As November sets in the talk of the town inevitably switches to Kyoto. After all, where else might one go to sample the beauty of the changing colors of autumn leaves? Well, you could simply avoid the Kyoto crowds and stay in Osaka!
Ask any local about autumn leaves and the words Settsukyo Park will automatically come forth. The park is based around the outstanding natural beauty of Settsukyo Gorge, a wonderful expanse of rocks, waterfalls and cliffs gracing Takatsuki City. The area around the gorge was converted into a giant park in 1968, now boasting nearly 400,000 hectares of greenery. Popular for Cherry Blossom viewing in the spring, it is also ideal for looking at koyo (reddening leaves) in late-November.
Arguably reddest of all are the maple leaves, causing the valley to shine bright against the spectacular panoramic backdrop of city. As one Japanese blogger recently put it: “In the absence of the crowds, accompanied simply by the gentle sound of running water, you can walk along the river bank and be surrounded by beautiful leaves. Fantastic!” Best of all, you don’t need to pay to enter.
After taking in the leaves, what better a way to relax then by visiting the nearby hot spring? The Settsukyo Hananosato Onsen possesses an enviable collection of sodium hydrogen carbonate and alkaline/ radon hot springs, which can be sampled for just 1300 and 700 yen by adults and children respectively. Those unable to get there during daytime opening hours (1100-1900) might consider spending a night there for just 13000 yen.
Both the Gorge and the Onsen can be accessed from Takatsuki Station on the JR Kyoto Line. Hananosato Onsen operates a pick-up bus service direct from the station.
For the real maple leaf fans, of course, a particular Kansai treat lies in store: momiji tempura. What most of Japan does to fish and vegetables, the locals of Osaka’s Momo Park do to maple leaves: fry them in tempura powder! The delight can be found on the hiking trail which spans from Hankyu Mino Station to the awesome 33-meter-high waterfall. The hiking trail consists of no more than gentle inclines, is thus suitable for people of all ages, and even contains a bonus viewing of Ryuanji Temple – serene and aesthetically beautiful.
Enjoy your momiji Osaka-style!