The first autumn in Nikko
I have been in love with Hanoi’s autumn - the most transcendent time of the year - for so many years. And, ever since I came to know about Japan, I have also fallen for charming Japan’s autumn which I have never witnessed with my own eyes.
I had always been yearning to breathe in the chilly autumn breeze in that faraway land and wishing for a chance to go to Japan to enjoy the brilliant carpet of red leaves.
Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam, is located in the north of the country. Thanks to the warm humid subtropical climate, throughout the year, people can easily detect four distinct seasons in this 1000-years old city. To many people, autumn, when the summer sun is less severe and the cold gray winter has not yet arrived, when the wind gently blows away rustling yellow leaves on the road, is the prime time of Hanoi.
Contrary to the tender autumn in Hanoi, the golden leaf season I saw in Nikko was brilliant. Hanoi's autumn comes and goes quietly with the people only acknowledging after it has gone, while the autumn in Nikko makes such an exceptional entrance that people are overwhelmed by the powerful transformation and the magic of Mother Nature.
People say that Nikko in October is stunning!
I came to Nikko in the late afternoon of a day near the end of October, when the sun was out and all I could see was darkness. People often say Nikko in October is stunning with a majestic beauty that can make your heart flutter.
Yet I felt nothing besides a little sadness, or more precisely, a sense of disappointment.
Where were the red leaves? Where was the golden autumn of Japan that I had always imagined in my mind?
Then, the six-hours night flight and a long day of traveling and working outdoor took their toll on me, making me fall into a deep sleep with unnamed displeasure.
However, I did not feel sad for long. The morning after, when the first sunlight sneaked through the white clouds, crept through the branches, and danced tops of the grass, I woke up in astonishment. The golden sunlight of autumn was all over the place, shining upon the transforming forest.
"This is it, my golden autumn!" - I was yelling out in happiness in my head, just like a kid getting my first "good kid" card. Then, I sat by the window and just stared tirelessly at the masterpiece that was presented right in front of me.
At that time, "overwhelmed" and "stunning" were the only two words that could pop up in my head.
Turned out, Japan's autumn has never, and would never bring a dreamer like me disillusionment
That day, I spent the whole day wandering around all alleys of Okunikko to find small red leaves and gently put them into my chest pocket.
I would bring those leaves back to Hanoi and also bring my dreamy Japan's autumn back to stay beside my beloved Hanoi's autumn. I would store them well, not only in a beautiful box but also in my heart and my mind.
Almost a year after my trip, I was looking through all the photos on my computer and found the "sneaking one" I was taken beside the window that day. Then I realized, in that photo, my smile not only expressed my satisfaction but also gleamed with happiness which resulted from a dream coming true after 14 years. Sometimes, people can feel true happiness just because of a simple red color.
After coming back, my love for Hanoi's autumn is still the same as it has been for all these years. However, my love now is also for Nikko's autumn, the thing I thought I could only witness in my dreams. No one forbids me from loving both. My heart is big enough to store lots of love and hope.
Am I too greedy for wanting to come back to that forest one more time? That place made me feel like I was walking in a wonderland. There are plenty of magical things in Alice's wonderland, but in mine, only a forest with red leaves is enough.
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