Cherry Blossom Forecast 2024 (Japanese version only) (Japanese version only) (Japanese version only)

when and where to see cherry blossoms (Japanese version only):

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Mibu Kyogen in Kyoto

The 26th National Confectionary Exposition in Hiroshima is being held from April 19 to May 12. The exposition is held once every four years. It exhibits and sells onfections all over Japan.  The exhibits include more than 150 Japanese-style confectionary artworks,  "Itsukushima Shrine" made by confectioners of western and Japanese-style confectionery. It's very crowded on holidays.

Mibu Kyogen(壬生狂言) is being held at the Mibu-dera Temple in Kyoto from April 21 to 29.
It's a silent play created to propagate Buddhism to ordinary people. It became a type of entertainment in the Edo Period. Buddhist priest Engaku Shonin is said to have begun the Mibu Kyogen in 1300. This annual performance has been held uninterruptedly since 1300. It has been designated a significant intangible folk cultural asset of Japan. Kyoto people call it "Mibu-san no Kan-den-den".

The devotional exercises are performed morning, afternoon, and night from April 21 to 29. Mibu Kyogen is performed as the afternoon exercises during the period. The performance is dedicated to Ksitigarbha(延命地蔵菩薩), the principal image of the temple.

The reason the play has no dialogue was because players had to preach Buddhism to the crowd simply without loudspeakers. A Buddhist sutra was originally chanted during the performance. Some say that the play has no dialogue because the crowd couldn't hear the voice due to the chanting.

Performers in masks perform with the sound of bells, drums, and flutes. The performance consists of 30 programs in total. Performers throw rice crackers into the audience in Atago mairi(Pilgrimage to Mount Atago), throw paper yarn into the audience in "Tsuchigumo(The Demon Spider)", walk the tightrope in "Nue(Nightmare Bird)", smash unglazed plates in "Horaku wari(Smashing Plates)".

First Horaku wari(Smashing Plates), and then four of other programs are performed every day from April 21 to 29.

Mibu Kyogen is also performed for two days during the Setsubun Festival (February), and for three days in October.  At the Setsubun Festival, only one program "Setsubun" is performed.
The October performance used to be done irregularly. Although being discontinued in 1871, it was resumed in 1974.

Members of the Mibu Dainenbutsu Association perform the play. Mibu villagers used to perform the play. About 40 people living around Mibu-dera do it.

by MShades /flickr

Mibu-dera is also known for its connection to the Shinsengumi(新撰組) which is an armed group who guarded Kyoto during the end of Tokugawa Shogunate. The group included lordless samurai warriors and commoners. Now Shinsengumi is better known than Mibu Kyogen.

The Yagi family's house was used as a military post of Shinsengumi.

Shinsen-en Kyogen(神泉苑狂言) is performed at Shinsen-en(神泉苑) in Kyoto from May 1 to 4. Admission is free. 
The Mibu-dera's head priest at the time forced through reforms of the association in 1900.

Base of Shinsengumi at Yagi-House, Mibu 
by shinji_w /flickr

Some of its members rebelled against the reforms and formed a different organization.  They started Shinsen-en Kyogen in 1905. Now the head of the Yagi family is the facilitator for the two organizations.

Shinsen-en Festival is held on May 5. The festival includes carrying of a portable shrine, children's parade, performances of Japanese drums and dance.

Horaku wari(炮烙割り, Smashing Plates)

Mibu Kyogen 02
Mibu Kyogen 02 by MShades /flickr

Mibu Kyogen plates
 by MShades /flickr
(Horaku(炮烙, unglazed plate))
In Kyoto, there is a custom to visit Mibu-dera during the Setsubun Festival (February) and dedicate unglazed plates to the temple after writing family members' ages and sexes on the plates.
In this program, these dedicated plates are broken. Breaking the plates protects dedicators against evils.

Hanaori(花折, Breaking Cherry Branches)

A young monk, a master and his servant engage in witty dialogue. This is a lesson to drinkers. The monk's mask was dedicated by Ito Jakuchu(伊藤 若冲, 1716–1800) who was a famous painter.

IMGP8810 by SnippyHolloW /flickr
Hanaori(花折, Breaking Cherry Branches)

Dojo-ji(道成寺, Dojo-ji Temple)

A woman(Kiyohime) falls in love with a handsome monk (Anchin) at first sight, but he is on his way to a temple. It is very troublesome for him. He lies to her and flees from her. Knowing that she is deceived, she flies into a fury and turns into a huge serpent. He flees into the Dojo-ji Temple and hides underneath the temple bell. The serpent winds itself around the bell and burns him to death.

