04 February 2017

Kansai Feb 2016 Highlights Part III - Kitano Tenmangu

Continued from
Part I - Stay at Kyoto
Part II - Fushimi Inari Taisha

For this trip to Kansai, I had planned for Plum (Ume) Blossom viewing because I roughly know that it's during the February period, but we might be a tad too early as plum blossoms typically bloom from mid Feb onwards till Mar, before the Cherry Blossom.

Luckily I came across an article about Ume Blossom at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine in Kyoto and their FB page announced that some of the ume blossoms had started to bloom and others budding.

Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is built over 1000 years ago, in honour of Sugawara no Michizane, a scholar and politician who is known as "god of agriculture", "god of honesty and sincerity", "god of dispelling false accusations", "god of performing arts" and most importantly, "god of academics". Many students would visit the shrine during the examination period to pray for good passing scores and improvement of their abilities.

Kitano Tenmangu features a grove of almost 2000 ume trees inside the Bai-en (ume garden) which is open to the public for a fee of 700 yen.

When we reached the shrine, we decided to walk around the grounds first (free) before entering the Bai-en. As we strolled, we realised that there are plenty of ume trees scattered around the shrine and enough to satisfy our viewing actually. So we found that it's not necessary to pay the additional entrance fee to enter the Bai-en.

The plum blossoms were so pretty, comparable to cherry blossoms if not prettier. It's so understated! I mean, why is everyone focusing only on cherry blossom? Perhaps the cherry blossom has always been widely publicised with more commercial connotations. Anyways, I love them both. How I envy people staying in temperate countries like Japan and Korea where flowers bloom and trees change colour according to seasons.

We spent a couple of hours at the shrine, admiring the beauty of the ume. Understand that the shrine also hosts a special tea ceremony called the Baikasai in the Bai-en every 25th Feb, attended by maiko and geiko from the nearby Kamishichiken geiko district.

And on the 25th of each month, a flea market is held at the shrine and surrounding streets with hundreds of vendors selling antiques, crafts, art, plants, toys, as well as food stands selling street food like takoyaki, yakisoba and more.

Too bad we missed these festivities. Next time, hopefully.

Stay tuned for upcoming Part IV - Nishiki Ichiba Kyoto, Kuromon Ichiba Osaka

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