When the temperature dips and the green leaves of Japan begin changing colour, photographers and tourists set their sights on Kyoto, one of the country’s most popular destinations for viewing fall foliage. The abundance of shrines and temples in the ancient capital make for stunning backdrops as the many trees on their grounds put on a display of vibrant reds, oranges and yellows, creating an unforgettable atmosphere that can only be enjoyed for a short time each year.
One of the most famous spots in Kyoto for viewing the autumn colours is Tofukuji Temple, which travellers ranked as the third most beautiful place in the country for fall foliage, according to this year’s poll by travel website TripAdvisor.
The temple, located in southeastern Kyoto, was founded in 1236 and is known as one of the “Kyoto Gozan” or “five great Zen temples of Kyoto”. While a number of exquisite buildings can be found on the grounds of Tofukuji, each autumn, thousands of visitors come here to walk across the famous Tsutenkyo Bridge, an elevated wooden walkway that looks out over a valley of maple trees.
With such an expansive view of the autumn leaves, the bridge is a coveted vantage point for tourists, with many people stopping to take photos of the scenery from different spots along the 100-meter-long covered walkway.
This year, however, Tofukuji has announced that it will be enforcing a ban on taking photos from the Tsutenkyo Bridge, citing concerns for safety. Restrictions will also be placed on other popular sites of interest on the grounds, which are expected to become crowded during the busy autumn period. The announcement, posted in the Notices section of the temple website, states:
“There will be a lot of congestion during the fall foliage viewing period from 12 – 30 November. Photo-taking with mobile phones, smartphones, digital cameras and selfie-sticks on the Tsutenkyo Bridge and the Gaunkyo Bridge will be prohibited as it is very dangerous. Regarding the Honbo Garden, photography with mobile phones, smartphones, digital cameras and the like is possible, however, to avoid hazards, the use of selfie-sticks will be prohibited. We ask for your cooperation and understanding.”
As the notice states, in addition to the famous Tsutenkyo Bridge, photography will also be banned on the smaller, yet equally beautiful, covered walkway of the Gaunkyo Bridge.
The two bridges look out over each other across a dense canopy of maple trees. The sight is so beautiful in autumn that foot traffic across both bridges comes to a standstill as people gaze out over the view. Hopefully the photography ban will help to ease congestion this year.
The Honbo Garden, where the use of selfie-sticks is prohibited, has been designated as a National Site of Scenic Beauty, so this is another area that becomes filled with people during the fall foliage period.
With tourism numbers in Kyoto rising steadily over recent years, congestion at some of the area’s most famous sites is becoming an increasing problem. According to a report recently compiled by the city, 55 million people visited Kyoto in 2014, and numbers only look set to increase with the upcoming Olympics in 2020. Due to the immense popularity of the scenic area, Tofukuji’s concerns for visitor safety might soon be echoed by other famous temples in the not-too-distant future.
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