Destination of the Week: Kyoto, Japan!

moss-garden-saihoji-temple-kyoto-japan_61103_600x450

One of Kyoto poet Buson’s most famous haikus reads: “On the one-ton temple bell a moon-moth, folded into sleep, sits still.” If Japan is the temple bell, Kyoto is the moth—tranquil, delicate, intricate, and wildly mysterious, centuries after the first outsider was drawn to its woodsy hilltop Shinto shrines and rarefied Buddhist temples. The city is about to get an influx of luxury hotels, making room for more tourists, but for now a walk along the Kamo riverbank still reveals the gentleness and gracefulness of Japan’s ancient capital. The Shigemori Residence features a dynamic Zen garden designed by mid-20th-century landscape architect Mirei Shigemori.

When to Go: Hanami (cherry blossom viewing) season typically is late March through mid-April. Fall foliage peaks in November!

Advertisements

What’s Fall Without Visiting The Fall Foliage Viewing and The Great Allegheny Passage

Hokkaido, Japan

Japan’s northernmost and second largest island has a rugged frontier spirit and landscape. Beyond the boundaries of its capital city, Sapporo, Hokkaido is largely an unspoiled natural paradise home to abundant wildlife (including sika deer and Hokkaido brown bears), towering mountain ranges, remote virgin forests, and volcanic caldera lakes.

Peak koyo (fall foliage) season begins in Daisetsuzan National Park (Japan’s largest) in mid-September, rolling south in stages across the island. Natural factors dictate the exact koyo calendar, but the golden, orange, and crimson display typically blazes brightest in isolated eastern Shiretoko National Park and World Natural Heritage Site in late September; in Sapporo in early October; and at the southern tip of the island in Onuma Koen and Hakodate by mid-October.

Denver based Samurai Tours arranges self-guided koyo itineraries for solo travelers who want to explore Hokkaido at their own pace. Packages typically include transportation, airport transfers, and nightly lodging in traditional ryokans (Japanese-style inns) or onsen (hot springs) resorts, as well as the support services of a local English-speaking staff.

Cumberland, Maryland, to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The 141-mile Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) rail-trail winds over the rivers and through the woods of western  Maryland and southwestern Pennsylvania. Built mainly on abandoned rail  beds, the packed, crushed limestone route is free of motorized vehicles.  A 15-mile-an-hour speed limit ensures a leisurely pace for cycling,  hiking, and strolling. Spend a weekend, or a full week,  exploring part of the route and the historic trail towns along the way.

Frostburg, Maryland (mile 15), hosts the Appalachian Festival,  September 14-15, on the Frostburg State University campus. Free events  include regional music and dance, goat milking and beekeeping, and  traditional arts and crafts. October 5-7 is PumpkinFest in Confluence, Pennsylvania (mile 60), and the West Newton,  Pennsylvania (mile 114), Miracle on Main Street Parade and Light Up  Night is November 24.

Extend your ride all the way to Washington, D.C. (about 334 miles total) via the historic Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath.  Mountainside Bike Tours specializes in custom Washington-to-Pittsburgh  itineraries. Options include lodging, gourmet meals, luggage transport,  and side trips to Antietam National Battlefield and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater.