Why leaf peeping is described as leaf hunting (紅葉狩り) in Japanese? When is the best season for leaf peeping in Japan?



Autumn has come, and the best season for leaf peeping, 紅葉狩り(momiji-gari) in Japanese is coming soon!


In Japan, we have many types of activities related to foods, such as, grape picking(ぶどう狩り: budou-gari), apple picking(りんご狩り, ringo-gari), pear picking(梨狩り, nashi-gari), mushroom gathering(きのこ狩り, kinoko-gari), and so on.


Here, many of you have noticed that all of the words mentioned above have 狩り(gari) at the last end of them.

狩り(gari) literally means to hunt, so it’s understandable for most of you why those words have 狩り(gari), except 紅葉狩り(momiji gari).


Why people in the past named leaf peeping as leaf hunting(紅葉狩り:momiji-gari)?


Today, I’m introducing the origin of the name “紅葉狩り(momiji-gari),” and some information about the best seasons of leaf peeping in different parts of Japan.





1. The origin of the word “紅葉狩り(momiji-gari)”



In fact, 紅葉狩り(momiji-gari), translated as leaf peeping in English, changed its meaning in the past.


As originally defined, 狩り(kari) had meant to hunt a beast.

As time passed, 狩り(kari) had the meaning to hunt a small animal, to gather plants and nuts, and then to enjoy seeing beautiful landscape with seasonal trees, plants and flowers.


Today, 紅葉狩り(momiji-gari) is the only word to have 狩り(gari) at the end of the word.

However, some books written in Heian period (from the late 8C to the late 12C) showed that words with 狩り(gari), for example, 桜狩り(Sakura-gari, literally means cherry blossom hunting) and 月狩り(tsuki-gari, literally means moon hunting), surely existed.


Though we feel a bit strange to see the word 紅葉狩り(momiji-gari), for leaves aren’t hunted, let’s understand that to hunt a beautiful scene with autumn leaves can mean to acquire it!


This is the reason why leaf peeping is called as 紅葉狩り(momiji-gari) in Japanese.



2. The best seasons of leaf peeping in different parts of Japan



In this section, I’m telling you the average best seasons of autumn leaves in different parts of Japan.


* Hokkaido (北海道)


From early September to early November

Leaves in Hokkaido in average start turning red in September and start falling in early November.

The earliest autumn leaves in Japan is seen in Daisetsuzan National Park in Hokkaido.



* Tohoku area (東北地方)


the late September to the middle November


The season of autumn leaves comes to Tohoku area, next to Hokkaido.

There are some spots, like Sugawa Plateau (須川高原) in Iwate prefecture, to enjoy both leaf peeping and hot spring at the same time!



* Shinetu area (信越地方)


the late September to the late November


In the area, along with the Sea of Japan, you can enjoy leaf peeping a bit longer than in Tohoku area.

Leaves start to turn yellow from the late September to the early October, then they start to fall from the early November.



* Kanto area (関東地方)


From the late October to the Early December


Autumn leaves slowly arrive at Kanto area, compared to the areas mentioned above.

In particular, the best season for leaf peeping in Chiba prefecture comes later than that of other prefectures in Kanto area.



* Hokuriku area (北陸地方)


From the late November to the early December


The characteristic of autumn leaves in Hokuriku area is that the best season goes so quickly.

Leaves turn yellow and red as quick as a wink, and the best season for leaf peeping ends all too soon.

It’s like we are seeing the leaves living very fast but vital.



* Tokai area (東海地方)


From the late September to the middle of December


In this area, different parts of the area has different best season.

The best season of autumn leaves come in the late September in some areas, but some have from the middle of November to the middle of December.

You need to look for the information about the best season of the spot you are going to visit for leaf peeping.



* Kansai area (関西地方)


From the middle of October to the middle of December


Almost all of the leaf-peeping spots in Kansai area have the best season between the middle of October and the middle of December.

Kansai area has many of the famous leaf-peeping spots in Japan since the ancient time.



* Chugoku area (中国地方)


From the late October to the early December


Most of the leaf-peeping spots have their best season between the late October to the late December.

However, you can still enjoy autumn leaves in the early December in some parts.

Chugoku area provides you a good opportunity to see a beautiful scene of autumn leaves along with rivers and falls.




* Shikoku area  (四国地方)


From the late October to the late November


The best leaf-peeping season in Shikoku is only a month, between the late October to the late November.

I recommend that you should focus on one or two spots to visit for leaf peeping, if you plan to enjoy autumn leaves in Shikoku area.



* Kyushu area (九州地方)


From the late October to the early December


Even though Kyushu area has a warm temperature, the best season for leaf peeping lasts long.

In Kumamoto, Nagasaki, Ohita and Miyazaki prefecture, autumn leaves start relatively earlier than the rest of the prefectures in Kyushu.


* Okinawa area (沖縄地方)




Unfortunately, Okinawa doesn’t have broad-leaf trees which leaves turn yellow, such as, Japanese maple and acer.

The leaves of some plants turn red, but it’s not in fall but in spring and summer.

So we can’t say it’s autumn leaves.





3. The various ways to enjoy leaf peeping



Just see beautiful leaves?

I think it’s the waste of opportunity!

Here, I pick up various ways to enjoy autumn leaves more!


* Illuminated autumn leaves at night


Like cherry blossoms, autumn leaves are illuminated in many leaf-peeping spots!

In some of the spots, a lot of things are done for giving leaf peepers the best opportunity to enjoy beautiful autumn leaves.

It’s nice to see how a scene of autumn leaves transits from the morning to the evening in one of the spots.


* Red-leaf pressing


When you find a beautiful leaf, making a leaf pressing as memory is a good idea.

Finding a good one will be fun as well!


* Mountain climbing and Hiking


Mountain climbing and hiking in a mountain or walking and cycling in a park is also a good way to enjoy autumn leaves.

You can experience the beautiful Japanese autumn with your five senses!


* Driving


When the autumn leaves are at their best in a spot, you can enjoy leaf peeping at a parking area in a highway or some roads surrounded forests and mountains.


* At a café or from a hot spring


Beautiful autumn leaves surely offer you a great moment at a café or in a hot spring.

It couldn’t be nicer to have something delicious at a café, restaurant or a hotel, seeing the beautiful autumn scene!


* Floating the beautiful leaves in a bath


When you see red or yellow leaves floating in a hot spring, you may feel it looks gracious.

For taking it all in, why not try!


* Going for a picnic with lunch


Autumn in Japan is an ideal season to have an outdoor activity.

If you find a good park for a picnic and it has autumn leaves, it’s great to have lunch at the park and do leaf peeping at the same time!



* Making something with autumn leaves


If you like handmade things, creating a handmade work with red and yellow leaves must be fun!

What you create can’t be created in another season, so makes you fully feel the season!




How was it?


It is said the conditions that beautiful autumn leaves appear are,


(1) to have big changes in temperature between day and night

(2) to have dry air

(3) to have a hot summer with longer hours of daylight


That’s the reason why major leaf-peeping spots are closed to mountains, and Okinawa doesn’t have autumn leaves.


Know the origin of the work 紅葉狩り(momiji-gari) and the best seasons of the different areas in Japan, now you are ready to enjoy leaf peeing!


I hope you have a wonderful memory!