Poets write tanka poems in a beautiful garden in an elegant event
There is a shrine called Jonangu in Fushimi, an area famous for sake breweries. The famous Kyokusui no Utage (Meandering Water Banquet) event is held at the shrine twice a year, in April and November. At the Kyokusui no Utage event, poets dressed in Heian court attire sit by the meandering river and write poems about the topic they have been given that day. After they have written the poem, they pick a cup of sake floating down the river and drink it.
This event has its roots in Nara (710-794) and Heian period (794-1185) court event, and the view of the poets writing their poems is almost like looking at a Heian period picture scroll. On the day of the event there is also a dance performance and no entrance fee to the Shin’en Garden. It is a really popular event so it might be a bit crowded, but at the event you can see graceful, Kyoto-like view, so if you have time when you are in Kyoto I hope you will go see the event!
The poets read the tanka poems, and then write them on a piece of paper
The topic is announced on the day of the event, and the poets write the tanka poems before a sake cup floating on a Mandarin duck shaped vessel floats by them. They then pick the sake cup and drink the sake. After all seven of the poets have finished writing their poems, according to old customs, Shinto priests read out the poems in an intonated voice.
Shirabyoshi female dancers perform a dance
One of the specialties of the Kyokusui no Utage event at Jonangu is that you can see the dance by shirabyoshi female dancers. After the poets sit by the river, a dance by the shirabyoshi starts on the central stage. When this dance ends, the Kyokusui no Utage event starts. The dance of the shirabyoshi is danced to the tune of Japanese court music, and they have dignified expressions on their faces when they dance.
Children wearing suikan, an everyday kimono worn by nobles
This event is not only about the poets, and I wish you will also notice the cute children. These children let the Mandarin duck shaped vessels holding the sake cup float to the river, and see that they don’t get stuck, and if they do the children poke them with their sticks. After the Kyokusui no Utage event ends, for a fee you can float a paper cut in the shape of a human on the river.
Entrance to the Shin’en Garden is free
Normally there is an entrance fee to enter the garden, but on the day of Kyokusui no Utage you can enter the garden for free. There is a lot to see in the five different gardens of Shin’en, each with a different charm. In spring the wisterias and azaleas bloom beautifully, and in autumn the autumn foliage can be seen. Inside the garden there is a tea room where maiko shrine maidens offer matcha tea and sweets, so if you go to Kyokusui no Utage I hope you will also see the Shin’en Garden.