All Seasons

Momijigari – Best Ways to Enjoy Koyo and Autumn Festivals

Anton

Writer

In Japan, the tradition of admiring beautiful autumn foliage is as long and respected as enjoying the blossoming cherry trees in spring. The best thing about Momiji or Koyo season is that it is much longer compared with Hanami (cherry blossoms viewing) season. Autumn in Japan with its foliage allows you to see the country with its centuries-old temples and castles and lively modern streets in breathtaking red, yellow and orange colors! Seasons change in Japan vividly, and autumn is one of the most beautiful time to admire this lovely country. From this article, you will find out the best ways to enjoy autumn in Japan along with the history of Momijigari tradition.

Contents

What are Momiji and Koyo?
Koyo Viewing Tradition Background

How to Enjoy Autumn Foliage and Events in Fall?

– Koyo Forecast

– Go Hiking!

– Enjoy Various Autumn Festivals, Parks, and Historic Places with The Foliage Background!

– Watch Koyo at Night

– Enjoy Koyo from a Hot Spring

– What Trees Will You See?

– Food as a Part of Momijigari

Closing Remarks

What are Momiji and Koyo?

Red Leaves Hunting or Momijigari (紅葉狩り) is very old and beloved Japanese tradition when people travel to scenic places to enjoy the colorful autumn foliage. Momiji mainly means read leaves of Japanese maple and Gari here means hunting. The kanji 紅葉 are also read as Koyo that refers to the leaves turning red in fall. Koyo means read leaves, analogically Katsuyo refers to brown leaves, and Oyo refers to the yellow ones. As Hanami has its symbol – a pink flower of a cherry tree, Momijigari has a red maple tree leaf as a symbol as well.

If you travel to Hokkaido to watch the autumn leaves, you can often hear a word kanpūkai (観楓会), which means “getting together to view the leaves.”

Koyo Viewing Tradition Background

According to the poetry and novels of the Heian period, Koyo viewing became a custom around the 8th century. Many beautiful words were devoted to Momijigari at that time to appreciate beautiful autumn and indicate the change of seasons. However, the tradition of viewing the autumn leaves as a leisure activity started only during the Edo period (1603–1868). As with the Cherry Blossoms Viewing, nobility started admiring autumn foliage as an activity. Thus, Momijigari became a common tradition.

There is one more version of the origin of Momijigari. In some regions close to Nagano Prefecture, locals believe in a story about a daemon whose name is Momiji. Momiji often went to the village close to Mt. Tokakushi and disturbed and harmed the villagers. Then, the emperor ordered to find and kill the monster. So, the hunt (Gari) began. Thus, the word Momijigari originated from this story. Currently, you can see the play “Momijigari” at the Kabuki theater.

How to Enjoy Autumn Foliage and Events in Fall?

Koyo Forecast

Unlike the cherry blossom season in Japan, Koyo season starts from the north of the country. Depending on the temperature, latitude, and elevation, you can see the foliage in various places at different time of autumn. Mountainous areas and northern Islands will experience the dramatic change of color in the first place. Beginning of September will indicate the start of Koyo season in Hokkaido when at the end of November you can still enjoy it in Kyusyu. The leaves change its color gradually in all prefectures and the season comes to Tokyo and the Kansai area at the beginning of October and lasts until the beginning of December. Often in autumn you can see the Koyo forecast on Japanese TV and can always find autumn color reports on the web.

Go Hiking!

Momijigari is an excellent opportunity to go hiking. As the summer with its unbearable heat had already passed, the weather becomes just perfect for outdoor walks and mountain hiking. The temperature stays on a comfortable level of 16-22 degrees during Koyo season. If you are adventurous enough, Japan with its beautiful mountains can show you breathtaking autumn scenes. You can reach peaks from any big city within an hour or less as most of the territory if this country is covered with it. Mt. Takao, Hakone, Nikko are just a few trendy places for a day trip from Tokyo.

Enjoy Various Autumn Festivals, Parks, and Historic Places with The Foliage Background!

As the tradition of admiring autumn foliage is as strong as admiring cherry blossoms, there are plenty of events that take place to appreciate this season. Almost every temple or shrine in Japan or any park can boast a beautiful tree which leaves become the primary object for tourist`s cameras every autumn. People admire the beauty of colorful leaves like during Hanami. They sit under the trees in the parks with their families and friends, have picnics or have slow walks around the shrine or park territories and take pictures or gather some of the leaves to dry it between book pages. For example, The Autumn Fujiwara Festival which takes place in World Heritage Chuson-Ji Temple or The Jingu Gaien Icho Festival that is just in the heart of Tokyo is one of my favorite autumn events. The fall palette of the leaves there is just stunning.

