TOKYO Fol­low the sea­sons for a tra­di­tional take on Ja­pan’s hy­per-mod­ern mega­lopo­lis

Fol­low the sea­sons for a uniquely Ja­panese ex­pe­ri­ence of Tokyo.

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The pass­ing of the sea­sons is treated with rev­er­ence in Ja­pan. Tra­di­tions cir­cu­late around ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the short-lived bloom of the cherry blos­som in spring and the chang­ing colours of leaves – the flam­ing red leaves of the Ja­panese maple, the golden ra­di­ance of ginkgo groves, and the earthy browns of ma­jes­tic oaks and chest­nuts – in au­tumn. Both of th­ese nat­u­ral tran­si­tions mark a time to re­flect on beauty and its im­per­ma­nence, and it is em­braced with as much en­thu­si­asm in Tokyo, the me­trop­o­lis that has be­come a by­word for moder­nity, as it is be­yond the cap­i­tal.

Th­ese rit­u­als are not about for­get­ting the mod­ern world – far from it, as many of Tokyo’s spec­tac­u­lar land­marks and neon sky­scrapers can be seen from its gar­dens – but rather recog­nis­ing and honouring the nat­u­ral beauty within it.

The ar­rival of sakura (cherry blos­soms) and koyo (au­tumn fo­liage) is ea­gerly an­tic­i­pated, with their pre­dicted ap­pear­ance re­ported along­side the weather. While the time dif­fers year to year and by re­gion, Tokyo is most com­monly at its sakura peak in late March or early April, and is usu­ally dressed in its au­tum­nal best be­tween mid-Novem­ber and early De­cem­ber.

If vis­it­ing in spring, host a hanami (flower view­ing) party un­der a blos­som­ing tree, while au­tumn guests can hunt for koyo, join­ing cou­ples and fam­i­lies strolling un­der show­ers of fall­ing red leaves in city parks.

Sprawl­ing Shōwa Ki­nen Kōen (Shōwa Memo­rial Park), an hour from the city cen­tre, is fa­mous for its canal-side av­enues of flour­ish­ing ginkgo trees and its pale-pink Cherry Blos­som Gar­den. Rent a bike to see as much as pos­si­ble of this 200-hectare park, opened in 1983 to com­mem­o­rate the Shōwa Em­peror’s (Hiro­hito) golden ju­bilee; there is a mu­seum ded­i­cated to his reign in the park’s eastern cor­ner.

For a more tra­di­tional ex­pe­ri­ence, head to one of the many gar­dens cre­ated dur­ing the Edo Pe­riod (1600-1867). Koishikawa Kōrakuen and Rikugien are two of the most beau­ti­ful dat­ing from this era in the city, dot­ted with sug­gested view­ing points to ad­mire the minia­turised Ja­panese land­scapes, and walking trails stud­ded with pic­turesque, tra­di­tional tea­houses.

Never far from the cus­toms and gen­tle ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the gar­dens, how­ever, is the ex­cite­ment of Ja­pan’s mod­ern cus­toms. This is em­bod­ied by the il­lu­mi­na­tion of the Tokyo Tower, sparkling with 276 lights in seven dif­fer­ent colours when it dons its Satur­day night Di­a­mond Veil. The newer Tokyo Skytree is a must for vis­i­tors, its 450-me­tre-high ob­ser­va­tion deck of­fer­ing views over the en­tire city.

En­joy­ing Tokyo’s au­tum­nal splen­dour is a sim­ple plea­sure that com­ple­ments the city’s non-stop, high-tech, blue-sky in­no­va­tion rep­u­ta­tion, and a re­minder to all of us to slow down and sim­ply watch the leaves fall.

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