200-year-old house remodeled by Rei Naito, visitors are allowed in individually (by reservation only) at 15-minute intervals so they can appreciate the building’s rebirth as an artwork.

Naoshima’s role as an art mecca began with the 1992 opening of Benesse House, a concrete structure designed by Ando and developed by the Benesse Corporation, an educational company based in Okayama. Perched on a hill with commanding views of the Seto Inland Sea, it contains an exclusive hotel, cafÊ, restaurant, and works both inside and out by Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Stella, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and others. At Cai Guo-Qiang’s outdoor Cultural Melting Bath, lined with rocks imported from China and boasting excellent Feng Shui, visitors can bathe in herbal waters while taking in the view (bathing suites and reservations required).

Benesse House was joined in 2004 by the Chichu Art Museum, also designed by Ando. Reached via a pathway that skirts a pond and garden reminiscent of Monet’s garden at Giverny, the museum is again concrete, this one with circular passageways and various levels leading to only a few carefully chosen installations that occupy an entire room. In a room designed by Walter De Maria, a huge granite ball on a flight of stairs seems ready to roll at any minute and provides a focal point for gold-leafed bars occupying the church-like space. There are also several more works by Turrell, including Open Sky, set in a roofless courtyard and open for sunset viewings on weekends.But for me, the highlight remains Minamidera, where, you might say, I finally saw the light.

photo credit: Telstar Logistics via photopin cc

Kurokawa Onsen

Kurokawa Onsen is a quintessential hot-spring town in central Kyushu, approximately a 90-minute drive from Kumamoto Airport. Having traveled extensively throughout Japan, I can truly say that my visit to Kurokawa was one of my most memorable stays.

What makes Kurokawa Onsen unique is its traditional atmosphere and abundance of nice, traditional ryokan inns. During our visit, we stayed at Noshiyu, which is one of the best-value inns that I have had the pleasure of staying at in Japan. Beautiful architecture, wonderful service and excellent food make it one of my all-time favorites.

Unlike most Japanese onsen towns that are dominated by concrete structures, Kurokawa, with its beautiful wooden buildings and earthen walls, is reminiscent of a bygone era. Dressed in lightweight yukata kimono, we strolled through the town and along the river that runs through it, stopping at whichever inns struck our fancy to enjoy their soothing baths.

Kurokawa is known for its abundance of picturesque rotenburo outdoor baths, and I was not disappointed. Visitors are encouraged to enjoy the various inns’ bathing spots, and the process is made easy through the use of a pass, which allows bathers access to three inns of their choice.

Winter is an ideal time to visit Kurokawa Onsen, as the cool, crisp Kyushu air, together with a relaxing outdoor bath in a delightful environment, will make for an unforgettable trip.

Philip Rosenfeld

Day Tripping: Cool off at Tokyo Area Water Parks

If you find yourself in Tokyo during the summer months, chances are you will experience firsthand what it feels like to bake and drown simultaneously, thanks to the high heat and humidity. Fortunately, Tokyo offers a plethora of refreshingly cool getaways right in the heart of the city to help you keep your cool amidst the blistering heat. The weather is hot and water cool; why not take a dive?

Tokyo Summerland

Situated in western Tokyo, Summerland is a waterpark cum amusement park sprawling over an expansive 100 acres. A large portion of the park is located indoors, allowing visitors to escape the mugginess even on rainy days. Tokyo’s longest lazy river is located here, where you can float to your heart’s content over 2132 winding feet. The park is ideal for both families and adults, filled with attractions to delight children and chill out spots and thrilling waterslides for older crowds.

From Shinjuku, take the Keio line to Keio Hachioji Station. From there, take a bus out of the number 3 terminal. The trip takes about 60 minutes.

Spa LaQua

Spa LaQua sits in the heart of Tokyo. It is  conveniently located next to one of the largest amusement parks in Tokyo, Tokyo Dome City, making it the perfect place to soothe feet and psyche exhausted from walking through throngs of people all day. Offering a multitude of therapeutic hot baths and saunas, LaQua has a remedy for all types of fatigue, ensuring a truly relaxing experience. Be sure to check out the Doctor Fish, a unique ichthyotherapeutic experience. LaQua caters to young adults and older crowds, as it lacks any conventional waterpark type attractions, and instead, offers a deeply relaxing atmosphere.

Located minutes from anywhere in central Tokyo. Closest stations are Suidobashi (Chuo and Sobu lines) and Korakuen (Marunouchi and Nanboku lines) Stations. Open 11:00am to 9:00am daily (22 hours).

