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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

ume festivals and ume bonsai

From late January to early February, ume trees began blooming several days later than usual, earlier than last year.

Although ume(梅, Prunus mume) is often translated into English as plum, it is more closely related to the apricot. Plum(Prunus salicina) is referred to sumomo(酢桃 or 李) in Japan.

information about ume festivals: (Japanese version only) (Japanese version only)

Ume matsuri (Plum festival)
Ume matsuri (Plum festival) by pelican /flickr

Yushima Tenjin Plum(Ume) Festival(湯島天神梅まつり)
Feb.16-March 10
Yushima Tenman-gu Shrine(湯島天満宮), Tokyo

Tokyo : 10 Mar 2012
Tokyo : 10 Mar 2012 by chinnian /flickr

Yoshino Baigo Ume Matsuri (Plum Festival) (吉野梅郷梅祭り)
Feb.23-March 31
Ome City, Tokyo (Japanese version only)

梅の公園散策 (Yoshino plum grove in Ome)
梅の公園散策 (Yoshino plum grove in Ome) by cyber0515 /flickr

Prunus_15 by ajari /flickr

Ano bairin(賀名生梅林, Ano ume grove)
Best time to go: late Feb.-late March
Gojo City, Nara Prefecture

RIMG0017 by Tamago Moffle /flickr

DSCN1717 by Tamago Moffle /flickr

DVC00116 by Tamago Moffle /flickr

Oiwake Bairin(追分梅林, Oiwake ume grove) is now closed.
Nara City, Nara Prefecture


Osaka Castle Bairin(大阪城梅林)

plum grove park(Osaka castle)
plum grove park(Osaka castle) by tsuda /flickr

Osaka by that.girl.possessed /flickr

Soga Bessho Ume Festival (曽我別所梅まつり)
Feb.2-March 3
Bessho Bairin, Odawara City, Kanagawa Prefecture

Soga Bairin(曽我梅林) is a generic term that includes the three (Nakagawara Bairin(中河原梅林), Hara Bairin(原梅林) and Bessho Bairin(別所梅林)) ume groves.

plum garden in Soga, Kanagawa

Many ume trees were planted in order to secure ume fruits as army provisions over 600 years ago. Odawara is a town that was a resting spot along the Tokaido road in the Edo period.

Umeboshi(pickled ume fruits) quench thirst, relieve fatigue, and prevent decay. They were popular among travelers, and travelers placed them in box lunches.

Umeboshi is made by pickling ripe ume fruits in salt with red shiso leaves, drying them in the sun. My home-made umeboshi is ready. After that, some people soak them again in the vinegar from the fruits.

ume fruits for umeboshi

梅仕事2009 (1)
梅仕事2009 (1) by salchu /flickr


梅干し by HIRAOKA,Yasunobu /flickr

Bento@06.08.07 / jetalone /flickr

a box lunch with a umeboshi in the center of rice

A plum liqueur. by skyseeker /flickr

Umeshu is a liqueur made by soaking unripe ume fruits in crystal sugar and Shochu(Japanese distilled liquor).


Ume no Utage(梅の宴)
Feb.9-March 10
Yugawara bairin, Makuyama Park(幕山公園), Yugawara-cho, Kanagawa Prefecture

makuyama park
makuyama park by jessleecuizon /flickr

Ume Garden at Koishikawa Korakuen Garden (小石川後楽園), Tokyo

小石川後楽園梅園 by Masashige MOTOE /flickr

Ume Festival(梅まつり)
Feb.20-March 31
Kairaku-en(偕楽園), Mito City, Ibaraki Prefecture

kairakuen by vera46 /flickr

kairakuen by vera46 /flickr

 "plum ambassador" girls

Ume Garden(梅苑) at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine(北野天満宮), Kyoto
Feb.9-late March

Kitano Tenmangu
Kitano Tenmangu by JoshBerglund19 /flickr

Plum Garden
Plum Garden by mrhayata /flickr

Kyoto Gyoen National Garden(京都御苑)

Nagahama Bonbai Exhibition (長浜盆梅展)
Jan.19-March 10
Keiun-kan(慶雲館), Nagahama City, Shiga Prefecture

Bonbai means ume tree bonsai. This event was derived from about 40 ume bonsai that a bonsai lover donated to Nagahama City in 1951.  He collected old ume trees growing in the mountains. After potting them, he trained them into bonsai for years.  Potting old trees is said to be very difficult.  This event started in 1952.

About 90 bonsai trees are open to the public.
Now some bonsai experts take care of these bonsai trees. They also collect old ume trees, potting them and trained them into bonsai for 10 to 20 years.  After training for years, ume trees make their debut as bonsai at this event every year.

Keiun-kan Guest House(慶雲館) was built as a temporary palace for Meiji Emperor on a tour in 1887. Its circuit style garden created by Jihei Ogawa is designated as a national scenic beauty. Usually, the house is open to the public from March 24th to November 30th.

Plum bonsai
Plum bonsai by MShades /flickr

Furo(不老, eternal youth), far right, is about 400-year-old ume tree with double red flowers. It is 2.5 meters high and 1.8 meters around.

