| Jessica Piora & Yuichi Kobayashi
Komoro Kaikoen: Autumn Leaves and Castle Ruins
What is the best place to enjoy the autumn red leaves in Japan? Komoro Kaikoen, a municipal park in Nagano is a great candidate. Kaikoen translates as the garden of retrospection, and as such, it is a place for reminiscing. In 1554 location was a fortress was later turned into a castle. Over the years, many lords took control of it. Finally, in the Meiji Restoration in 1871, it was destroyed. Kaikoen is great for history enthusiasts, art fans (the park is currently hosting a photography exhibition), and nature enthusiasts.
If you want to see the beautiful autumn leaves that characterize autumn in Japan, this is an exceptional location. The park is stunning. Here you can take a walk and fully appreciate the beauty of this season.
Komoro is a small town (of 40,000 inhabitants) located in Nagano prefecture. It is the perfect destination for people who enjoy nature and old atmospheres. The municipal park surrounding the ruins of an old shogun castle is the ideal location for those who wish to learn more about the old Shogunate days, and the streets and cafés will take you back to the Showa era.
To reach Komoro from Nagoya Station take the Shinano line to Nagano. From Nagano, get on the Testudo line for Komoro and get off at Komoro station. The park is right next to the station! To visit Kaikoen, you need to pay an entrance fee of 200 yen.
Kaikoen is a beautiful municipal park surrounding the ruins of the old castle. The park is popular among locals who come to the park for their morning walk, and you will notice that it has plenty of visitors all year round. In Japan, enjoying the koyo (Autumn Leaves) is a widespread activity, much like the tradition of hanami (Cherry blossom viewing) in spring. The best way to enjoy koyo is by taking a walk in a beautiful park. In Kaikoen, the autumn views are spectacular, but it is stunning all year round.
The park is currently hosting an art exhibition that features many photographs. This is Boat by Kensuke Koike.
Ruins of the Castle
As you walk around the park, you will see the ruins of the castle and signboards explaining their history and relevance.
You can see the remains of the old castle gates and towers.
This small building was the armory. There is an ongoing photography exhibition inside the building.
This sign commemorates the Buddhist priest Sodo Yokoyama (1907-1980), who preached Zen teachings to children using a grass whistle. He used to sing simply about complex ideas making them easy to understand. It plays a recording of one of his sermons.
This spot was the resting place for the carriage of the castle lord.
The remains of the castle keep.
Here is a small Shinto shrine with a beautiful carp pond. It’s a picturesque corner of the park, ideal for taking evocative pictures like this one.
Here you can pick an omikuji (fortune-telling paper). Some are cute, like this one with the character Rilakkuma on it.
How to draw an omikuji:
Drawing omikuji cost differs depending on the shrine or temple but usually costs around 100 yen. Sometimes the omikuji is a little strip of paper, and sometimes it comes with a gadget or figurine like this one, making it slightly more expensive.
Sometimes you choose a stick and receive a paper omikuji corresponding to your choice. Other times, you can draw the omikuji directly from the box. After you read your omikuji, you can tie here in the temple.
After a long walk in the park, you can enjoy a break at Teishaba Garden. Teishaba Garden is a small area near Komoro station that includes a botanical garden and some cafes. You can sit on the patio of one of the cafes and look at the beautiful flowers while enjoying a refreshing drink.
At Teishaba Garden, you can also purchase flowers and plants.
Nunobiki Kannon is a secret destination in Komoro, and it takes a long hike to get there. If you are on foot, you can get on a bus for Aguri-no-yu and take a 2 km hike. It will take you to a clearing amidst the mountains, where you will find a Tendai temple built over a cliff and a statue of Kannon, the bodhisattva of mercy.
If you choose to visit here, make sure you go during the daytime, as the mountain road is steep and quite dangerous if you’re not paying attention. For drivers, be aware that the road to the clearing doesn’t have a guardrail.
Beautiful in Autumn, Komoro is a fabulous destination for leaf-peepers. It’s a small city, but it’s full of surprises like castle ruins, with beautiful parks and gardens. If you plan on visiting Nagano Prefecture, make sure you pay a visit!
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