Among the numerous Japanese festivals that celebrate the essence of culture and nature, Yushima Tenmangu Masturi, Japan’s Plum Festival, a Shinto shrine in Tokyo celebrates the plum festival called Ume matsuri which is one of the most spectacular events held during Spring in Tokyo.
The shrine, established in 458 is dedicated to Tenjin, the kami of learning. Since the shrine is located near the University of Tokyo it is frequented by many prospective students, who pray and hope to pass the entrance exams that is conducted in the university. The shrine was rebuilt in accordance with the traditional shrine architecture in 1995.
The Japanese mythology states that Tenjin is the Shinto kami of scholarship. Ten, meaning sky and jin meaning god or deity. It is found that the temple receives many offerings to the Tenjin kami for success in exams.
Tenjin was very fond of Ume trees, where he wrote famous poems in exile, in one such instance it is believed that he missed one of the trees which he loved the most and the tree flew from Kyoto to Dazaifu in Kyushu to be with him and as a result Tenjin planted many ume (plum trees). The tree can be seen even now in the shrine.
The plums are known to bloom between late February and March which is incidentally the time where the exam results are announced and hence the shrines have the Ume Matsuri festival during that time.
The shrine has wooden tablets hung outside with messages on them wishing luck and goodwill. Many students are seen writing wishes and praying for a bright future and a career.
You can also find a statue of a bull in the precincts of the temple and patting it is said to bring good luck. Legend has it that the bull, which carried Tenjin during his funeral, refused to go further after a point and that was when the place was converted to a temple.
The shrine has a lot of festivities during Ume Matsuri, apart from watching the plums you can also explore many things in the vicinity including Japanese souvenir shops and have some good food from the food stalls.
You can also spot the ‘haya zakura ‘ also known as the early sakura in the temple premises which offer a stunning view with the contrasting blue sky on a bright sunny day in spring.
Apart from the Yushima Tenmangu you can see the plum blooms in other parts of Japan including Kairakuen (Ibaraki Prefecture), Koishikawa Korakuen (Tokyo), and the Hanegi Park (Tokyo). They look so beautiful that you would want to capture them endlessly in your camera.
Yushima Tenmangu is a two-minute walk from Yushima Sta and you can take the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda line.
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