In Hawaii's temples, this is always a happy time when the temple altar is decorated with special embroidered silk cloths and flower arrangements. Fun activities are planned for the sanga (members) after the service. On Maui, an extra service and party is held bringing together all the Buddhist temples of every sect, with lots of food, entertainment, games, and children's choirs singing Hanamatsuri songs. I was interested to see it celebrated in Japan.
Sunday, K drove us the 50 km to Mito City to see the Hanamatsuri celebration at Rokujizo Temple. Roku means "six" and Jizo is a Bodhisattva who vowed to protect the weak (particularly children). In Christian terms, he is sort of a "patron saint" of mothers and children.
Another attraction of this temple is its trees. It has several ancient cedars, one of which is said to be 1,100 years old. It also has a ginko tree that dates back some 800 years. But at this time of year, everyone's eyes are on the very special cherry trees. They are "weeping" cherries with branches that arch and droop like a weeping willow.
As one would expect on this day, the temple had a lot of visitors. There were booths set up for food and guests could partake in a tea ceremony. Due to the number of people, the tea was served to eight guests at a time who were seated at a long table. While K waited for tea, I roamed about with my camera.
The trees were in full bloom and as she prepared the tea a gentle breeze stirred little flurries of petals like snow flakes - "sakura fubuki". As they fluttered to the ground, children played a game to see who could catch the most. (As Happysurfer tells us she used to do with ansanga blossoms in Malaysia).
On the steps of the temple was the traditional flowered pavillion (Hanamido) with a small Buddha statue set in a tray of sweet tea.
A laddle rests by the statue, which one uses to pour the sweet tea over the statue as a form of offering, just as one might offer flowers or incense. In Buddhist mythology, it is said that when the Buddha was born, sweet tea rained from the sky.
As we left Rokujizo Temple, the experience had been so beautiful and fulfilling that
our day felt complete. But there was more to come.
To be continued....