The Momiji-gari: Red Leaf Hunting in Kyoto

As seasonally-themed Japanese celebrations go, the cherry blossom viewing festival may get all the attention, but the centuries-old autumnal tradition of momiji-gari, literally “red leaf hunting”, remains one of Japan’s best kept secrets.

Where to Go

For many Japanese, this yearly pastime is nothing more than a saunter through local forest trails in search of the perfect photograph or simply a scenic place to sit. The seasonal blush of the Maple, Cherry, and Gingko trees, which weave their way through the old city, intensify the majesty of Kyoto’s palaces and temples. For those dedicated to the momiji-gari, however, it is about hunting down the best autumnal landscapes that Kyoto and its surrounding region has to offer. We share the secret of the best places to see it.

Daigo-ji sometimes gets overshadowed by Kyoto’s sixteen other UNESCO World Heritage Sites, but the temple’s name, which translates to “creme de la creme”, should remind red leaf hunters not to pass it by. The thousand-year-old temple is famous for its five-story pagoda, lush sprawling gardens, and serene pond. The latter, most of all, becomes especially picturesque in autumn, when crimson-leafed maple branches drape over the water, mirroring themselves on the surface. As reflective as it is evocative, Daigo-ji attracts droves of photographers and spiritualists alike.