Saturday, March 11, 2017

Viewing the Plum Blossoms!

Japan loves its flowers. The sakura, or cherry blossom, is their most well know. The pink petals are everywhere here. The chrysanthemum is a sign of the Emperor and graces all Japanese passports. The past month, I learned about another famous flower in Japan- the plum blossom.

In late February and early March, the plum trees bloom right before before the cherry trees, earning their own special festival and reconition. The one of the best places to see these beautiful flowers is in Kyoto. So that's where I want last weekend, all by myself!

The place in Kyoto to see the plum blossoms is Kitano Tenmangu Temple. As one of the most popular temples in Kyoto, it can get pretty busy there. This was especially true this weekend. Kinato resides as a home of the Teniji, a scholar turned god of education and thunder. Since it's the break between school years for Japanese students, students from around the area come to temple to bring good luck and good grades into the next school year. 
                  The front gate of the temple.                     People line up to ring the bell, asking for luck.

The wooden plaques in the back are for posting wishes.                   A cool bridge!

                                          Teniji is often shown with bulls. 

Along with being a place for good grades, Kitano Tenmangu also houses a thrift market once a month where you can buy traditional good, like kimonos, street food, and other Japanese goods for cheap! 

In February and March, for a mere 700 yen ($7.00), you can walk around the plum trees all you want. The temple boasts over 2,000 plum trees. Legend states that when Teniji was a human, the plum trees followed him from his exile on the island of Kyushu to Kyoto.  As a result, most temples for Teniji have plum blossoms. As the largest temple for Teniji, Kitano Tenmangu has the most plum trees. 

The flowers come in shades of pink and white!

Not only does the ticket include access to the garden, but it also includes free tea and rice crackers at the tea house. Thanks to a kind, old lady I was able to figure out how to get the tea. To match the theme of plums, the tea tasted exactly like umeboshi, or sour plum. It was surprisingly salty, but very good nonetheless!

The rice crackers were good too!

In an addition to the plum trees, on February 25th, the temple hosts a public tea ceremony with members of the local geisha community in Kyoto. I unfortunately didn't make it, but my friends thoroughly enjoyed it! 

Though I didn't know about the plum trees, I'm so glad I went to see them. It was great to go by myself and look at them at my own pace. If you're ever too early for the cherry blossoms, don't feel like you're missing on the beauty of Japan! The plum blossoms certainly are beautiful agains the traditional buildings of Japan. 

See you guys in the next post!