In Search of: Momiji Tempura (Fried Maple Leaves)

Momijigari, or “viewing autumn leaves,” is a traditional Japanese pastime during the autumn months, when many Japanese trees (including maples, ginko, and other deciduous species) transform from lush, green summer tones:


to the fiery oranges, reds, and golds of autumn. 

During the medieval era, samurai and their families often visited temples, parks, and natural spaces to view and appreciate autumn leaves at the peak of their colorful finery, and to this day momijigari is a treasured cultural pastime in Japan. Websites post  ongoing foliage forecasts (updated regularly to provide information about the best leaf-viewing spots in the country) and popular viewing spots become crowded when autumn foliage peaks.  


Japanese cuisine is seasonal by nature, and autumn favorites like roasted sweet potatoes (yaki-imo) and chestnuts begin to appear as the season turns. Regional specialties appear in autumn, too, including one I’m hoping to try when I head to Japan later this month: tempura maple leaves (momiji no tempura), a specialty served at Minō Park in Northern Osaka.

The maple leaves are pickled in salt for a year, and then fried in a sweetened sesame batter, producing a crispy treat unique to Minō Park. Although I’ve heard the leaves can be found in bagged/preserved form throughout the year, the fresh variety is offered only during the autumn, and (apparently) only from vendors at or near Minō Park.

I admit to more than a little curiosity — and since the waterfall and foliage viewing at Minō Park is apparently well worth a trip on its own accord, I’m planning to spend my day in Osaka (in part) seeking out–and hopefully eating–this unique autumn treat.

I’ll be in Osaka November 2, so expect an update here on the blog some time in early November – most likely, a month from today!