Kyoto Shimbun 2007.2.25 News

Open-Air Tea Ceremony with the Scent of Plum Blossoms
Plum Blossom Festival at Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine

"Baka-sai," or the Plum Blossom Festival, was held on February 25 at Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine in Kamigyo Ward, Kyoto, to commemorate the virtues of Michizane Sugawara who is closely associated with plum trees. Enchanted by the beauty and scent of the blooming plum blossoms, many Kyoto residents and tourists enjoyed open-air tea ceremonies hosted by "Geiko" and "Maiko," or geisha and apprentice geisha.

The festival has been held on the same day every year for about 900 years, in order to mark the death of Michizane who loved plum blossoms. The origin of the Nodate Oh-chanoyu, one of the main events, dates back to 1952. In that year, a big festival was held to mark the 1,050th anniversary of Michizane's death, based on the historic Kitano Oh-chakai tea ceremony hosted at the shrine by Hideyoshi Toyotomi.

As the date fell on a Sunday this year, the shrine was packed with more visitors than in usual years. At the tea ceremony set up in the Nishi Hiroba next to the Sankomon central gate, visitors formed a long line from early morning to be served tea by about 30 Geiko and Maiko from the local Kamishichiken area. The visitors soaked up the springtime atmosphere as they enjoyed the tea and admired the red and white plum blossoms in full bloom highlighting the shrine grounds.

Other visitors could be seen taking pictures of plum blossoms in the garden which have already reached full bloom due to the unusually mild winter.

(translated by Galileo, Inc.)

Photo= Visitors enjoy a tea ceremony hosted by Geiko and Maiko while admiring the full-blown plum blossoms (Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine, Kamigyo Ward, Kyoto)