February 25, 2010

This morning I went to Kitano-tenmangu shrine for the monthly market, Tenjin-san Flea Market. This market is smaller than that held at Toji (I went to last Sunday) but has many of the same stallholders. Most of the wares are antiques, second-hand kimono and a few crafts.

Kitano-tenmangu shrine is also known for its plum blossom. Plum trees were introduced into Japan from China in the 8th century and Kitano-tenmangu shrine has nearly 2,000 plum trees. I prefer plum to cherry blossom because they tend of have a stronger perfume.

It just happens that Baika-sai, the annual Plum Blossom Festival, is being held at the shrine now. To celebrate their blooms and the coming of spring, tea ceremony is performed by the maiko and geiko of the nearby Kamishichiken district. They serve the tea to the public, a rare and therefore very popular event. As I stood in line waiting to be served I must admit I felt very sorry for the maiko and geiko. There was no time for them to take a break, and they hurried to serve tea and collect the tea bowls afterward, only to get more tea for a never-ending trail of people, cameras at the ready to snap as many photographs of them as possible. The queues snaked through the gardens and were processed like a sausage factory. Some of the younger maiko looked a little stressed but there were still those willing to bestow a smile.

I have added more images of maiko and geiko to my Red Bubble site.


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