If any flower would ever be able to give the Plum blossoms a run for the title of The Flower of February here in Japan, it would be the botan, the humble peony. Right now in any number of gardens, temples, palaces and flower shops around Japan the peony is in full bloom. I saw these beautiful flowers at the entrance of the annual botan exhibition in Kamakura’s Tsurugaoka Hachimangu.
Almost every time I visit the grand Tsurugaoka Hachimangu in Kamakura I get the chance to visit one of their gorgeous traditional wedding ceremonies. The shrine is not only one of the biggest tourists attractions of Kamakura but also very popular with couples all over Kanagawa prefecture and beyond! I saw two ceremonies when I was there a couple of weeks ago, and here are some snapshots of one of them, from the whole ceremony waiting in the shade to the seating at the raised platform before the shrine itself. It was an exceedingly hot and sunny day with temperatures near 34 degrees celsius in the shade!
Today is the seventh of the seventh, and in Japan that means it’s time for the tanabata festival, at least according to our modern Gregorian calendar. The most visual aspect of the tanabata festival is the large decorations you’ll see put up at temples, shrines and even stations and shopping malls all over the country. I took these photos yesterday at Kamakura’s grand Tsurugaoka Hachimangu on the first day of summer here in the Kanto region, the rather dry rainy season having ended early. But the most famous tanabata festivals take place in Sendai City in Miyagi Prefecture.
This spring has been incredibly cold, wet, windy and weird. Yesterday we had barely 6 degrees here in Tokyo and in Gunma and Tochigi prefectures there were plenty of snowfall. Something is wrong with the weather! But there has been a handful of good days, like this morning a couple of weeks ago when I happened to pass through the famous Tsurugaoka Hachimangu in Kamakura city south of Tokyo. I didn’t have time to stop but I had my camera ready and just took the things I saw as I hurried through the grand shrine. If you visit Tokyo this shrine about an hour’s train ride away is one of the must sees! I have been here so many times I rarely find anything new these days but I found a new ema design that I hadn’t seen before, one with a ginkgo tree image to commemorate the great gingko tree that blew down in the morning March 10th 2011 (which some people later recognized as a bad omen). The tree was 30m tall and about 1000 years old and it’s going to be awhile until the new tree planted near the old tree stump will grow to be anything like it’s predecessor.