Japan is a beautiful country to visit all year round, but particularly striking during spring when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom and autumn when the momiji (Japanese maple) leaves change color. There are countless settings throughout the country to see these breathtaking events but one place that is very special during autumn is the Naruko Gorge in Tohoku. Located just 43 miles from Sendai, the capital of Miyagi Prefecture, the gorge transforms into one of the region’s most popular spots for observing the brilliant autumn colors from late October to early November.
The best spot for viewing the fiery colors is an area that stretches approximately one and a quarter miles east-west near the Naruko-kyo Rest House. There is an observation deck located next to the rest house from where you can see the Ofukazawa Bridge, the most photographed location in the area. Those of you who are more adventurous can elect to follow the Ofukazawa Walking Trail starting from the bridge and ending at the rest house. The path will take you through the forested side of the valley and will require approximately 45 minutes to traverse.
The town of Naruko is also known for its kokeshi dolls. Located at the eastern end of the gorge, you will find the Japan Kokeshi Museum, exhibiting numerous dolls from the various prefectures in the Tohoku Region. For a small fee, visitors can try their hand at painting their own kokeshi doll, which makes nice souvenir to bring home from your visit to Naruko.
After your tour, you may consider soaking in one of the many affordable and high quality onsens (hot springs) that dot the area. Most are open to the public until 10:00 PM.
You can easily access Naruko Gorge from Tokyo via the Tohoku Shinkansen exiting at the Furukawa stop and changing to a local train on the JR Rikuu-to Line to Naruko Onsen.