Do you know when Buddha’s birthday is? Do I know it? Of course not. Ha ha. But in Japan his birthday is celebrated mainly on April 8th every year. According to Wikipedia, in other East Asian countries it is held on the 8th day of the 4th month in Chinese Lunar calendar, though.
There is a big temple named Nittai-ji in Nagoya. It celebrated Buddha’s birthday and its town called Kakuozan also had a big festival on April 8th, and I went there with a friend of mine, Yuko. It was a lovely day for walking and going cheery blossoms viewing that day, and she and I enjoyed the festival.
Nittai-ji is a quite new temple as compared to others in Japan. It was built as a repository for some remains of Buddha given from Thailand in 1904. That’s why the temple was named Nittai-ji ― “Nittai” means Japan and Thailand, and “ji” a temple. The temple is non-sectarian unlike others, and many people visited there for celebrating Buddha’s birthday on that day.
The way to celebrate is pouring a kind of tea called amacha with a small dipper on a miniature statue of baby Buddha surrounded by lots of beautiful flowers. According to the flier I got at the temple, it derives from a legend that gods rained flowers from heaven, and two dragons spewed hot and cold water for his first bath, and people gave incense and a number of flowers when Buddha was born. After pouring water on the Buddha’s image, people were enjoying amacha.
Actually I didn’t pour amacha on the statue because many people were queuing. But I got the tea somehow. It was my first time to try that amber colored liquid. I was surprised at the taste when I sipped at it and stared at Yuko with a wrinkled forehead. She didn’t understand why I created the expression, and stared me back. But she opened her eyes widely when she sipped at it. Yeah, I understood her. Amacha is not a usual Japanese green tea. It is made from another leaves and tastes very sweet and very bitter.
There were many stalls and people in the approach for the temple at the festival, which had also a lot of performances. It was difficult to walk through the crowd. Unlike typical festivals in Japan, there were various stands by artists and creators, and unusual food stalls, such as cheese fondue or French cuisine. The event was really interesting.
As it is now, Nagoya City manages the site, and you can visit it for free. That’s why Yuko and I went there, too. It has a unique building and a beautiful garden, where there sometimes are performances like concerts. I had a really wonderful holiday in Kakuozan area with my friend. Happy Birthday, Buddha!