At the right time of year and the right time of day, this traditional sign of fall shines like a field of gold.

Japan is a country of distinct seasons, each marked by changes in the natural scenery. Spring and summer bring the blossoming of sakura and hydrangeas, but these days the changing leaves of the maple and maidenhair trees are reminders that we’re getting deeper into the fall.

However, there’s also a third sign of autumn that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle of fall outings: susuki.

Similar to pampas grass, susuki grows in tall stalks with a gentle arch. In spring and summer they’re primarily green, but once autumn rolls around they develop soft tufts around their tips.

You can spot susuki all over Japan, in patches in parks, gardens, and other grassy areas. But because the stalks grow so close together, they’re at their most impressive when you can find an entire field of it.

In the Tokyo area, the best susuki spot is in the town of Hakone, in Tokyo’s neighbor to the south, Kanagawa Prefecture. Specifically, the photos here were taken last week at Sengokuhara, a highland plain at the foot of Mt. Hakone.

A long path leads back from the road, allowing visitors to stroll into the field with susuki on both sides.

Because of their height and curvature, if you’re standing near the edge of the path in certain spots the effect is almost like a tunnel.

Susuki make for a dynamic backdrop at any time of day, especially if the wind picks up and causes ripples to run through the field. If you want to see them at their most beautiful though, try to time your visit for late afternoon but before sunset, when the sun is starting to dip but its rays still have some strength to them.

As the sun shines on the susuki’s tips, it turns them a dazzling, almost incandescent gold, and the contrast with the shadows on the lower parts of the plants makes for a fantastic otherworldly atmosphere.

In a happy coincidence, Sengokuhara’s susuki trail slopes upwards from its entrance. It’s a gradual enough incline that it never feels like actual hiking, but by the time you get to the end of it, you’ve made enough upwards progress that you’ve got a nice vantage point from which to take photos.

Allowing yourself 30 minutes or so to make the walk up (taking pictures along the way) should be enough time, so arriving somewhere between 60 to 90 minutes before sundown will earn you the nicest views.

If you’re looking to head to Sengokuhara from the Tokyo area, the primary access point to Hakone is Hakone Yumoto Station (roughly two hours by train from downtown Tokyo). From Hakone Yumoto, busses depart to various sightseeing destinations. The Sengokuhara susuki trail is a short walk from the Sengoku Kogen bus stop (about a 30-minute ride from Hakone Yumoto Station). The entrance to the trail is slightly north of the bus stop and on the east side of the road, and right across the street from a Lawson convenience store, in case you’re looking for a bottle of hot green tea to warm yourself up with.

▼ The Lawson across the street from the entrance to the trail

As with all seasonal sights in Japan, the susuki won’t be around forever, but the should be worth seeing until mid-November. And if standing in the field at twilight has you thinking you’d rather not go home, don’t forget that Hakone also has some of Japan’s best onsen hot springs and traditional ryokan inns.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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