The Most Breathtaking Jazz Concert this Fall

Sure there are many cozy nooks to listen to live jazz music in the city, but how about a jazz concert right in the middle of a thousand brilliantly red maple trees in one of Japan's most unusual parks? Once a year on a Saturday evening in late November is the most breathtaking jazz concert you will ever go to. Its out of the way location ensures that only those who appreciate both good music and unspoiled nature partake in this annual festival.

Of all the trees that change color in the fall, the maples that turn crimson are, to me,  the most beautiful. At Tōgō Park in Agano, Saitama, there are about a thousand of these trees concentrated in a single area resulting in breathtaking bursts of vivid and deep shades of reds at this time of the year, making it a most unusual setting for a jazz concert. The Tōgō Park website updates regularly to indicate the shades you will see at the park throughout the year.

Established in 1925, Tōgō park is dedicated to General Heihachirō Tōgō,  one of Japan's most decorated naval officers and greatest naval heroes of all time. You will find his statue at a prominent location in the park, as well as many references to his feats such as battle ship armor plates and war canons.  Forget flat parks you can explore with a leisurely walk or run around in and play catch. This park consists of a series of stairs and terraces and your primary activity will be climbing up. At the bottom of the park, visitors are greeted by a gigantic pair of red geta, a fun photo spot. On the evening of the jazz festival, the stairs are illuminated with  the gentle glow of lights inside specially cut bamboo tubes, while spotlights shine upwards towards the red foliage. No photo does this ambiance justice -- it is something that can only be fully appreciated in person. 

As you make your way up the park, you will walk past beautiful Japanese style gardens with bridges over ponds, lanterns, and rock formations. The festival is spread throughout several terraces but you will find most of the local vendors selling tea, and steaming hot warming foods near the main terrace where a small stage is set up for the stage entertainment and the jazz concert. If visiting during the day, it is worth climbing all the way to the top to the Chichibu-Mitake Shrine to enjoy a bird's eye view of the maple trees. 

This year's Momiji Festival is from November 25-26, 2017. It starts at 2:30 p.m. on November 25, with the jazz concert from 18:00 onwards. On November 26, it starts at 10:00 a.m. Take the Seibu Chichibu (from Ikebukuro, take the Seibu Ikebukuro Line all the way to Hanno and change) train to Agano Station.  Togo Park is a 20 minute walk from the station but on the festival days, a free mini bus shuttles visitors at regular intervals. Parking is limited and costs ¥500. Park entrance is free on regular days but on festival days, a donation of ¥100 is requested.
Steps leading up to the park via

Beautiful red maple trees at Togo Park via
Daytime stage event viaもみじまつり.jpg

Sherilyn Siy