When fall comes and the leaves become brilliant red, orange, and yellow, there is nothing better in the world than a quiet, peaceful walk through the woods to take in all the beauty. The problem is, everyone else thinks so too and that "quiet peaceful walk" becomes an aggravation as you push your way through noisy crowds of people waving iPads in front of your face as they take 400 photos to post on social media. What you need is a gorgeous and slightly out-of-the-way secret spot that will help you escape the mobs of Tokyo leaf-seekers and allow you to truly enjoy the beauty of autumn.
One such place is Togo Park, located within Hanno City in Saitama Prefecture. Togo Park is known as one of the best spots to see colored leaves in all of Saitama, but because it's off the beaten path and a bit tricky to get to, it remains a relatively quiet affair. In late November the park holds its annual Maple Festival (momiji-matsuri) at the height of the seasonal colors. Its more than 1,000 maple trees are in full display of their bright colors, which only highlight the year-round beauty of the park.
The park itself is built on the side of a mountain and is carved into terraces that are kept as a beautiful Japanese garden. The sightseeing is wonderful, and you can spend a long time making your way through each terrace. However, there are very many steps leading through the park, so those who struggle with stairs may want to pass on this idea.
Towards the back (read: top) of the park, there is an event stage with entertainment during the afternoon. During my visit, there were performances by African drummers and traditional Japanese dancers that were just excellent and added a sense of excitement to the festivities. Viewing the performances cost an additional 100 yen. On Saturday night, the park holds a "light-up" event where lights shine on the leaves while a live jazz band plays to set the smooth mood. There are also many food stands set up by local vendors, selling everything from ramen to nikuman. But never fear—though it sounds like a bit of a carnival, everything is nicely set up and has a true small-town, friendly, rustic vibe.
The Maple Festival is usually held on the third weekend of November.