Culture Momijigari: autumn leaves

By JREF · Nov 22, 2013 ·
  1. JREF
    Momijigari (紅葉狩) is the traditional Japanese pastime of viewing autumn foliage. Momijigari means “maple hunting”, from the Japanese word for maple or “red leaves”, 紅葉 (Momiji) and kari (狩り), “hunting”. Another common reading for momiji is “kōyō” (紅葉).

    Like cherry-blossom viewing (花見 hanami, “flower-viewing”) in the spring, it was popular among the court aristocracy of the Heian period (794-1185). The nobles went boating on ponds in the gardens around their mansions, playing music and composing poetry while enjoying the fall colours, or went to excursions into the mountains to gather coloured leaves.

    From the twelfth to the sixteenth centuries, the Tatsugawa area near Nara, and the Ogurayama and Arashiyama areas near Kyōto, renowned for their autumn leaves, were described in numerous poems and paintings. In the Edo period (1600-1868), the custom spread among the common people. With the improvement of public transportation after the Meiji period (1868-1912), people began to visit distant places famed for their beautiful foliage, as well as nearby areas. The tradition continues to be popular even in modern times, among the Japanese as well as tourists.

    Famous places to see autumn leaves in Japan

    Find a few of the most famous scenic locations to view the Japanese autumn foliage listed below.

    • Tokyo: Icho Namiki (Ginkgo Avenue) in Meiji Jingū Gaien, Rikugien (六義園), Shinjuku Gyoen, Koishikawa Kōrakuen (小石川後楽園), Shōwa Kinen Kōen (国営昭和記念公園) in Tachikawa, Mount Takao
    • Nasu Highland (那須高原) in Tochigi Prefecture
    • Umegase Valley (梅ヶ瀬渓谷) in Chiba Prefecture
    • Kamakura in Kanagawa Prefecture
    • Mount Hakoda (八甲田山) in Aomori Prefecture
    • Lake Towada (十和田湖) bordering Aomori and Akita prefectures
    • Chusonji Temple (中尊寺) in Hiraizumi, Iwate Prefecture
    • Tengendai Highland (天元台高原) in Yamagata Prefecture
    • Bandai Highland (磐梯高原) in western Fukushima Prefecture
    • Tateyama (立山) in the Northern Alps, Toyama Prefecture
    • Kenrokuen (兼六園), one of the most famous Japanese gardens, located in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture
    • Kamikōchi (上高地) highlands in Nagano Prefecture, the “Japanese Yosemite.”
    • Komoro Castle (小諸城) in Nagano Prefecture
    • Eiheiji Temple (永平寺) in Fukui Prefecture
    • Shuzenji Romney Railway (修善寺虹の郷) in Niji-no-sato, Shizuoka Prefecture
    • Akame Forty-eight Fall (赤目四十八滝) in Nabari, Mie Prefecture
    • Otsu City (大津市): Hieizan and Enryakuji Temple
    • Kyōto: Takamine (鷹峯), Ōhara (大原), Kiyotaki River (清滝川), Jingoji Temple (神護寺) and the Kurama (鞍馬) area in northern Kyōto, Sagano Romantic Train (嵯峨野), Higashiyama (東山) in eastern Kyōto, Iwakura (岩倉) in southern Kyōto
    • Ōsaka: Kaminesan Temple (神峯山寺), Meiji no Mori Minoo National Park (明治の森箕面国定公園)
    • Nara: Nara Park (奈良公園), Tanzan Shrine (談山神社), Muroji (室生寺) Temple
    • Wakayama Prefecture: Dorohatcho (瀞八丁) Gorge, Koyasan (高野山), Wakayama Castle Nishinomaru Garden (和歌山城西之丸庭園), Tamagawa Gorge (玉川峡)
    • Tottori Prefecture: Amedaki (雨滝) Waterfall, Ashizu Valley (芦津渓谷), Kojika (小鹿渓) River, Kagikaketoge (鍵掛峠)
    • Shimane Prefecture: Tachikue Valley (立久恵峡) close to Matsue, Adachi Museum of Art (足立美術館), Hikimi Gorge (匹見峡) close to Masuda Town
    • Kanba Waterfall (神庭の滝) in Okayama Prefecture
    • Taishaku Valley (帝釈峡) in Hiroshima Prefecture
    • Yamaguchi Prefecture: Akiyoshidai Quasi-National Park (秋吉台国定公園), Kinzan Kōzan-ji (金山功山寺) Temple
    • Tokushima Prefecture: Iya, Oboke (大歩危) and Koboke (小歩危) gorges, Mt. Mimune (三嶺)
    • Kagawa Prefecture: Kankakei (寒霞渓) Gorge, Konpira Shrine, also known as Kotohira-gū (金刀比羅宮), Konpira-dai-gongen (金比羅大権現) or Konpira-san (こんぴらさん)
    • Ehime Prefecture: Nametoko Valley (滑床渓谷), Yakiwa Falls (雪輪の滝) in Uwajima
    • Shimanto River (四万十川) in western Kōchi Prefecture
    • Kunenan (九年庵), the villa of Saga businessman Itami Yataro, Kikuchi Valley (菊池渓谷), Kuma River (球磨川), both in Kumamoto Prefecture
    • Kyusuikei (九酔渓) Gorge in Oita Prefecture
    • Aoba Park (青葉公園) in Chitose
    • Lake Shikotsuko (支笏湖)
    • Nakajima Park (中島公園) in Sapporo
    • Sōunkyō (層雲峡) gorges in Kamikawa
    • Goshiki Gorge (五色渓谷) upstream of the Niobetsu River
    • Nussbaum, Louis-Frédéric, Japan Encyclopedia, Harvard University Press 2005

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