By Cathy Cawood
Located in Umekoji Park near Kyoto Station, Suzaku No Niwa is a personal new find, and their autumn illumination was absolutely gorgeous. Deeply coloured red and orange leaves, coupled with some beautiful architecture and coloured lights made for some stunning memories. Visit this garden for a different autumn leaf illumination experience.
I managed to stumble across this hidden gem whilst departing the Kyoto Railway Museum, and was super glad that I did. The entry to this illumination is ¥400 for adults, and ¥200 for children. You also get a ¥100 discount off admission if you have a ticket from Kyoto Railway Museum or the Kyoto Aquarium, so if you go to one of those two places, make sure to keep your ticket!
Once you enter, you cross over a bridge into a magical garden with miniature rolling hills, streams, shallow water creating stunning reflections, and most importantly beautiful red autumn leaves. The garden is on the small size, with a fun route to follow. You start from the top, and make your way down to the bottom, walk over some rolling hills, and then cross the mini river to reach some shallow water banks.
The river and water pools were the highlight for me, because they created beautiful reflections of both the building and autumn leaves. This particular illumination seems to still be relatively unknown, as the crowds were much less than illuminations at the more famous temples. This created a much more comfortable atmosphere for viewing the autumn leaves.
The illumination is only on for a limited time, so try to visit Kyoto during those dates! This year it was held from the 18th of November till the 27th. Whilst most of the large autumn illuminations at temples don't allow you to use tripods, this one does allow them, so make sure to come and get the most of this photographic opportunity! The weather is also already quite chilly in November, and since it'll be nighttime whilst you're viewing the illumination, make sure to wear warm clothes and bring gloves to keep your hands comfortable!
As you come to the end of the garden route, there is a little rest area set up with a heater and benches, with some lovely staff selling hot red bean soup and hot tea. Suzaku No Niwa provides a great autumn illumination viewing experience when compared to the more crowded illuminations at Kiyomizudera and the likes. With fewer crowds, you have more breathing space to enjoy the lit up leaves. However, with the amount of tourists coming into Kyoto now, do prepare for people to start finding out about this place and going there!
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I love Japan for its people, culture, food, scenery, and overall ambiance and never-ending list of things to explore and enjoy. I lived in Kyoto for one year as an exchange student, and was able to travel around various parts of Japan during that exchange time. Now I'm back in Auckland, NZ, but am aiming to be back in Japan soon in the future for travel or work!