This may hold true for visiting the temples and shrines in Kyoto. I first went to Chion-in in mid-October (see my post "Chion-in: notes and impressions"). It was sunny, warm. The gardens were green. There was a breeze. It was late in the afternoon, but the days were not so short, so the shadows were not stretched, the silhouettes were not crisp. It was quiet, I was almost alone there.
I returned the other night to see a totally different place. In the autumn, some of the more popular temples in Kyoto extend their visiting hours and host spectacular light shows after dark. We are not talking Pink Floyd, Las Vegas or techno rave. These are some really talented lighting designers highlighting the temple and the rich autumn colors in a dramatic, almost theatrical way.
It was dark, cold. As is always the case, even on a chilly autumn night, visitors are required to remove their shoes when entering a temple. I could feel the night air through my not-quite-thick-enough socks as I climbed the wooden stairs into the core of the enormous sanmon (main gate). The gardens were not green, but black and orange, red and yellow, already stripped naked in some places, the bone gray of winter. I was not alone. I had come with a few artist friends, but we were joined by hundreds of others in a line that snaked slowly through the grounds of the temple.
I lived almost 17 years in New York. The change of seasons is usually very pretty and always enthusiastically welcomed. But I have never seen such a celebration for the annual pilgrimage of the Earth around the Sun like I have seen here in Kyoto. It is observed and honored as if it were a once-in-a-lifetime event, like Halley's Comet. I suppose that is the way all of life's events should be appreciated.