Why People Go "Hunting" for Autumn Leaves in Japan

Tokyo Culture Language 2019.10.09
People in Japan use the word Karu = to Hunt in Japanese when they go out to enjoy the autumn leaves. What do they actually mean? Let's find out.

Let's talk about the weather...

The days are getting cooler here in Tokyo and we can feel the summer is about to end.
We are expecting a typhoon over the coming long weekend and the weather forecasts are announcing a massive change in the weather soon after that.
I'm hoping that the leaves are going to be strong enough to remain after the strong typhoon (Hagibis) passes.

The Japanese tradition of enjoying the seasons

If you have been staying long enough in Japan, or have studied about the country, you might have realised that people in Japan traditionally enjoy their seasons in many different ways.

The cherry and plum blossoms blooming in spring are just a part of the whole season thing here.
Although those are some of the well known seasonal events here, there are also people who enjoy the autumn leaves in foliage just like they do with the cherry blossoms.
If you look around carefully, you will notice that just before the season arrives, cherry blossom forecast maps and foliage forecast maps will normally be announced by the weather forecast channels in Japan so that people can plan for their picnics and trips, etc.

Momiji Gari

【紅葉狩り:もみじがり】 is a word describing the act of going out to the mountains or forest to see the leaves in beautiful autumn colours.
If you breakdown the words here "Momiji" = Japanese Maple, and "Gari" (in this case is a variation of the word "Kari") = Hunting.
  • I would love to go out to a place like this to see the foliage once.
Because hunting involves going out and catching an animal that lives in the forests, or the mountains and rivers, people in Japan also called fruit picking "hunting" like the words Ichigo Gari【いちご狩り:いちごがり】which is strawberry picking and Budou Gari【ぶどう狩り:ぶどうがり】 grape picking which both refers to strawberry hunting and grape hunting in Japanese.

Oh, by the way...

Before we go on, here's a list of fruits that you can go picking on your next visit to Japan.

Back to the main topic,

As the words were referring to the fact of going out into the forest in search of something, it was later used to describe the act of going out to see the foliage in autumn.
That is said to be the reason why people still use the word hunting in current times.

Momiji Gari is a big thing in Japan, as you might have already noticed after seeing the forecast map just a little while ago, people here also look for the famous spots to see the beautiful leaves.

There are annual top ten spots announced on different travel magazines and websites just like this one here.
  • Places like Nagano and Kyoto seem to be alway at the top of the ranking. But places like Nikko in Tochigi and Yamagata are also beautiful places.
  • Japanese maple in red
  • Japanese maple in yellow
There are two major trees in Japan that change their colour.
Japanese maples and Ginkgo trees. Maples tend to turn red and the ginkgos tend to turn yellow. 
Of course, there are different kinds of maple trees in Japan so not all turn red, but that tends to be the case.
Well, that was a little topic on Japanese autumn.

I like the way people appreciate the seasons all around the world, what do you do in your country for the different seasons?

Let me know in the comment section below or send us a message through Facebook or Instagram.
Keep up with daily posts about Japan on our JAPANKURU website.
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