Apr 142013

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Famous Taiko-sakura cherry tree of Daigo-ji Temple

Daigo-ji Temple (醍醐寺) now in Yamashina Ward of Kyoto City was a famous place for cherry blossom viewing several hundred years ago. Unfortunately most of the temple buildings were destroyed during Onin War (1467–1477) and only five-story pagoda remained. In 1571 an imperial family member entered the Buddhist priesthood by the name of Gien (義演), assigned to Daigo-ji he tried to revive the temple and managed to rebuild one of the buildings. In 1580 he became the abbot of the temple and later advanced in his career as a Buddhist priest.

Using his personal connections he supported Toyotomi Hideyoshi – a strong military leader of that time. Gien, using his personal connections managed to help Hideyoshi acquire the title of kampaku – kind of regent – which officially made him the most powerful man in Japan.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi on a palanquin during Daigoji Hanami

Hideyoshi, who later retired from the post and assumed the title of taikō, did repay his debt in 1598. Only a few months before his death, he organized a huge and lavish cherry blossom viewing party for the elite of Japan.

On that occasion, Hideyoshi ordered several hundred cherry trees to be planted and also a relocation of the main hall of Manganji Temple in Kii Province (currently in Yuasa, Wakayama Prefecture) which was rebuilt as Kondō of Daigo-ji.

It is in front of this building that every 2nd Sunday of April a simple re-enactment of the hanami cherry blossom viewing takes place.

Practical information

The festival has three parts.

  • ceremonies in Sanpo-in (三宝院) hall – not available to the general public
  • a parade from Sanpo-in to the temple main hall Kondo (金堂) – in a “free” area between the gates
  • main events with bugaku, dance, and other performances in front of the Kondo – inside paid area of Daigo-ji.

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