Tokyobling's Blog

More Umematsuri at Yushima Tenjin

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on March 4, 2014

At Yushima Tenjin’s Umematsuri (Plum blossom festival) I got totally carried away with the fun and energy of the crowd carrying the omikoshi around the shrine and took loads of pictures. During summer I typically go to see one or two festivals every week but in the winter there are so few opportunities to see them. The festival was in honor of the plum blossoms, which indeed made a brave appearance in the cold rain, white and bright pink ones. Come summer there will probably be hundreds of kilos of plums ready for the harvest here, hopefully turned into pickled sour plums or umeshu, the super sweet plum liquor.

After having completed its rounds around the shrine, the omikoshi is carried towards the main torii, or gate. The torii of Yushima Tenjin is very special, as it is made in bronze rather than the more common wood (or even concrete). It is also the oldest bronze torii in Tokyo, dating back to 1667. How it survived World War 2 fundraising campaigns and firebombing raids I have no idea. The shrine is also popular with students hoping for admission to the university of their choice. I found one ema, or votive plaque, where some talented person had offered a prayer to get into Yokohama national university. Good luck!

Having been presented to the priests and gods at the main shrine, the omikoshi is then carried around the shrine to the stage at the back where it is hoisted one last time for the people. I was lucky and got a good spot to take photos from. As many people as possible are crammed around the omikoshi to help it get to where it is supposed to go, but as you can see all those people doesn’t make for very much accuracy in movement! The omikoshi almost rammed the director of the group but he was kept up by other supporters with a firm grip on his belt. The omikoshi which can weigh as much as a ton, is much easier to handle with fewer people, as you can see in the last few photos when the ceremony is over and the omikoshi is taken back to its resting place at the side of the shrine.

I can hardly wait for the summer festivals to start up again!

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6 Responses

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  1. Shelli@howsitgoingeh? said, on March 4, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    I didn’t know the blossoms came out so early in the year!

    Like

    • tokyobling said, on March 5, 2014 at 4:46 am

      That is why we love plum blossoms! They are the first (well, almost, magnolia is earlier usually) and they last longer too! (^-^)

      Like

    • C said, on March 6, 2014 at 12:23 am

      They were out when I arrived in late January and it was unseasaonably warm — I had no idea they were this early, either. Super pretty when the weather went wonky and all that snow came in!

      The cherry blossoms have started in earnest here in NorCal, and they don’t seem as pretty. White on gray skies is a bit too monochrome right now 😦

      Like

  2. sarabanto said, on March 7, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    I wish the flowers would bloom here already * -.* probably one more week until that happens! It looks great having the fest in the front and modern houses in the background:)

    Like


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