Reika Clare

Todai Gingko in Autumn

The gingko trees at the University of Tokyo

Reika Clare
Reika Clare   - 3 min read

The Japanese take their seasons seriously. Even in the sprawling metropolis of Tokyo, seasons are tracked by events and festivals celebrating the blooming of flowers and the yellowing of leaves. Restaurants offer seasonal food and shops display seasonal goods for use around the home and office. Letter paper comes in seasonal designs, and fashion focuses on emphasizing the characteristics of particular seasons.

Two delights of the year for me are the sakura season, where everything turns a delicate shade of pink, and the gingko season, where the avenues of gingko trees lining the roads turn an amazing shade of bright yellow. There is something very appealing to the human eye about trees covered by an expanse of pure and bright colour other than the regular green. Perhaps it is the novelty of this that makes it such a surreal and uplifting experience.

One of the most famous gingko spots in Tokyo would be the main campus (Hongo Campus) of the University of Tokyo, situated in Bunkyo ward. The University is open to public access, so lots of people visit it throughout the year. Though there are impressive gingko-lined avenues in other parts of the city, the special attraction of this spot is the size and age of the trees, and the picturesque Gothic buildings in the background. Furthermore, these trees line a pedestrian avenue rather than a road, so the leaves are allowed to pile up, carpeting the ground in a soft layer of pure yellow. When the wind blows, the leaves float down, reminiscent of the slow dance of cherry petals, and envelope the awed viewers in a world of pure golden yellow.

The best time to visit these trees is the period between the end of November and start of December, when the leaves have started to fall and pile up on the ground. A great route to take is to get off at Todaimae station, enter the Hongo Campus from the north-west gate, and walk south towards Hongo Sanchome station. You will first encounter a short stretch of road lined by gingko trees, before reaching the first stop in a small open area presided over by a huge gingko tree majestically decked out in yellow.

Continue on and you will reach the famed gingko-lined avenue leading from the main gate (Seimon) to the Yasuda Auditorium. The brick-red buildings are in a style known as Uchida-Gothic, quite a trade-mark of the University's architecture. Spend some time taking in the view, which is especially good on a sunny day. Continue onwards and passing the polished modern charm of Fukutake Hall, you will reach the University's trademark structure, the Akamon (red gate), one of the very few surviving structure from the Edo period. Exit the gate on to the main road and Hongo Sanchome station will be at the intersection to your left.

The Hongo Campus of the University of Tokyo is conveniently situated near Ueno, and doesn't take much time to tour. With the whole Campus decked out in splendid yellow of gingko trees, it's probably a sight you won't want to miss when visiting Tokyo in late autumn.

Reika Clare

Reika Clare @reika.clare

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