The following article will introduce you to the 12 most beautiful and breathtaking places and festivals to enjoy Koyo in Japan. Don`t hesitate to pick your favorite one!

URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/4274/

Watch Koyo at Night

In many parks, temples, around lakes, you will have a great chance to enjoy Momijgari even at night. The illumination provided in this season makes the scenery at night tranquil and charming. In the major cities, you will be able to find special night tours to enjoy the evening scenery of Koyo. The Kiyomizu Dera Temple, Rikugien Gardens, Hase Dera Temple have one of the best night scenes of Momiji indeed.

Enjoy Koyo from a Hot Spring

I don`t like visiting onsen when it’s hot outside. Thus,  Koyo for me is an indicator that it is time to enjoy hot springs. I love relaxing in a hot tub surrounded by colorful autumn nature and enjoying a bit chilly breeze. The beauty of a real Japanese onsen is not only in its natural water but also in the scenery that it provides. Here are my top 3 recommendations:

– Tenzan Onsen is a great place to soak in hot water on the slope of Hakone volcano. It is sinking in a forest, which means in autumn the view will be fantastic.

– Kusatsu Onsen is a very famous hot spring resort in Gunma prefecture. They have the warmest water in Japan there, and the autumn scene is gorgeous and authentic as there are a lot of small mountain rivers around.

– Odaru (Amagiso) Onsen is a very lovely onsen just beneath a mighty waterfall. It has a big territory, few bathtubs with the water of different temperature, caves with hot water and an observation deck. In of the advantages of this place is that it is a mixed hot spring, and men and women get in together. Just don`t forget your swimwear. The Momiji is stunning here as the place is in a canyon surrounded by beautiful trees hanging from the steep slopes.

What Trees Will You See?

Trees that turn red (Koyo)

Japanese sumac, Japanese Rowan, wax tree, burning bush, many rhododendrons, and almost all types of maples including Japanese, full moon, Trident, etc. will cherish your eyes with bright red colors.

Trees that turn yellow (Oyo)

Japanese Elm, lined-leaved and painted Maples, poplar, plane tree, and ginkgo can boast vivid yellow color in autumn.

Trees that turn brown and orange (Katsuyo)

Various oaks, chestnut, Japanese beech, birch, zelkova, bigleaf magnolia, Japanese horse chestnut turn out to become brown.

Food as a part of Momijigari

Festival and seasonal food is a great reflection indicating how deep are the roots of Momijigari tradition are. You can find this food only at a particular time of the year during festivals or in small local stores close to the autumn leafs scenes. Besides, this food can become a great souvenir and a sweet memory of that specific autumn.

Momiji Tempura

To underline the season on your plate chefs usually, make tempura of fresh autumn maple leaves. First, they salt or sugar it, then put into tempura batter and deep fry it as regular tempura. Probably this dish doesn’t have much taste but looks stunning on the plate.

Image courtesy of kimubert

Momiji KitKat

Yes, Japan is a massive fan of KitKat. They invent a new flavor almost every three months. Without doubts, they created a unique seasonal addition for Koyo season. This product was developed for the Hiroshima area and has a taste of maple leaf-shaped red bean cakes.

Image courtesy of jpellgen (@1179_jp)

Momiji Manju

These are the actual maple leaf-shaped red bean cakes. This traditional treat comes from the Meiji period when Takatsu Tsunesuke – a wagashi maker introduced a souvenir which was sold in one of the ryokans in Momiji-Dani (Maple Leaf Valley in Miyajima). This maple leaf shaped souvenir became so popular that we can see it now almost everywhere during Koyo season. Currently, you can find not only red bean paste as a filling but also with cream cheese, custard cream, green tea, and chocolate.

Japanese Chestnuts (Kuri)

It is also a common autumn treat during festivals in Japan. At any park or temple in autumn, you will be able to feel this nutty smell coming from a portable chestnut oven. They usually bake it in the oven or on hot stones, but anyway they are delicious.