This program is a sequel of this legend. The temple places a new temple bell. Kiyohime's vengeful ghost appears and hides underneath the bell. Then the bell falls with a loud crash. The main priest prayed absorbedly, and the bell is lifted. He exorcises the ghost by prayer.

Mibu Kyogen 07
Mibu Kyogen 07 by MShades /flickr
Dojo-ji(道成寺, Dojo-ji Temple)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

wisteria festivals

wisteria-viewing spots:
wisteria festivals:

Ashikaga Flower Park first comes to mind when I think of a wisteria viewing spot. Now is the best time to view purple and pale pink wisterias. About 145-year-old big wisteria is expected to peak soon.
I have posted another photos of the park's wisterias here before.

photo by syaraku

photo by syaraku

photo by syaraku

photo by syaraku

photo by syaraku

photo by syaraku

photo by syaraku

double-flowered wisteria

Japanese wisteria / Wisteria floribunda / 藤(フジ)
Japanese wisteria / Wisteria floribunda / 藤(フジ) by TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋) /flickr

Ashikaga Flower Park
Ashikaga Flower Park by jeeheon /flickr

RIMG2577 by honobon /flickr

Big wisteria of Kurogi in Yame-gun, Fukuoka Prefecture

It is said that an imperial prince himself planted the wisteria in 1395. The wisteria has been designated as a national natural treasure.

Photo by

Photo by

Shogun Wisteria in Fukuoka Prefecture at Onakatomi Jinja Shrine in Ogori City, Fukuoka Prefecture

According to legend, an imperial prince prayed to cure his battle injury at the shrine in 1359, and he presented a wisteria to thank the deity for his full recovery.  The tree is estimated to be 650 years old.

Photo by

Photo by

Daikozen-ji Temple(大興善寺) in Miyaki-gun, Saga Prefecture

The temple is famous for its azaleas.

IMG_2128 by gtknj /flickr

Wisteria of Ushijima, at Touka-en garden, Kasukabe City, Saitama Prefecture

The tree is designated as a Special National Treasure. The tree is estimated to be over 1,000 years old. It's expected to peak from April 25 to May 3.
According to legend, the Buddhist priest Kobo Daishi(774-835) himself planted the wisteria on the ground of a temple. Its owners changed several times after the temple was abolished in 1874. The garden maintains the tree now. The tree is open to the public for a fee only during flowering period.

Japanese wisteria / Wisteria floribunda / 藤(フジ)
Japanese wisteria / Wisteria floribunda / 藤(フジ) by TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋) /flickr

Over 1200 years old Japanese wisteria / Wisteria floribunda / 樹齢(じゅれい)1200年余(ねんよ)の藤(フジ)
Over 1200 years old Japanese wisteria / Wisteria floribunda / 樹齢(じゅれい)1200年余(ねんよ)の藤(フジ) by TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋) /flickr

Over 1200 years old Japanese wisteria / Wisteria floribunda / 樹齢(じゅれい)1200年余(ねんよ)の藤(フジ)
Over 1200 years old Japanese wisteria / Wisteria floribunda / 樹齢(じゅれい)1200年余(ねんよ)の藤(フジ) by TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋) /flickr

Japanese wisteria / Wisteria floribunda / 藤(フジ)
Japanese wisteria / Wisteria floribunda / 藤(フジ) by TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋) /flickr

Kameido Tenjin Shrine(亀戸天神) in Tokyo

The shrine has been well known as a wisteria viewing spot since the Edo Period.  A wisteria festival is being held from April 20 to May 6.

Wisteria - Kameido, Tokyo
Wisteria - Kameido, Tokyo by A.Davey /flickr

photo taken between January, 1914 and December, 1918

Kameido Tenjin
Kameido Tenjin by malfet_ /flickr

Wisteria by mrhayata /flickr

Kameido Tenjin Shrine
Kameido Tenjin Shrine by yendo0206 /flickr

IMG_6363 by y_uno /flickr

Kissho-ji Temple(吉祥寺) in Yahatanishi Ward, Kitakyushu City, Fukuoka Prefecture

The temple has a 150-year-old wisteria. A wisteria festival will be held from April 27 to 29.

