May 29, 2020
The Japanese Maple
The Japanese maple is a prominent and alluring tree that grows in a wide area across northeast Asia. Its striking red foliage and sweeping, horizontal branches are recognizable around the world and rightfully draw admiration from the people of Japan and many other countries. Admired for its graceful beauty and rich colors, the distinctive tree represents elegance and balance. It is viewed as a symbol of serenity and tranquility. In Japan, the maple trees are known as kaede (楓) or momiji (紅葉), which means "become crimson-leaved.
The maple tree is an important part of various traditions in Japanese culture. In the fall, people commonly plan a trip to the mountains solely to appreciate the brilliance of the wild maples. During this time, the hillsides and forests transform into a color show as the trees turn vivid red, yellow, purple and orange. This ritual of traveling to the mountains to view the maples is called “red leaf hunting”, or"momiji-gari" in Japanese. For many the trip is spiritual, and viewing the maples strengthens an individual’s connection and bond with nature.
Gardeners also take advantage of the elegance and beauty of the maple by incorporating the tree into both large and small gardens. As a fall tradition, some people choose to plant a Japanese maple tree as a warm welcome to autumn.
Over the years, the tree has played an important role in art, poetry, and literature. The striking beauty and colors of the maple tree have led to numerous dedications to the Asian shrub. Artists and photographers have entire collections showcasing the Japanese maple. Poets also connect to the trees, creating poems that highlight the magnificence of the tree and the serenity of falling leaves. The trees are often featured in classic Japanese waka (和歌) poetry.