Momiji 紅葉, or Japanese Maple Tree, is probably one of the most beautiful type of maple trees there is, especially in the fall. Its thin elegant leaves turn such vibrant colors every fall, from bright yellow to deep crimson, that it inspired mysterious admiration in superstitious farmers in ancient Japan. So that a special ceremony of fall foliage viewing evolved over time and is followed up to modern days, called momiji-gari.
"...A sheaf of autumn leaves admired in solitude is like damasks worn in the darkness of the night..." (from Prince Genji´s letter to a lover)
The viewing ceremony traditionally has deep spiritual significance for Japanese, as a form of communion with nature. According to Shinto beliefs, the viewer on a proper leaf-viewing excursion should try to achieve a personal communion with the leaves. Among the most popular places for momiji-gari are temple gardens in the cities of Kyoto and Nikkō.
A maple tree is a must for every garden in Japan and there are over 100 different varieties of Japanese maple that differ in size, leaf shape and color. Maple is also one of the most common trees chosen for the art of bonsai - growing miniature trees. They can easily adapt to different climates and its beautiful spring and fall colors make it very desirable among bonsai enthusiasts.
Maple leafs, especially in the fall, symbolize peace and serenity...
It is not surprising then that motifs of maple leafs are so popular in poetry and all types of art in Japan, including modern ones. Maple or its leafs in their fall glory are often depicted as a center of the theme or as a background, connecting all the elements. It is also not rare to see maple painted together with a deer, as both are main symbols of the fall. Therefore, kimonos worn in the fall would often have elaborate patterns of yellow, red or orange maple leafs in combination with other seasonal motifs.