Japanese Autumn: The Wonders of the 紅葉 (もみじ/Momiji) Season in Japan

Momiji and Kouyou
When do I get to see these?
What can I do in Autumn?


If you’re planning on visiting Japan, you should make the trip twice! Once in the spring to experience the cherry blossoms, and again in autumn to witness the beautiful sight of the tree leaves turning red (Momiji)!

Momiji and Kouyou

Have you heard of “Kouyou”? It is another reading of Momiji’s kanji: 紅葉. The characters literally translate to “red leaves”. However, the word conveys the idea of “leaves changing colors”. Historically, the characters are read Momiji (紅葉もみじ) which means “red leaves” & “maple tree”.  The custom of going to visit scenic areas where leaves have turned red is called 紅葉狩もみじがり.

This tradition was born during the Heian Era in the Kyoto region’s aristocracy. In this era, the word り, hunting, was used to speak not only about the hunting of deer, but also the picking of fruit. Of course, Japanese nobility did not participate in such activities, but they were great admirers of nature’s beauty. Finally, the aristocracy borrowed the word り and started to use 紅葉狩もみじがり to mean “red leaves viewing”, especially around Kyoto’s temples. Trees were planted specifically for this refined autumn hobby of the era’s elite.



When do I get to see these?

Typically, leaves start turning red in Hokkaido around September. From the north, the fall leaves (紅葉前線)こうようぜんせん will gradually reach the south of Japan. All the popular spots (Nikko, Oirase and Kyoto) release their forecasts. As for the best timing to see momiji, it is usually around one month after the leaves turn red in Hokkaido for the Tohoku region (around October), as well as early November to December in the Kyushu and Kanto regions.

The fall leaves front. By Coto Language Academy, from source

The fall leaves the front.



What can I do in Autumn?

Autumn is considered one of the best season to travel in Japan, so most hotels and ryokans are fully booked (Pro tip: book early!). Moreover, there are plenty of autumn activities to do while you’re here: hiking, visiting Japanese hot springs (温泉おんせん), and shopping (there are a lot of autumn sales going on!).


A: Why don’t we go see the autumn leaves this weekend ?
B: Okay. Where will we go?
A: I have heard that Mount Takao is a nice place…
B: Yeah. Let’s go there!
Additionally, did you know that there is even a holiday dedicated to the Momiji Season known as the Autumnal Equinox Day? How cool is that!

Coto Japanese Academy is a unique Japanese Language School in Iidabashi Tokyo, we offer relaxed and fun conversational lessons for all levels of Japanese learner. Coto Japanese Academy prides itself on its community atmosphere and fun lessons that focus on creation of opportunities to speak and learn Japanese. If you are interested in studying Japanese in Tokyo – please visit our contact page here.


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