Toshimaen 

Toshimaen is an amusement park in northern Tokyo that boasts both a full scale theme park and waterpark. With 26 waterslides and 6 different pools, including a full Olympic sized lap pool, the waterpark in itself is a complete day trip. You can even take a dip with life-sized robotic dolphins in one of the pools. What’s more, a theme park sure to satisfy any adrenaline junkie, complete with three exhilarating roller coasters and two haunted houses, is located on the grounds. Families with children and adults alike are sure to have a blast at Toshimaen.

A 15 minute train ride from Ikebukuro. Take the Seibu Ikebukuro line and get off at Toshimaen Station.

Poolside (and seaside!) at Oiso Long Beach

Poolside (and seaside!) at Oiso Long Beach.

Oiso Long Beach

Located in Kanagawa away from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, Oiso Long Beach is a waterpark located right on a beachfront. Visitors can indulge in breathtaking views of the horizon while simultaneously enjoying the thrills and conveniences of a waterpark. You can experience the adrenaline rush of leaping off an Olympic sized diving board or hurtling down a waterslide, then unwind with a drink in a spacious Jacuzzi. The park is ideal for families, as it features various children’s attractions, and for adults, there are plenty of lounging spaces available. A hotel sits on park grounds making overnight stays possible.

Take the Tokaido Honsen from Shinagawa to Oiso Station. Take the #13 bus bound for Nishikoen, and get off at Nakamaru. The park is a short walk from there. The entire trip takes 2 hours. Also, between July 6th and September 16th, a special shuttle bus will operate between Oiso Station and and Oiso Long Beach.

NOTICE: Attitudes towards tattoos vary in Japanese culture. Some establishments may ask you to leave if they spot a tattoo on you. It is highly advised to cover up if you have a tattoo.

photo credit: redpopaccidents via photopin cc
photo credit: murozo via Compfight cc

Climbing Mount Fuji 101

Mount Fuji, the iconic 3776 meter active volcano a stone’s throw from Tokyo, is arguably the most celebrated landmark in Japan. With over 300,000 people climbing her summit during the summer months, Mt Fuji thrives on the Japanese proverb “A wise man will climb Mt Fuji once; a fool will climb Mt Fuji twice.” And with UNESCO’s recent designation of Mount Fuji as a World Heritage site, many wise men (and women!) are making the trek up Japan’s most iconic mountain.

When to Climb

An estimated 30% of climbers are foreign; you are not alone in wanting to climb this national icon. The official season is from July 1st to August 31st; the trails are most crowded on weekends and during the peak climbing season of August 5th to 15th. Furthermore, rainy weather and high winds can shut down entire trails, so pick your day carefully.

Mount Fuji Summer Climb

Summertime greenery surrounds Mount Fuji.

What to Bring

Hiking boots
Gloves
Sunscreen, Sunglasses, and a hat
Shell jacket, rain poncho, and other layers
1-2 liters of water, food, and snacks
Headlamp or flashlight
Walking stick
Money for toilet paper, food, bus tickets, and beverages
Even during the hot and humid summer months, nightly temperatures at the top of Mt Fuji hover can hit below freezing.

Popular Routes

The most popular route for climbing Mt Fuji is the Yoshida Guchi trail, which stretches from the Kawaguchiko Gogome 5th station to the summit. This 15km trail takes about 6 hours to ascend and 3 hours to descend, with separate and clearly market ascending and descending trails. On weekends and national holidays, the Yoshida Guchi trail will be congested with travelers, making it difficult to climb at your own pace.

Most climbers use this route to watch the sunrise overt the summit. You can break the Yoshida Guchi trail into two sections, resting from the late afternoon to the early morning at one of the many mountain huts in the 7th or 8th station.

To get to the Kawaguchiko Gogome 5th station, take the Keio Express bus from Shinjuku. Busses depart from Shinjuku at 7:40am and 9:40am daily; busses depart from the 5th Station at 1:00pm and 3:00pm daily. To reserve a ticket, click here.

The route to the summit of Mount Fuji

“In the clouds” on the way to the summit of Mount Fuji.

Mountain Huts and Lodging Options

The mountain huts on the 7th and 8th stations of Mt Fuji provide the most basic lodgings, which is often just a shared space on the floor. The mountain huts are far from luxurious and run between 5500yen and 8000yen for a night. Nonetheless, novice climbers should stay a couple hours in a mountain hut, to help their bodies adjust to the new altitude. Spaces sell out quickly, so make sure to book in advance. To browse prices or make a reservation, click here.

