As autumn’s shortening daylight and cooler temperatures wash across Japan, the foliage of deciduous trees put on a spectacular show. The bright reds and yellows start to color the farthest northern regions, on Hokkaido Island, as early as mid-September and sweep southward, often ending in mid-to-late-November on the southerly island of Kyushu. The beauty of changing leaves brings people out to enjoy the gorgeous colors, a tradition called “momijigari” in Japanese. Literally translated as “red leaf hunting”, it is said to have been practiced as long ago as the Heian Period (794-1195 AD) and the season is celebrated across Japan in many ways in modern times, including red maple-leaf shaped cakes and maple leaf tempura. The changing of the leaves is a reminder that life is fleeting.
On November 20, 2021, cloud-free skies allowed the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on board NASA’s Aqua satellite to acquire a true-color image of Kyushu Island. Kyushu is the most southerly of Japan’s four largest islands and rich in forests and volcanoes. While most of the forests remain green across the island, splashes of orange and red can be seen within the green, especially surrounding the Aso Volcano in the center of the island. Reds also ring the Kuju Volcano in the northeast corner of the extremely large Aso caldera. Although visible on the 1 km image, the colors are more easily seen at the higher resolutions (500 km and 250 km).