Hideyoshi’s Hanami

It is cherry blossom season – hanami – and there are plenty of occasions to go out and watch Japanese look at the Japanese sakura cherry trees, most likely through a camera lens.

One of the oldest versions of hanami is recreated each year at Daigo-ji temple. In 1598, the de-facto-ruler of Japan, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, had 700 sakura trees planted all over the temple precincts, and then hosted a party underneath the trees with more than 1300 invited guests. The procession starts out from Sanbo-in, an exquisite garden also designed by Hideyoshi. The gate already is interesting: The chrysanthemums on the outside represent the Imperial house, while the Paulownia in the centre are the family crest of the Toyotomi.

main gate of sanbo-in gardenFirst in line are samurai with a fierce look on their faces, and they are followed by court musicians, other nobles, and priests of the temple.

first in line: samuraiOnly then comes Hideyoshi, the only one not on foot, and he graciously waves to his subjects. At the time of the famous hanami, Hideyoshi was 62 years old, so the age and the appearance of the man on the dais is accurate.

Hideyoshi ToyotomiBehind him, at the end of the procession, follow Hideyoshi’s wife and his consorts. This was quite normal at the time, especially since marriages were more of a political than a love affair. He is said to have been extremely fond of his consort Yodo, the mother of his heir Hideyori, who was five years old at the time of the hanami. He did not follow the modern procession though.

Hideyoshi's womenThe procession took the short path of the lower part of Daigo-ji, and then entered the middle part of the temple through the  niomon gate.

entering through the niomon gateBeyond this, there are a number of temple buildings and a beautiful pagoda; but for the hanami, an extra stage is built for music and dance performances. Unfortunately, I did not see them because you need an extra ticket, but the music could be heard throughout the temple complex, so I think there was quite some party going on… court musicians in the procession