February 25th is Baikasai: Plum Viewing Festival. It is held at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine. In this ceremony for the masses, maiko and geiko from Kamishichiken prepare and serve green tea. I am reminded of the Bible story of the loaves and fishes. There are so many people that I think the maiko and geiko might be serving tea and cake until the moon is full (March 5th).
I had the presence of mind to turn up an hour before the ceremony was due to begin. Therefore I only had to queue for one hour. I wasn’t sure what to expect or whether I would have an opportunity to capture photos.
Leaflets were handed out asking that we respect our hostesses and take photos with discretion. It was written in Japanese however a nice man explained the gist of it to me.
The queue was divided into two: those who chose to sit in chairs and those who wanted to kneel on the floor. I chose the kneeling queue. Why? Because the instructions were spoken in Japanese so I didn’t understand. When I realised I would have to kneel for 15 or so minutes I didn’t know if I would be able to sustain that position. However when my turn came to kneel for the ceremony I was so engrossed that I didn’t mind the ebbing away of circulation behind the knees.
Here are a few images from inside the marquee from my kneeling position.
I love bitter frothy green tea taken with sweet bean-paste cake. Delicious!
Even though the event was not unlike a factory production line (maiko, geiko and plum blossom for 3000 people) I found it enjoyable. I had come with a completely open mind and I was not disappointed. When it was time for me to unravel my legs and rise, they were somewhat dead. I tried not to show it. With concentrated pretence at composure I pushed my feet back into my shoes and stumbled off to view the ornamental plum trees.
You can see who is who in the comments section. My friend, Stéphanie, identified them all. (And thank you to Justine who also identified them in a private message to me.)