22 February, 2008

Ume (Prunus Mume) / Yushima Tenjin shrine

Ume flower is often described as a harbinger of spring in Japanese literature or songs. The combination of "Ume and Uguisu[Japanese Nightingale]" is very popular as a golden battery that marks the end of winter. During Sunday morning walking with Lee, I found some Ume flowers began to bloom. Although the cold weather has been continuing even now, spring is actually coming here in Tokyo.

I had heard the Ume Matsuri[Ume festival] was held in the yard of the Yushima Tenjin, so Lee and I went there to see the Ume bloosoms.

The temprature has been still cool and there were some snow remaining on the pavement (11th Feb.).

Yushima Tenjin is famous shrine that enshrines Sugawara-no-Michizane. Michizane was a top ranking elite bureaucrat in Heian-era who excelled in scholarship, and now a day, he's defined as Tenjin-sama or Kami[God] of academics. At the end of his life, he fell into a political trap of his rival and demoted to the officer of far west area. At the day of departure, he made a "waka"[short poem] regarding Ume flower.
"Kochi hukaba nioiokoseyo Ume no hana, nushinasitote haru wo wasuruna" [When you feel the east wind, Ume flower, remind yourself to bloom, even if I am not there. (I'm so sorry my terrible translation)].
According to his regend, an Ume tree, which was loved by Michizane, flied out to his far west house from Kyoto (the regend of Tobi-Ume[flying Ume]). Ume flowers thus became to be recognized as the theme flower of Tenjin shrines (Tenman-gu) across Japan.

Since he is a Kami of scholorship, many students preparing for their college/highschool entrance exam visit there and pray for their success. Students hang Ema[wooden plaque] in which their wishes were written.
It was a entrance exam season, thus so many Emas were hanging there.(11rd Feb.)

And , below is the photo taken on 17th Feb. Students who succeed their exam visit to thank Tenjin-sama for thier success.

Anyway, it was too early to enjoy full bloomed Ume bloosoms.
We'll try to get there again in the end of Februaly. Ume Matsuri will be held until early March.

Yushima Tenjin is near by the University of Tokyo. The closest station is Yushima of Chiyoda-line(Tokyo Metro).

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Anonymous Kazu said...

There seem to be many shrines dedicated to Michizane Sugawara.
In north Kyoto, there is a famous shrine named Kitano-tenmangu, near the famous gold pavilion (Kinkakuji).
He was said to have become an evil spirit and his political rivals who expelled him to Kyusyu, died unnaturally. (struck by the thunder, disease etc.)
By the way, I realized that this blog now has a function to check the spelling of the comments. This added function is very useful and I welcome it very much!

22/2/08 22:43  
Anonymous kazu said...

The Ume flowers started to bloom there. So as in Saitama. I noticed three days ago on my way to the office, several Ume flowers opened.
If so many people come to pray for their academic success, can the god hear each message? The Ema (the prayer plate with messages at the shrine) is indeed piling up. It seem to be that the chances is slim for all those prayers are heard by the God. That's why some fails in the entrance examinations! To succeed in the entrance examination, prayer is not enough. The old principle that "those who help themselves will succeed" still is the same.

22/2/08 22:52  
Anonymous kazu said...

The Ume picture at the top of this article is so beautiful! Was the flower near the camera range? Or the camera is do good?

22/2/08 22:58  
Blogger Shige_d said...

I appreciate your interesting comments.

I heard that Kitano Tenmangu is a beautiful shrine. I want to be there someday. Have you ever been to Dazaifu Tenmangu in Kyushu? I've been there around 20 years ago. It was peaceful place. Unfortunately, I forgot to check the Tobi-Ume.

Regarding Ema, I surprised at the amount of them, too, and thought same thing as you commented. Yep! "Use the means and God will give the blessing".

About the closeup photos, I took these Ume pics at close range using "macro-function" of camera. As you pointed out, my camera helps me a lot. (^^)

25/2/08 22:11  

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