Momijigari (紅葉狩), from the Japanese momiji (紅葉), “red leaves” or “maple tree” and kari (狩り, “hunting”, is the Japanese tradition of going to visit scenic areas where leaves have turned red in the autumn.
In the English language this phenomenon is known as ‘leaf peeping’. According to Word Spy a leaf peeper (1980) is a tourist who visits New England in autumn to see the changing colours of the foliage. The quest is for the perfect moment — the exact time and location when a leaf peeper will encounter the height of foliage color and experience foliage ecstasy.
Yesterday, Steve and I went up to Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire (Old England) in search of foliage ecstacy. Westonbirt is a 600 acre arboretum in the Cotswolds, with 18,000 rare and beautiful trees. Started in 1839 by Robert Holford, at a time of great excitement in the plant world, with plant-hunters like David Douglas bringing new and exotic species from the farthest reaches of the British Empire. Although Robert Holford never went on expeditions, he probably financed some and the collection contains some of the original plants brought back. It seems likely that Robert, in keeping with wealthy Estate owners of his day created the arboretum for pleasure and as testament to his taste and wealth. Holford’s son, George was responsible for planting many of the rhododendrons and maples for which Westonbirt is so famous today. The arboretum passed to the Forestry Commission in 1956 in lieu of death duties.
In the autumn, the stars of Westonbirt are in the world famous maple collection. After changing into our Wellies, we set off through the Silk Wood to visit the Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) trees.
I don’t think I need to say much more than this: ‘ We found our red leaves.’
When I remarked that this bloke has some serious kit, he replied that his camera equipment cost him more than his first house. I personally don’t like to shoot with an SLR because having to stop and change lenses takes me out of the moment and from what I’m experiencing in the world around me. I used Steve’s Fuji Finepix bridge camera for most of these shots. It’s a bit bulkier than my little Pentax Optio A40, but I like the range of settings I can tweak on it. Plus I love the optical viewfinder. Anyhow, I hope that guy got some good shots. Not sure how good a time he was having, because when someone’s dog had the audacity to come up to him and say ‘Hello’ he got really narky.
In the whole universe of colour that I was immersed in, I felt the most deeply moved by the occasional, solitary one or two leaves. The ones who stayed for just that brief moment longer, so that I could stop and look and really see them in their unique and individual beauty.