Experiencing plum blossom at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is a must thing to do in Kyoto during early spring. My every visit to this historic shrine was great and the reason behind that was beautiful ume (plum blossom). Though, I must tell you that I once got there in the autumn of 2010. I was astonished looking at the colorful autumn leaves of 250 maple trees there. I wish if I could visit the shrine at least once in every year because many people like me have some wishes or dreams to come true someday. If you have any wish then pray for it to the Tenjin God, I think it will come true – not tomorrow but as soon as possible. Though before praying you must have to have supreme faith in this sort of thing! Attention please – don’t blame me if thing does not work!
According to my experience, it is hundred times better to take a visit to Kitano Tenmangu Shrine in February than visiting it rest of the months of the year. February is a special month which offers you to see delicate ume blossoms and participate in the plum blossom festival. I would definitely share few interesting things about the festival later in this article. Probably this article would motivate you to make a future trip to this place if you have no time for this popular flower viewing matsuri in 2016. My aim is to make you familiar with Kitano Tenmangu Shrine as well as the plum blossom festival. I hope you would enjoy reading rest of the part of this article if you think that the introduction part is just rubbish or waste of time.
When would the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine Plum Blossom Festival Begin?
I like writing in detail article than writing only a few words and then finish it up. I will go straight now, if you are looking to know the date of the festival then know it right now. There is no need to take it down though. It is February 25th! Every year on this day, the ume matsuri at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is celebrated. If you are a residence of Kyoto city and miss this one then I would say – you are not smart as you should be as a Kyoto residence. I do have a friend in Kyoto who usually sells Kimono who once told me that he hardly misses any event mostly held in Kyoto. He and others who live in incredible Kyoto know the value of the matsuri they are supposed to be participated in. Therefore, come earlier, catch the festival on time and have fun with them.
Sugawara no Michizane and Plum Blossom
When it comes to talking about Japanese ume (plum blossom), a Nobleman appears in my mind first whom I know as Sugawara no Michizane. In fact everyone in Japan knows him well even better than me. He does not exist in this world anymore but his wisdom, honesty and knowledge teach us to lead an honest life. He is a kind of god to whom we pray for our happiness, improvement and success. He was a great Japanese scholar, politician and plum aficionado during the Heian period. He was assigned to perform his duty as scholar and advisor to the Emperor Uda. Although for some reason, he was defamed. Plum was his favorite tree; he used to love plum blossoms and its fragrance very much that when he was exiled to the island of Kyushu (at Dazaifu) by the Emperor Uda, he wrote a beautiful poem. Interestingly, the poem was written all about plum blossom through he expressed his regret that “he would miss it”. If you want to know more about Sugawara no Mizhizane then please visit this page.
Ume Matsuri at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine
Matsuri is a Japanese word, meaning ‘Festival’ in English. Ume matsuri at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is very much enchanting. Every year ume matsuri here is held on February 25th. The date of the festival is stable, it has never changed! One of the main events along with viewing ume blossom is the special outdoor tea ceremony (Baikasai). Hot matcha tea and traditional Japanese sweets are usually served by Maiko (Apprentice Geisha). If you like drinking a hot cup of matcha tea then you should try this here.
Drinking a cup of matcha tea everyday is beneficial for our health. Keeping that in my mind, I had to spend some money to drink there at the Shrine. It was great! You would definitely encounter a long queue of visitors if you arrive there late, so the early you arrive the better it would be. While enjoying your tea you can feel the experience of seeing real geisha and maiko in Kyoto. There is no time to have chat with them as they are real busy with serving tea to the visitors.
On the grounds of the shrine there are approximately 2000 ume trees of different varieties. In comparison with Soga-Bairin (A Famous Plum grove in Odawara), Kitano Tenmangu Shrine has less ume trees. Though, it is quite impressive that a single shrine grounds offer you to 2000 plum tree blossoms from early February to mid March. As a visitor you are offered to experience the plum grove walking through the paths inside the shrine area. They look marvelously glorious when most of the ume trees are in their full glory. As you know that sakura has no sweeter fragrance but ume has it! The smell that comes from the colorful blossoms sounds divine to me.
Tenjin-san Flea Market
You will be surprised to know that on the 25th of every month, the shrine itself celebrates a festival known as Tenjin-san’s Festival or Tenjin-san flea market. It does create a great festive atmosphere featuring an outdoor street market within the shrine’s grounds and outside of it. A number of goods are sold such as handcrafts, bonsai, kimono fabrics, jewelry, wooden crafts, Buddha statues, traditional Japanese dolls, lucky charms, home décor accessories, and so on.
There are also foot-stalls from where you could have delicious Japanese street foods and you are suggested to buy packs of different Japanese sweets and candies. I ate takoyaki (a popular traditional Japanese street food) cooked in a special takoyaki pan. During the month of February on 25th, you could find plum blossoms themed goods from this street market. For example, I had seen people buying bonsai plum trees there. If you have an intention to have a plum bonsai in your house as décor accessory then think of purchasing one.
Explore the Shrine
I encourage you to explore the whole shrine’s buildings as they have got something new to experience. There are so many things to discover such as two beautiful gates: Ro-mon Gate and Sanko-mon Gate, the worship hall, the main shrine building, Ishi-no-Ma Hall and Homotsuden Hall (Treasure House). The shrine is a sacred place as a result you are to follow some proper etiquette to enjoy your visit. The treasure house has many valuable national treasures such as craft-works, historical documents, samurai swords, paintings, tea ceremony tools, illustrated scrolls and so on. You will have to pay 300 Yen (Adult) as an entrance fee.
As a visitor, you just can’t go there and start praying to the god on your own way. If you think so then you are completely wrong! To be honest with you, you will have to wash your hand and mouth with water. Don’t worry, you will find the Chozuya there. Before start praying you would ring the bell. Then bow deeply twice. When you are done with that, clap twice after placing both hands near your heart. Now it is time for praying to the god for your good fortune. After the end of your praying, again bow deeply once more and then leave the place.
Important Things to Know
Venue/Place: Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, 〒602-8386 京都市上京区馬喰町 北野天満宮社務所
Opening Hours: 5:00-18:00 (April to September), 5:30-17:30 (October to March)
（on 25th of every month: 6:00-21:00), there is no closing day.
Fees: Free but in order to get into the Plum Grove one has to pay 700 Japanese Yen
Access: Take the city bus (50) or (101) from JR Kyoto Station, and (203) Demachiyanagi Station to Kitano Tenmangu-mae
Official Website: http://kitanotenmangu.or.jp/index.php
Ume Matsuri Period: 25, February 2016.
Parking Lot: Free Parking Space is Available
Just don’t think that you are only allowed to enter the plum grove only on February 25th. In fact, you can get there on the other days until the blossom period is over.
Enjoy Ume Matsuri at Kitano Tenmango Shrine in 2016!
Kyoto is one of the most visited place in Japan. It does have beautiful flower gardens or ski slopes like Hokkaido has but the things it is widely known for are temple & shrine, geisha, traditional Japanese gardens, autumn leaves, sakura and ume blossom. To see Japan’s old architectures, and traditions you have got to come here, no way!
If you have time to visit the ume matsuri takes place at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine then please come here on February 25th. Colorful ume blossoms could simply make you happy and bring some inner peace to your mind. You can purify your mind by just visiting this sacred place and viewing the delicate plum blossoms. Thanks for reading.
Copyright 2016 @ takkhis