Matsutake

This is one of the most expensive and flavorful mushrooms in Japan. It`s hard to meet this mushrooms at festivals because of its high price and a very short period of vegetation in autumn. As Momijigari tasting this delicious mushroom will bring you unique experience and memories of Japanese fall.

Sanma

There is even a unique festival in Japan to celebrate the harvest of Sanma fish. Sanma is a Pacific Saury. It is a seasonal product, and the season is usually in autumn. The festival name is Meguro Sanma Matsuri, and it takes place near Tanjo Hachiman Shrine, in Meguro (Tokyo) in September. As you must have guessed, the main festival dish there is… Grilled Sanma! Every stall during this festival serves it! It`s just a Sanma eater paradise! The fish itself is pretty light, but a bit bony. However, if it is appropriately grilled most of the bones are not noticeable.

Closing Remarks

Momijigari is a beautiful Japanese tradition that is the heart of any local person. There are plenty of ways for you to enjoy the colorful festival of autumn leaves from hiking and visiting historical sites to soaking in hot springs with beautiful views and tasting autumn specialties. The tradition of Momijigari is so deep in Japanese culture that you can read about it in old poems, see the prints of autumn leaves on the kimono fabric, images of red maple leaves on old table games or even taste these leaves in the restaurants or at festivals in fall.

If you are planning to visit Japan this fall, don’t miss a chance to enjoy Koyo. Local guides will be happy to design your autumn adventure and find the best festival or make a perfect route through the best autumn leaves spots for you. You will never get lost with Huber. guides!

For All Sakura Lovers

Cherry blossoms are an essential part of Japanese culture. And, viewing cherry blossoms (Hanami) is very popular in Japan during the spring. This is because cherry blossoms, which the Japanese call “Sakura” are stunning in Japan at the time.

If you are planning to visit Japan this spring, and if you want to see more cherry blossoms in another area. I would like you to check the Best cherry blossom spots in Kyoto. Kyoto is one of the best places to see cherry blossom and Japanese culture.

Here`s the link. URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/2566/ 

Kyoto has many wonderful spots to see Cherry blossoms. However, other areas also have an excellent place for hanami, especially in Tokyo!

If you are in Tokyo around spring and looking for a place to see cherry blossom. Why don`t you check this “Cherry Blossom Spots and Sakura Festivals in Tokyo To Feel Spring.” This article will help you to choose which hanami spot is perfect for you! Click below for more details.

URL:https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/1805/

An Ultimate Idea Source for Your Tokyo Stay!

Most of the travelers who come to Japan enter the country through Tokyo. Even if it is not the main place of your destination, it would be a great idea to stay in the capital city for a few days. The biggest conglomerate in the world has much to offer to any kind of traveler. Whether you want to go sightseeing, shopping, eating out, or trying something special that you can experience only in Japan, Tokyo has it all. In the following article, you will find 100 things and many ideas on how to spend your time in Tokyo! Please, have a look, URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/7726/ 

Don’t Stay Hungry at the Festival!

Image courtesy of Tomomarusan

For all foodies who enjoy Japanese Festivals would be nice to get acquainted with the rich choice offered by Yatai (Japanese festival food stalls). The food presented during Matsuri is pretty different from the one you get at the restaurants in Japan. Besides, there is a certain charm in grabbing some snack from a food stall and diving back into the festival crowd. I am sure that you will discover something new about Japanese festival food from the following article!

URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/5504/

Would You Like to Know How to Enjoy a Japanese Festival Even More?

A lot of people when they get to a Matsuri for the first time feel a bit lost. They confuse about what is happening around. If you are new to Japanese Festivals or want to know an alternative way of how you can enjoy these events, the following article will provide you with a set of helpful tips on how to choose a proper festival and activities you should try there. Please don`t hesitate to take a look at it!

URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/5363/

Did You Know That There is a Festival Every Day Somewhere in Japan?

Japan is a country of festivals indeed. Matsuri is an essential part of traditional Japanese culture. Thus, every day somewhere in Japan a festival takes place. There are traditional and modern festivals, on the sea and on the ground, in summer and winter. Japanese are hardworking people. However, when you attend at least one festival in Japan, you will understand how locals like to party. The article under the link below will introduce you to a celebration on any day of the year. I am sure you will find an event that suits your interests utmost!

URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/6572/

Anton

I`ve been living in Japan for over 10 years and still fascinated with this unique country. I always discover something new about the land of the rising sun when there is a chance!

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