IMG_5058-5D2 by gtknj /flickr

IMG_5078-5D2 by gtknj /flickr
IMG_5082-5D2 by gtknj /flickr

Tennogawa Park(天王川公園) in Tsushima city, Aichi Prefecture

The Owari Tsuhima Wisteria Festival(尾張津島藤まつり) will be held from April 25 to May 6. Tsushima was famous for its wisterias. The park has 114 trees of 12 different kinds.

wisteria trellis #6
wisteria trellis #6 by tsuda /flickr

wisteria trellis #9
wisteria trellis #9 by tsuda /flickr

wisteria trellis #2
wisteria trellis #2 by tsuda /flickr

wisteria trellis #2
wisteria trellis #2 by tsuda /flickr

Sumiyoshi Jinja Shrine(住吉神社) in Akashi City, Hyogo Prefecture

Harai no Fuji(祓除の藤, purifying wisteria)

When passing under the wisteria, people feel as if they were purified with onusa.
Onusa(nusa) is streamers (made of linen, paper, etc.) attached to a long pole and is used for purification at religious services of Shinto. It is waved left and right during purification rituals. Ancient people transferred their stains onto it by rubbing themselves with it and threw it in rivers.

photo by 神戸観光壁紙写真集

Sennen-fuji(千年藤, thousand-year-old wisteria) at Dazai Jinja Shrine(大歳神社) in Shiso City, Hyogo Prefecture

It is said that the wisteria was planted in 960.

photo by 神戸観光壁紙写真集

photo by 神戸観光壁紙写真集

Flower Park in Ishioka City, Ibaraki Prefecture

フジ/紫藤/wisteria by L_Dan /flickr

Monday, April 22, 2013

azalea festivals

I'm worried about the earthquake's damage in China, but the whole picture of the damage is not clear yet.

Wisterias(藤, fuji) and azaleas(躑躅, tsutsuji) are in full bloom in my town. Blossoms have bloomed earlier than usual. A nearby house has a wistaria-pergola. I smelt the scent of white wisteria as I passed by.

information about azalea festivals: version only)首都圏(Japanese version only)

Kurume Forest Azalea Park(久留米森林つつじ公園) in Kurume City, Fukuoka Prefecture
Kurume Forest Azalea Park

There are 61,000 azelea trees including Kurume azalea, Hirado azalea in the park.

Kurume azalea(久留米躑躅) is a hybrid of Rhododendron obtusum and Rhododendron sataense and was developed in Kurume in the Edo period. Hirado azelea(Rhododendron × pulchrum) appears in an encyclopedia published in 1712. The park was built on the site of an ancient castle.

Photo by

Misumi Park(三隅公園) in Hamada City, Shimane Prefecture

The park has about 50,000 azalea trees including Kurume azalea, Hirado azalea.

Misumi Park



IMG_1012-7D by gtknj /flickr
 Mifuneyama Rakuen(御船山楽園) in Takeo City, Saga Prefecture

This garden was a villa of the Nabeshima family who governed Saga Domain in the Edo period. Visitors have a good view of Mount Mifune(御船山, Mifuneyama) from the garden. The garden has 5,000 cherry trees, 200,000 azalea trees, and a 170-year-old wistera. Now is the best time to view azalea blossoms.

IMG_0959-7D by gtknj /flickr

IMG_4835-5D2 by gtknj /flickr

Nezu Jinja Shrine(根津神社) in Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo

The azalea festival is being held from April 6 to May 6.

Rhododendron(Nezu Shrine)
Rhododendron(Nezu Shrine) by kanegen /flickr

R0010446 by t.ohashi /flickr
(Nezu Shrine)

躑躅 by ptrktn /flickr
(Nezu Shrine)

Nezu Shrine(tilt shift)
Nezu Shrine(tilt shift) by kanegen /flickr

photo by Miyagi Prefectural Tourism Division
Hiyoriyama Park(日和山公園) in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture
The park was built at the ruins of Ishinomak Castle.

photo by 北海道無料写真素材集 Do Photo

Ezomurasaki azelea(蝦夷紫躑躅, Rhododendron dauricum) in Onneyu Onsen, Kitami City, Hokkaido

There is a cluster of the azlea trees. Onneyu Onsen(温根湯温泉) is a hot-spring town. It is known as a natural habitat for the azelea in Japan.  Onneyu Onsen Azalea Festival will be held from May 3 to 6. Visitors can enter the azelea community only during the festival.
It's snowing in Hokkaido today.

