The Japanese reverence for nature is evident in their gardens, even in the midst of the concrete jungle monstrosity that is Tokyo.  Most of Japan is very mountainous and uninhabited, with something like 70% of the country being urbanized. Last Fall Angela and I took a tour out beyond the city limits into a national park hoping to glimpse the last colors of Autumn (Japanese Maple trees turn bright vivid red, oranges and yellows and seem almost on fire).

We discovered a landscape straight out of a Tolkien novel, complete with an “Argonath-esque” entrance to Gondor (nerd reference).  We hiked along a paved path along a river at the bottom of a river, and enjoyed the leisurely stroll as we took in the sights.  Located in the Minami Alps north of Yamanashi City, the gulley was in some sort of National Park.  Being in Japan there were of course shrines dedicated to some of the awesomeness of nature, but these were unique in that one would put their coin offerings in the actual rocks along the river.

After walking by a beautiful waterfall we walked through tunnels cut into rock from the rushing river below.  But what we were really hoping for was to see Fall Foliage.  Coming around a bend in the path, a rush of cool air hit us and we saw an awe –inspiring site of a valley seemingly ablaze.  Dozens of maple trees were at the peak of their color and we descended into the valley taking pictures all the way.  Angela and I have spent much time hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia during the Fall and are used to forests full of color, but this was uniquely Asian given the steep valley and the fact that only a select few deciduous trees had changed color.

We noticed Ginko, Maple, and Cherry trees are the main ones to change color and here was a valley with short, stubby brown leafed trees up the mountain but hidden here along the river was a sea of color.  Quite a cathartic experience, and made even better turning around and seeing what looked like rock entrances to some mythic kingdom.  We also saw a Godzilla stone statue at the end of the walk bringing it all home.