Tips for Novice Climbers

Climbing Mt Fuji is not easy. Luckily there are services along the way that make the climb more bearable. Seeing the sunrise from the summit is magical, but not necessary. Climbing during the daytime is much safer, warmer, and less crowded. Accidents often happen at night, when exhausted climbers are ascending or descending Mt Fuji.

Novice climbers often suffer from hypothermia, breathing difficulties, and altitude sickness. Remember, Mt Fuji is a 3776 meter mountain. To allow your body to adjust to the attitude, spend a night in one of the mountain huts and drink plenty of water.

Travel companies can be a great resource for novices that wish to climb Mt Fuji. Travel companies will pick you up from Shinjuku station, taking care of round-trip bus tickets, mountain hut reservations, guides, meals, and a hot springs package at the base of the mountain.

Photo Credit: kalleboo via Compfight cc

Tokyo Day Trips: Best Places to See Fall Foliage

Koyo, is the autumn season in Japan –  where the leaves start to lose their green and people across the nation flock to enjoy the last few temperate days and sights of breathtaking foliage before winter sets in. Spending a day indulging in the array of colors brought on by the changing leaves is a pastime as old as the spring counterpart of viewing cherry blossoms. Though many believe you can’t truly enjoy koyo from Tokyo, there are many spots within and just a day-trip away from the metropolis which surprisingly offer koyo viewing unrivaled by countryside areas. Here are a few such areas to enjoy autumn in Tokyo.

Inokashira Park

With lively vendors and street magic shows, Inokashira Park in Musashino City is a wonderful place to visit anytime of the year, but as a place to enjoy koyo it solidly tops the list of best spots in Tokyo. As the Tokyo autumn sets in, the maple and zelkova trees scattered throughout the evergreens gradually lose their pigment to create a dazzling spatter of greens, yellows and reds. Especially iconic of Inokashira’s autumn scenes are the sunsets, amplifying this orchestra of color to create a sight expected to be seen in an untouched countryside forest. From the central pond, paved and dirt paths stretch all throughout the park, making it ideal for an afternoon stroll with loved ones.

Autumn Inokashira Park

A peaceful pond provides a stunning backdrop for Inokashira Park’s foliage!

Changing Leaves: Mid November ~ Mid December

Primary foliage:  Icho (Ginkgo), Keyaki (Zelkova), Momiji (Maple)

Showa Kinen Park (Memorial Park)

Also in the heart of the capital, Showa Kinen Park in Tachikawa City is a popular picnicking spot to enjoy autumn. This park is well known for its plethora of ginkgo trees, their leaves a glimmer gold in the autumn sun. With large open grassy areas, it is a perfect place to lay out a blanket and either doze away the day or kick a football around with friends. The park also has a barbecuing area for larger groups and a number of moderately priced sports facilities and open to the public. It is the ideal spot for families to spend an autumn afternoon.

Ginkgo Trees Show Kinen Park Autumn

Ginkgo trees form a colorful autumn canopy when strolling across Showa Kinen Park!

Changing Leaves:  November

Primary Foliage: Icho (Ginkgo) Momiji (Maple), Hanamizuki (Candleberry)

Lake Kawaguchi

Though a bit far from Tokyo (about 2.5 hours by public transportation, 1.5 hours by car), Lake Kawaguchi offers one of the most iconic koyo viewing spots in all of Japan. The reason? It has none other than Mount Fuji as a backdrop! This placid lake is often the site of many professional photographer shots of autumn in Japan, offering views of crimson and gold trees from which arises the snowcapped peak of Fuji, all reflected in the calm waters of Lake Kawaguchi. There are a number of tourist spots in the area, including art museums and nature parks, but you could spend an entire afternoon sipping coffee and gazing across the lake and still never tire of its timeless beauty.

Foliage with Mt. Fuji as a backdrop – What better way to enjoy the season of color!

There are any number of koyo sites you can access from here, but we recommend the area around the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum in Yamanashi. To access it, from Kawaguchiko station, take the Retrobus Kawaguchiko line bus for about 25 minutes and get off at Itchiku Kubota Art Museum.

Changing Leaves: November

Primary Foliage: Momiji (Maple)

photo credit: Jokin Sukuntza via photopin cc
photo credit: YoAndMi via photopin cc
photo credit: YoAndMi via photopin cc

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