Autumn, winter, spring. When I lived in Koyasan I was lucky to enjoy the soft change and the peak beauty of each of these seasons. All are gorgeous~! – I love seeing the stone monuments and temples under snow, or the sky framed with golden leaves, or the fact that you can enjoy the cherry blossoms a full month after they’ve fallen in other low altitudes.
Summer though tends to be the most popular time for Japanese tourists to visit. Cooler mountain temperatures and the festival of the dead in August combine to attract big crowds – one reason why I left in May, before the hectic summer season began.
Ajisai, or hydrangeas, are still fresh looking and beautiful up in the mountains in July, while the flowers in Kyoto started to wilt weeks ago in June. While some places, like Yatadera in Nara, have purposefully built up awe-inspiring, almost overwhelming gardens of hydrangeas, in Koyasan they are more sparse, and tucked away within private temple gardens, but still worth the effort in seeking out.
The rain from this year’s on-and-off monsoon season held off long enough for some exploration. The most beautiful displays I found were those by the Daimon gate, and tucked away nearby around Yochi-in. Other photographers were out, enjoying the flowering lotus around the temples and a small children’s park.
Now back in steamy Kyoto, I think wistfully of the cool hours I spent on the mountain hunting for hydrangeas.