This event shows other old ume trees such as Shoryubai(昇龍梅, rising dragon), Sazareiwa(さざれ岩).
Shoryubai is about 250-year-old ume tree with single white flowers. It is 1.9 meters high and 1.0 meter around.
Sazareiwa is about 350-year-old ume tree with double rose-pink flowers. It is 2.8 meters high and 1.6 meters around. Sazareiwa (or Sazareishi)  means limestone breccia.

Plum bonsai
Plum bonsai by MShades /flickr

Plum bonsai
Plum bonsai by MShades /flickr

Bonsai trees by individual lovers are also exhibited.

Plum bonsai
Plum bonsai by MShades /flickr

Kakubu(鶴舞, crane dance) is about 150-year-old ume tree.

Plum bonsai
Plum bonsai by MShades /flickr

Shirosudare(白簾) is called from its resemblance to a curtain made of strung white beads.

Plum bonsai
Plum bonsai by MShades /flickr

Hakuryu(白龍, white dragon)

Plum bonsai
Plum bonsai by MShades /flickr

Plum bonsai
Plum bonsai by MShades /flickr

Plum bonsai
Plum bonsai by MShades /flickr

Plum bonsai
Plum bonsai by MShades /flickr

Hanasudare(花簾) is called  from its resemblance to a curtain made of strung beads.

Anpachi Ume Festival(安八梅まつり) 
Feb.17-March 17
Anpachi Hyakubaien Park(安八百梅園), Anpachi-gun, Gifu Prefecture

performances of koto at Anpachi Bonbai Exhibition 
IMG_8679 by shail05 /flickr

things related to ume

umegae moti
umegae moti by moon angel /flickr

Umegae-mochi(梅が枝餅) is a rice cake filled with sweet bean paste and a ume design is stamped on top.  Its name is derived from an episode of Sugawara Michizane.
Umegae-mochi is sold in Dazaifu City, Fukuoka Prefecture.
Legend has it that the ume blossoms in his garden followed him to Dazaifu  in the air.

Japanese White-eye
Japanese White-eye by kuribo /flickr

Ume and a white-eye

Maiko wear kanzashi decorated with silk ume blossoms in February.

Kitanotenmangu maiko
Kitanotenmangu maiko by flackblag7 /flickr

Thursday, February 14, 2013

winter festivals(2)

Hyotenka no Mori(氷点下の森, The Subzero Forest)Jan.1-March 31
Takayama City, Gifu Prefecture

The owner of the isolated mountain inn, Akigami Onsen Ryokan(秋神温泉旅館), started this annual light-up event.

photo by 北海道無料写真素材集 Do Photo

2013 Shikaribetsu-ko Kotan(2013 しかりべつ湖コタン)
Jan.26-March 31
Lake Shikaribetsu, Hokkaido

There are open-air baths and an ice bar on the lake. Kotan means "god of the wind" in the Ainu language. Ainu are aborigines who lived mainly in Hokkaido and Sakhalin.

open-air baths on Lake Shikaribetsu
photo by 北海道無料写真素材集 Do Photo

photo by 北海道無料写真素材集 Do Photo

Tokachigawa Hakucho(Swan) Festival Sairinka(十勝川白鳥まつり 彩凛詩)
Tokachigawa Onsen(Tokachigawa hot spring), Otofuke-cho, Hokkaido

From early November to mid April, many swans pass the winter in the Tokachi River near the hot spring.

photo by 北海道無料写真素材集 Do Photo

38th Sounkyo Hyobaku (Ice Waterfall) Festival(第38回層雲峡温泉氷瀑まつり)
Jan.19-March 31
Sounkyo Onsen(Sounkyo hot spring), Kamikawa-cho, Hokkaido

Ice festivals in the Okuhida Hot Spring Villages(奥飛騨温泉郷), Takayama City, Gifu Prefecture  (Japanese version only)

(1)  Aodaru(blue ice pillars) Light Up
  late Dec.,2012-mid March, 2013
      Fukuchi Onsen(福地温泉)


(2)  Hirayu Otaki Keppyo Matsuri(平湯大滝結氷まつり)
      Hirayuotaki Fall(平湯大滝), Hirayu Onsen(平湯温泉)

Hirayuotaki Fall

(3) Taruma Kanekori Light Up(Taruma Falls Light Up)
      Dec.20, 2012-Feb.28, 2013
     Taruma-no-taki(Taruma Falls), Shinhirayu Onsen(新平湯温泉)

Taruma Kanekori Light Up

Taruma Kanekori Light Up

Visitors watch drifting snow on the train.

Drifting snow experience tours(地吹雪ツアー)
Kanagi-machi, Goshogawara City, Aomori Prefecture

So far about 10,000 visitors including many Asian tourists from snowless countries took part in the tour. They walk through drifting snow and ride in a horse-drawn sleigh.

