Japan. October-November 2018 (15 photos)

This is part 3 of my Japan 2018 photo series.

The seasons tend to be very important in Japan. Japanese culture celebrates and honours the changing seasons with special food/meals, drink, festivals and customs.

One of those Japanese traditions/customs is called Momijigari (紅葉狩). The Kanji characters literally translate as “autumn/maple leaf hunting”. In essence, the word refers to the activity of admiring autumn leaves, particularly in fields and in the mountains. It’s a tradition that was originally popular with the court aristocracy since about the 8th Century and has been documented in poems and paintings. It’s an activity I had some time to indulge in whilst in Japan recently, although I wasn’t in traditional clothing like the woman above at the Eikando Temple in Kyoto.

“The gardens at Tenryu-ji, Kyoto”

Aki (秋) is the Japanese word for Autumn or Fall. The Kanji character 秋 includes the characters for grain (禾) and fire (火).

The autumn colours weren’t at their peak when I was in Kyoto. However, I was heading out further east into the cooler mountainous areas of the Kansai region, so I was hopeful of catching more vivid colours later.

“Somewhere in Kansai”

Koyo (紅葉) is the Japanese word for the phenomenon of the changing colour of the leaves at autumn. There are two words, koyo and momiji, both written with the same two characters, 紅葉. Koyo refers to the phenomenon of changing autumn colors, mainly when it occurs to the leaves of deciduous broad-leaf trees before the leaves fall to the ground. The word momiji is the same process in the leaves of maple trees. A different word applies to the leaves after they have fallen.

“Red dawn”

Yoshino is a town in Japan’s Kii Mountains, in Nara prefecture. It is known for the thousands of cherry trees that blossom in the spring, and it’s vivid autumn foliage. The area is also renowned for its natural hot springs and I did enjoy the tradition of an onsen whilst staying in a ryokan there.

“Happy trails”

“Yoshino dreaming”

“Spirits in waiting”

Surrounded by forest in the ancient village of Koya-san, one finds Okunoin Cemetery, Japan’s largest and most sacred cemetery which dates back to at least 816AD.

According to the superstition of the Shingon Buddhist school, there are no dead in Okunoin, only waiting spirits.

“Okunoin (奥の院)”

Okunoin is the site of the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism and one of the most revered persons in the religious history of Japan. Instead of having died, Kobo Daishi is believed to rest in eternal meditation, and along with 200,000 Buddhist monks, waits for the resurrection of the Future Buddha.

“The Fallen of Okunoin”

In Japanese there is a dedicated word for fallen or shedded leaves, Rakuyou (落葉).

“Arakura Fuji Sengen Jinja”

“Momijigari (紅葉狩)”

Autumn leaf hunting in Kawaguchiko, near Mount Fuji.

Japanese maple trees are a well-loved symbol of autumn. In Osaka, they sell deep fried (tempura) maple leaves. Quite tasty actually.

“Admiring autumn leaves”

“Kawaguchiko colours”

“Mt Fuji view”

“Yohashira Shrine, Matsumoto”

Autumn leaves found, in Matsumoto, a city in the mountains of Nagano prefecture, near the Japanese Alps.

This is part 3 of my Japan 2018 photo series.

I hope you’re enjoying my Japan photo series thus far. As often happens, things are starting to get a bit busy at this time of the year. So I’ll be taking my usual break from posting until the New Year, resuming my posts about Japan sometime in January. Seasons greetings to you all, and have a happy and safe New Year.

Leica Etcetera, Photography Etcetera

Momijigari (紅葉狩)


94 thoughts on “Momijigari (紅葉狩)

  1. Just magnificent colours LD, they glow as though lit from within. I’ve been off line for a while so will have to back track and find your previous posts on this fascinating country

    • It can be difficult to second guess Nature. I was concerned my trip was too early to catch the Autumn colours near their peak, but I’m happy.
      Thank you very much. Have a lovely Christmas and New Year period.

    • Thank you very much, Jane. Mt Fuji seems to have its own rapidly changing microclimate. One moment completely clear and the next, completely shrouded in cloud. I have photos of both instances. 🙂

  2. All of them, as always, but the “Happy trails” photo is so beautiful… wonderful, like stars paving the way. A lovely thing, this autumn Japanese custom, very nice to see it has a name of its own as a tradition in itself, a celebration. Of nature and the changing seasons.. taking time to enjoy that golden light and the amazing colors. 🙂

    • Thank you very much. “Like stars paving the way” – I love that description. 🙂
      I think it says so much about Japanese culture that there is a word to describe the enjoyment of Autumn , with traditions going for centuries. It’s an appreciation for Nature and not taking it for granted.

  3. Deep fried maple leaves…very imaginative. Gorgeous series, as usual. The fall colors in Japan are just as breathtaking as the cherry blossoms in the spring. Have a fabulous holiday and see you next year!

    • Originally, I thought why would anyone eat a maple leaf? But I realised it’s vegetarian, it tastes like maple syrup and the tempura batter is crunchy. So, I ate a whole bag full! 🙂
      Thanks so much, Julie. I believe the appreciation of autumn leaves (momijigari) does rival the enjoyment of cherry blossom viewing (hanami), but I’m not quite ready to face the cherry blossom crowds just yet. Happy Holidays to you.

  4. Heide says:

    What a beautiful idea, this business of “hunting” for maple leaves — and what GORGEOUS leaves you’ve shot, Mr. Draco (if you’ll pardon the hunting metaphor). That frame with Fujisan in the background literally made me gasp … but I’d be proud of all of these if I’d shot them.

  5. Magnificent! I do very much enjoy your Japan posts – hope to see more next year then! Seasons Greetings, and may the new year bring you joy and happiness!

  6. Beautiful and very meditative images Draco, I love the idea of maple leaf hunting and look forward to seeing more from your Japan series. We wish you a wonderful festive season and a very happy New Year! 🤗🐾🐾

  7. Tom Gagner Photographer says:

    Enjoyable as always, well made photos and interesting reading. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you too.

  8. josypheen says:

    I love that you made it to Yoshino and spent some time there. I think that is one of my favourite places in Japan, so it’s lovely to see such gorgeous photos of it.

    Yay that you made it to the onsen too. ❤

  9. Such lovely colours! Living on the west coast of Canada we are lucky to see the maple trees as they change colour in the fall, unfortunately we often take it for granted until seen through the eyes of others. Thank you for sharing and making me appreciate the beauty at this time of year both near and far! Happy holidays to you!

    • Yes, it’s human nature to take the usual for granted. It’s all evergreen trees in my area, so cold and rain are the only features of Autumn I usually get to experience.
      Thank you very much. I hope you have a lovely Christmas and New Years. And more travel time in 2019.

  10. theburningheart says:

    Not only love the pictures, but also your useful information that goes along with, giving sense, and knowledge at the scenery we are witnessing.

    Thank you, and keep the good work. 🙂

  11. Truly lovely Japanese visit here, Draco. You capture the Japanese reverence for maple leaves in so many ways here, with the explanation of the words and characters, the history and traditions of the culture. Your photos are superb. I gasped with awe when I saw your photo of Mount Fuji. And your first photo, with the traditionally dressed woman at Eikando Temple admiring the leaves, was my favorite. A cultural delight, thank you.

    • Thank you, Jet, Japan is quite an experience – you’d particularly love the traffic walk signals throughout Japan that sound like chirping birds, rather than the buzzers we have in Australia. Japanese culture certainly does revere Autumn. It’s a wonderful time of the year in Japan.

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