Komorebi: Sunlight Streaming Through the Trees

In a recent post, I featured this picture of glowing November leaves.

In the comments section, my blogging friend Susan Rushton noted “[t]he sunlight through the trees illustrates the Japanese word Komorebi I was reading about earlier in the week.”

Although I have long admired the Japanese for their ability to use a single word to express a concept, I had never heard of komorebi before. I decided to do a little research.

From the Chicago Botanic Garden I learned “[t]he dapples of light and leaf are caused by the pinhole effect—the same concept that allows a pinhole camera to work. Light passes through a small hole—or in this case, the gap between leaves—and projects an inverted image on the other side. This effect is especially notable at dawn or just before dusk, when one can observe a cascade of shimmering amber light. While the sight is familiar and nostalgic, there is no English word for this phenomenon. There is, however, a Japanese word: komorebi.

“There are three important parts to this word: 木 (ko) meaning tree, 漏れ (more) meaning to escape from, and 日 (bi) meaning sun. Together, the characters mean something like ‘sunlight filtering through trees.'”

Inspired by komorebi and the Japanese, I went out in search of more amber light filtering through the leaves of trees. I was not disappointed.

By the edge of my deck, I came across this astilbe. Even though the astilbe is not a tree, it seems to me that the sunlight glowing through the plant’s leaves captures the beautiful quality of komorebi.

Thank you, Susan, for introducing me to komorebi, a concept that I both knew and didn’t know, which has come to me each fall as the leaves change to russet and yellow and the sun slants sideways not far above the horizon, casting a golden glow over the landscape.



77 thoughts on “Komorebi: Sunlight Streaming Through the Trees”

  1. Komorebi is a word I must remember – I love learning new words! We can experience a similar effect with the sun shining through the newly unfurled green leaves. Thank you for this beautifully illustrated explanation of komorebi!

      1. What a beautiful Japanese word, Laurie, and thanks for the explanation. I agree the Japanese language has the gift of expressing, and describing concepts very simply.

  2. A beautiful post, Laurie – text and pictures combined. Thank you!
    The English language could be similarly expressive if we continued making up words in English to represent feelings, sights, sounds, etc. that aren’t already accounted for. We seem to have settled for what’s already in the dictionary – forgetting that language should be a living, evolving means of expressing ourselves.

  3. Because of reading past posts too late to comment, I made some notes, just for you…You will know what I’m talking about from the last catch up reading.

    Dee’s birthday: The Maine coast is much prettier than our coast. Even more beautiful than the Oregon coast.

    Your tiny shed is adorable.

    I love October, too. It’s also a pretty lazy month at work unless we take on a special October project. I think I have the same cat statue as the one on your bench…or very similar.

    Thanks for alerting me to the excellent Garden in a City blog. (I seriously need to update my blog roll.)

    Viles Arboretum…gorgeous.

    I read The Country of the Pointed Firs in 2018…loved it!

    Re creaky knees and trails…I so know the feeling of staying behind while the more vigorous walk on, which can lead to some nice solitary contemplative moments.

  4. It’s a beautiful phenomenon. As it happens, I’d been thinking of reposting one of my pieces from 2019, when I learned about the word — thanks to another “tree” experience in East Texas! Forests may not be necessary for the phenomenon to emerge, but as your photos show, they certainly help. What’s especially fun is that the same physics teacher who explained the “tree with the lights in it” for me also provided the explanation for that 2019 experience!

  5. What a fabulous word! And wonderful examples in your shots, Laurie. I see komorebi around me all the time when the sun is visible and I always breathe it in; it’s a favourite sight for me. Now I have a word to think on also. Thank you 😊

  6. This is wonderful, Laurie. Sunlight dappling the leaves is one of the best parts of autumn. I’m grateful to know such a beautiful word for such grace. And your photos illustrate it beautifully.

  7. Lovely post and photos, Laurie. I also thank you for passing on what you learned about the Japanese word and concept of kamorebi. It seems there should be an English word for this beautiful phenomenon which has been celebrated in word, music, and photography.

  8. Love your exploration and journey with this concept & feeling of komorebi. As with many things Japanese, the feeling and the vibe is so critical to understanding – and your series of stunning fall captures are like haiku, capturing nature in a nutshell, elevating us to Someplace.

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