Daikozen-ji Temple(大興善寺) in Miyaki-gun, Saga Prefecture

The temple is famous for its azaleas.

IMG_2046 by gtknj /flickr
(Daikozen-ji Temple)

Azalea / Rhododendron / 躑躅(ツツジ)
Azalea / Rhododendron / 躑躅(ツツジ) 
by TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋) /flickr

 Tsutsujigaoka Park  in Tatebayashi City, Gunma Prefecture

IMG_2131 by gtknj /flickr

 katsumori Park(勝盛公園) in Izuka City, Fukkuoka Prefecture

Azalea by mrhayata /flickr

 East Gardens of the Imperial Palace, Tokyo

Edo Period Style Garden 1
Edo Period Style Garden 1 by Me(lissa) /flickr
(East Gardens of the Imperial Palace)

Azalea ツツジ03
Azalea ツツジ03 by ajari /flickr

Hama-rikyu Gardens(浜離宮恩賜庭園)

P1020685 by dacheket /flickr

 location unknown

Azalea / Rhododendron / 躑躅(つつじ)
Azalea / Rhododendron / 躑躅(つつじ) by TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋) /flickr

Fukuoka City Zoological Garden(福岡市動植物園) in Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture

Azalea / Rhododendron dilatatum / 三葉躑躅(ミツバツツジ)
Azalea / Rhododendron dilatatum / 三葉躑躅(ミツバツツジ) by TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋) /flickr

 Mitsuba azelea(三葉躑躅, Rhododendron dilatatum) in Musashi Kyuryo National Government Park(国営武蔵丘陵森林公園) , Hiki-gun, Saitama Prefecture

Azalea / Rhododendron macrosepalum f. hanaguruma / 餅躑躅(モチツツジ)「花車(はなぐるま)」
Azalea / Rhododendron macrosepalum f. hanaguruma / 餅躑躅(モチツツジ)
「花車(はなぐるま)」 by TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋) /flickr

 Mochi azelea(黐躑躅, Rhododendron macrosepalum) at Shimizu Park(清水公園) in Noda City, Chiba Prefecture

The park opened in 1894.

Shiofunekannon-ji Temple(塩船観音寺) in Ome City, Tokyo

According to temple legend, it is said to have been founded to enshrine a statue of the thousand-armed Kannon around 650.

塩船観音寺のツツジ (Azalea Festival in Ome)
塩船観音寺のツツジ (Azalea Festival in Ome) by cyber0515 /flickr
(Shiofunekannon-ji Temple)

Azalea by mrhayata /flickr

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden(新宿御苑), Tokyo

photo by 神戸観光壁紙写真集
Kobanomitsuba azalea, Hirota Jinja

Kobanomitsuba azalea(小葉の三葉躑躅, Rhododendron reticulatum)in Hirota Jinja Shrine(広田神社), Nishinomiya City, Hyogo Prefecture

About 20,000 azalea trees are planted in the park. The shrine was already known as a good spot for azalea-blossom viewing around 1700.

photo by 神戸観光壁紙写真集
Kurume azalea, Sunflower Park

Kurume azalea in Himawari no Oka Park(ひまわりの丘公園, Sunflower Park), Ono City, Hyogo Prefecture

photo by 神戸観光壁紙写真集
Moss phlox is also in full bloom now.

spots for viewing moss phlox:

photo by 神戸観光壁紙写真集

Kitano water purification plant(北野浄水場) in Kobe ity, Hyogo Prefecture

photo by 神戸観光壁紙写真集
Renge azalea

Renge azalea(蓮華躑躅, Rhododendron molle subsp. japonicum)in Uwano Highland(兎和野高原), Mikata-gun, Hyogo Prefecture

More than 10,000 renge azalea trees are indigenous to the highland. They will be in full bloom in mid- to late-May.

photo by 神戸観光壁紙写真集
Renge azalea

photo by 神戸観光壁紙写真集
Kirishima azalea

Kirishima azalea(Rhododendron × obtusum) at Ichinomiya Jinja Shrine(壱宮神社), Tanba City, Hyogo Prefecture

Shisendo Azaleas
Shisendo Azaleas by john weiss /flickr

Shisen-do(詩仙堂) in Kyoto 

azalea carpet
azalea carpet by mokomoko663 /flickr

 location unknown

satsuki by istolethetv /flickr
Satsuki azalea

Satsuki azalea(皐月, Rhododendron indicum
 blooms from mid May to mid June.