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Momijigari: Hunting for Autumn Colors

Date Published: Last Update:2014/12/09 Traditional Culture, Travel & View point , , , , ,

I have never been to any form of hunting trip till my friends and I head out to Kyoto this year to experience Momijigari which literally translates to maple leaf (momiji) hunting (gari). Just like Hanami (sakura viewing) in spring, Momijigari in autumn is well rooted in the Japanese culture and recently has also gained popularity among foreign visitors.

Our hunt for autumn colored leaves led us to the northwest part of Kyoto near the famous Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji). We first visited the Genko-an Temple famous for two windows found in its main hall – The Window of Enlightenment (Satori no Mado) which represent zen awakening (enlightenment) – symbolized by its round shaped window and The Window of Uncertainty (Mayoi no Mado) which represent human suffering – symbolized by its square shaped window. These two windows are best viewed in autumn where it perfectly frames the autumn scenery of the outside garden. Besides being famous for these two windows, the temple is also famous for its blood ceilings. Found on its main hall the wood used to be floor boards from Fushimi Momoyama Castle which were blood stained/soaked when a group of samurai soldiers who either fought and died or committed seppuku (suicide) during a battle which led to the fall of the castle in 1600. Apparently the blood stained floor boards where bought to several temples in order to console the spirits of the dead soldiers. So when you visit this temple don’t forget to look up and search for the famous footprint. Though pictures were strictly prohibited during my visit to the temple here are a few images from Flickr that I wish to share (visitors are only allowed to take pictures of the garden and of the windows when its off season).

Genko-an Temple The Window of Enlightenment – Satori no Mado (left side) and The Window of Uncertainty – Mayoi no Mado left side (Photo by Agustin Rafael Reyes on Flickr)

6451180637_c3fc2002d9_zGarden (Photo by かがみ~ on Flickr)

6451367887_56d5417107_oFoot Print (Photo by Motohiro Sunouchi)

Admission Tickets to Genko-an Temple usually sells for 400 yen per person but on peak season per ticket is 500 yen. If your wondering if I enjoyed my visit to Genko-an Temple and if it was worth a visit, no doubt it is one of those temples that you must see during momiji season just find a day and or time where there are less visitors because during my visit the temple guests really came in numbers like several bus tours and given the small space of the temple and the limited view of both windows you can’t enjoy them long. And since we did not have the luxury of spending more time to enjoy the garden inside the temple, we took time to enjoy the foliage surrounding it.

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After visiting the temple, we decided to hike around the neighboring hill side – this marked the start of our hunt for momiji leaves. We decided to head to the nearby Buddhist temple – Ginshoji. Along the way we stopped by a shop selling the best dango I ever tasted – it was not too sweet and its crust had a crunch to it, maybe because it was fresh off the grill. The long narrow slopes of the Kagamiishi Dori prove to be a best place to enjoy momijigari though watch out for the cars that frequent this narrow path.

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But have you ever wondered why Kyoto is so famous for autumn leaves when it could be found anywhere in Japan? I often wondered about it during this trip and set out to find answers for myself and if you ask me only one thing comes to mind – Charisma. This city really has so much charisma that perfectly captures the heart of every visitor that has ever visited this place.

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