It's the time of year in Japan when days start to get shorter, nights colder as we slowly creep into winter. Right now, though, is one of the most beautiful times of year. Autumn days are often drenched in a sunlight that you never want to fade - the perfect amount of warmth, the most dreamy light. It makes any daytime outing a pleasure. What's more, autumn brings with it a break from late-summer typhoons and humidity and the bright green hues of summer fade into vibrant oranges, yellows and reds (autumn colours = kōyō in Japanese). In Australia, we aren't treated to the experience of such distinct seasons, and as a result I still get giddy every time a season makes a definite change over here.
Determined to spend at least a full day enjoying autumn's colours, we made use of Kam's day off this Wednesday and set off for some of Fukuoka Prefecture's kōyō spots. We hopped in our trusty car and made the hour drive to Akizuki in Asakura City. The area is home to castle ruins and a delightful traditional machi (town area) which is peaceful and comforting. Akizuki is a popular local kōyō spot, but a mid-week visit allowed us to avoid large crowds and enjoy the area at our own pace. Each and every time we take a trip out of Fukuoka City we are knocked out by how lucky we are to have such seemingly endless beauty on our doorsteps.
The path to the castle ruins runs down a traditional street lined with old Japanese houses and stalls selling plants, seasonal fruits such as kaki (persimmon) and mandarins, and other foods and pickles.
We stopped for lunch at a wonderful soba/udon shop inside an old Japanese building. The atmosphere here was as good as the soba was delicious. Daytime clientele of obaa-chan and ojii-chans (old women and men) chatted softly over bowls of udon and fancy lunch sets. We warmed up with the type of soba that you only find in small towns - something about the setting adds an extra level of oishii to your meal.
With full bellies, we made our way to the main kōyō spot, where momiji trees had well and truly begun their autumnal transformation. At times like this, I tend to feel like we've been let in on a huge magical secret. Surely such beauty cannot be real? How are we allowed to be here? and, do we ever have to leave?
The crowds were sparse, and we were thankful for that as we explored the surroundings of the castle ruins.
Gingko trees with their gorgeous yellow leaves were plentiful too.
We stopped for a macha green tea under the maples. 幸せ！
Our next destination was Nanzoin Temple, home to the world's largest bronze lying Buddha statue. I had seen this place in friends' photos, but hadn't expected it to be so awesome in real life.
The statue is incredibly large, and its colour, pose and expression combine to grant onlookers with a great sense of peace. You can walk around the side of the statue and touch Buddha's feet too.
The statue was only built in 1995, however the temple has been there for hundreds of years. The temple and its surroundings are worthy of a visit, even before you factor in the huge reclining Buddha.
As we drove home, we passed a huge cosmos field and couldn't resist pulling over. The sun setting over the sea of pink blossoms was a good way to end a wonderful Autumn day in Fukuoka.
Oh, how I love this place.
This year more than ever, I don't want autumn to end.