We ‘hunt’ autumnal leaves. Just like flower viewing (Hana-mi) in Spring, it is a major seasonal activity in Japan. Families and tourists try to go out and enjoy viewing red and yellow leaves at temples, shrines, parks and in the mountains.
The Japanese archipelago is long from north to south, so the best season to view tinted leaves varies. Websites show approximate time in each region, which is between early October and early December.
Court aristocrats in Heian Period (794 – 1185) went out to the mountain to view tinted leaves (Genji Monogatari, the first novel in the world, depicts one), but it was in Edo Period (1603 – 1868) that commoners started to enjoy this activity.
‘Momiji-gari’ is one of the titles of Noh and Kabuki, both of which are Japanese traditional plays. It is a horror story. The first half describes beautiful women appreciating coloured leaves, but it turns out they are actually demons and the warrior has to fight and kill them.
The term ‘Momiji’ has been used in many songs. The picture and pattern of coloured leaves are used everywhere in autumn, from lunch boxes to souvenirs. Momiji Manjuu, a type of cake shaped like a maple leaf, is famous as souvenir in Itsukushima. My children love this sweets. (Please refer to the article, ‘Hiroshima and another island’ in Travel & Event.) Some restaurants even serve Momiji Tempura (fried leaves).
Warning: You should never ‘hunt’, or take home branches of autumn leaves in public parks. You might get hunted by other tourists who disapprove of your conduct, if not by the authorities. They are strictly for viewing only.