☙ Fall Foliage 2019 ❧ Chugoku - The Deer & The Maples of Miyajima
Shikoku / chugoku
Autumn is coming to the northern hemisphere, and in Japan that means it's time for koyo (紅葉), or fall foliage viewing! Every year crowds around the country flock to the most beautiful spots to see the seasons change, and the leaves shift from green to red. With amazing weather and colorful scenery, it's a great time to explore Japan. Get yourself to Hiroshima's island of Miyajima and you can spend the day making friends with deer and admiring the maples of Momijidani Park!
"Momijidani" literally means maple valley, which is why Momijidani Park overtakes Miyajima Island's other main attractions every fall. When the season changes, on top of the island's super-popular Itsukushima Jinja Shrine (of floating torii gate
fame) and beloved herds of deer, autumn visitors can wander the Momijidani paths lined with hundreds of trees, leaves all changing color
- Image Source: Miyajima Official Tourism Website
The park has been around for hundreds of years, with most of the maples having been planted in Japan's Edo Period, and plenty of traditional Japanese touches. The paths generally follow the Momijidani River, where the red leaves reflect off the water.
- These little cakes, shaped like maple leaves (which are called momiji, 紅葉, in Japanese) are a local specailty of Miyajima. They're actually available year-round, though, to the benefit of everyone who gets a taste. Momiji manju are traditionally filled with anko (餡子), or red bean paste, but walk around and you'll see a number of options available. Some stores sell momiji manju filled with custard, chocolate cream, or any number of other fun flavors. You might even see "age momiji manju", or fried versions!
Whether you can get them at other times of the year or not, the maple leaf-shaped sweets make a perfect snack to nosh while you admire the real thing in Momijidani Park.
Don't Miss Miyajima's Most Famous Attractions
- Of course, the autumn foliage doesn't mean the other charms of Miyajima go away. Emerge from the forested lanes of Japanese maple to find some of the island's famous deer on the beach! Then stroll out onto the wet sand at low tide to get up close and personal with the Itsukushima Shrine gate, planted firmly in the shore and towering over onlookers. See if you can get some photos with both the fall leaves and the gentle deer for maximum seasonal enjoyment!
What to Do Nearby!
- In addition, there's more to see on both Miyajima Island itself, and in mainland Hiroshima. Between Miyajima's docks and the island's main points of interest, you'll find market streets ripe for exploration. Got a hankering for some Hiroshima okonomiyaki? Nestled between souvenir shops and confectioneries you'll find places to dig into the saucy layered dish. Miyajima is also an excellent spot for sampling some good street food, with the local specialty being oysters. Check out one of the carts grilling the shellfish, in the shell or on skewers, for a great savory snack. You might even get a squeeze of Setouchi lemon drizzled on top, which has an especially delicious lemony flavor, prized around Japan.
Take the ferry back across the water and hop on the train to see Hiroshima's major sights: the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, with the Atomic Bomb Dome and nearby museum. Read more about all the area has to offer in our guide to Hiroshima!
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