Momijigari Season

Written by
Ronin Gallery
Published on
September 17, 2016 at 4:43:17 PM PDT September 17, 2016 at 4:43:17 PM PDTth, September 17, 2016 at 4:43:17 PM PDT

Toshimine, Pensive. c. 1900. Woodblock print.

As summer days cool and the sweet smell of turning leaves fills the air, autumn is undoubtedly upon us. While spring in Japan brings the delicate pink of the cherry blossoms, autumn bursts into a kaleidoscope of brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows. Such stunning natural beauty is celebrated with momijigari. Translating to "red leaf (momiji) hunting (gari)," this seasonal tradition is all about appreciating the autumn colors. The koyo (or colorful leaf) front begins in September, turning the leaves in Hokkaido before spreading southward, ending as late as December in southern Japan. While certain locations, such as Nikko and Kyoto, are destination points for momijigari, the beauty of the season can be appreciated throughout Japan. Whether hiking through the mountains, strolling down a tree lined street, or soaking in the warmth of hot spring, there are endless ways to partake in momijigari.

Ido Masao, Umeo. 1982. Woodblock print.

Nasu Koyo in Nasu. Photo by Travis Suzaka.

This seasonal practice dates to the Heian period (794-1185). The aristocracy would enjoy the beauty of fall in their elegant gardens and host poetry competitions amongst the blaze of crimson maples and golden ginko trees. Emperor Saga (786-842) was known to host feasts upon his boat, inviting his guests to appreciate the color in the trees, but also mirrored in the water. By the Edo period, this tradition became a widespread practice. The tradition endures today, attracting tourists from Japan and abroad.

THEN: Hasui, Saruiwa, Shiobara. 1949. Woodblock print.

NOW: Shiobara today. Photo by Travis Suzaka.