Yokote Kamakura Festival(横手の雪まつり(かまくら))
Yokote City, Akita Prefecture

The festival dates back 400 years. German architect Bruno Taut(1880-1938) visited Yokote in 1936 and described his impressive experience at the festival in his book "A Rediscovery of Japan".

Nango Yukihotaru Festival(南郷雪蛍まつり)
Hachinohe City, Aomori Prefecture

Tokamachi Snow Festival(十日町雪祭り)
Tokamachi City, Niigata Prefecture

Kadare! Yukiguni Taiken
(かだれ!雪国体験,  Let's talk(or join us)! experiences in the snow country)
Shichinohe-machi, Aomori Prefecture

Participators can enjoy many outdoor and indoor activities such as making and eating soba noodles, making snow lanterns, snow rafting, snow trekking, sleighing, rice-cake making, dyeing with vegetables, handheld fireworks, an exchange party with local people, and a hot spring.
Those wishing to visit need to make reservations. This event was closed to new entries.

Niogataki Falls Ice Festival(乳穂ヶ滝氷祭, Nioga-taki Kori Matsuri)
Nishimeya Village, Aomori Prefecture

Fudo-son (Fudo Myoo (Acala, one of the Five Wisdom Kings)) is enshrined in a cave behind the falls. The outcome of the year's harvest is divined by watching the diameter and shape of the frozen falls. Visitors can also enjoy a big kamakura, a snow slide.

Hachinohe Enburi Festival(八戸えんぶり)
Hachinohe City, Aomori Prefecture

People in Hachinohe feel that long and hard winter is nearing an end when the festival ends.

More than 30 enburi groups participate in this festival.

On the 17th, all the groups dedicate their enburi dance to Chojayama Shinra Jinja Shrine(長者山新羅神社).
After all the groups parade through the streets and perform their enburi dances, they worship at Miyagi Jinja Shrine(三八城神社).

After that, enburi performers dance in front of shops and homes in the city until 8 or 9 p.m.. It's called Kadozuke. The performers accept gratuities.

One of the designated seven groups perform in the presence of the Hachinohe mayor at the square in front of the Hachinohe City Hall. In ancient times, enburi groups performed in the castle.

On the 17th and 18th, enburi dance is performed at the Hachinohe City Public Hall.
At the square in front of the Hachinohe City Hall, enburi dance is performed in the daytime on the 19th and 20th and in the night from the 17th to 20th.

Oniwa Enburi

Oniwa Enburi is performed at Kojo-kaku(更上閣). In ancient times, wealthy people had enburi groups perform at their homes. Oniwa Enburi was revived so that visitors can sense a taste of the past.
Kojo-kaku was build as a Japanese-style wooden residence in 1897 and was designated 'Country Registration Tangible Cultural Properties' in 2003.

There are two types of enburi performances: "Naga Enburi" and "Dosai Enburi".

Naga Enburi
Naga Enburi features slow movements. Its performers wear headdresses called eboshi. The leading performer wear a headdress with a red flower. They hold long handle spades in their hands.

Dosai Enburi is quick in movement. Its performers wear eboshi with long fringes of five different colors. They hold sticks with metal ornaments on its tip in their hands.

Dosai Enburi

The site of Japan Foundation for Regional Art-Activities offers the videos of enburi.

Momoishi Enburi(百石えんぶり)
Oirase-cho, Aomori Prefecture

It is said that Momoishi Dosai Enburi came from Kiriyanai(切谷内) in Gonohe-machi(五戸町) to Momoishi about 180 years ago. Enburi performers dedicate their dance to Wakamiya Hachimangu Shrine(若宮八幡宮). After that they parade through the streets, perform their dances in front of shops and homes and accept gratuities.

photo by 北海道無料写真素材集 Do Photo

Shimokawa Ice Candle Museum
Shimokawa-cho, Hokkaido

This is a ice festival. Snow candled are decorated everywhere in the city.

photo by 北海道無料写真素材集 Do Photo

photo by 北海道無料写真素材集 Do Photo

Sawada Candle Festival(沢田ろうそくまつり)
Sawada Shinmeigu Shrine, Hirosaki City, Aomori Prefecture

Candles are lighted at Iwaya-do(岩谷堂) in Sawada Shinmeigu Shrine(沢田神明宮).
On the following day, the harvest outcome and weather of the year is divined by watching wax dripped from from the candles.


Iwaya-do is a small shrine made in a depression of a rock.
Local people and visitos can also light candles at the shrine.

Gassan Candlelight Snow Inns Festival (雪旅籠の灯り, Yukihatago no Akari)
Feb.22-March 3
Gassan-shizu Onsen(月山志津温泉), Nishikawa-machi, Yamagata Prefecture (Japanese version only)

Gassan-shizu hot spring area is located on the route to Mount Gassan that has been the subject of mountain worship from ancient times. The old town scenery of the area is reproduced by use of heavy snow. The area has snow six meters deep in winter. Unlike other snow festivals, buildings are made by carving out of snow on the ground.  Visitos can enjoy four snow inns, an ice bar, a kamakura, and an snow slide. They can enter the inns in which some snow statues, the tables and chairs are carved.