Hana Matsuri

April 8th, 2013By Category: Arts & Entertainment, Culture, Events, Travel

On April 8th, Japan celebrates Buddha’s Birthday, Hana Matsuri (花祭り – The Flower Festival). According to Buddhist tradition, Prince Siddhartha Gautama (Sakyamuni Buddha), the son of King Suddohana and Queen Maya, was born on 8 April 566 B.C. in the garden of Lumbini, in Nepal.

On this day, in Buddhist temples, an interesting ceremony takes place, Kanbutsu-e (潅仏会 – The Bathing of Buddha). Originated from China, Kanbutsu-e was first attested in Japan in the year 606, in Nara. On a flower decorated altar (hana mido), symbolizing the Lumbini garden, a small statue of Buddha, Tanjoubutsu (Buddha’s Birth), is placed in a shallow metal bowl.

The statue represents the infant Buddha, immediately after birth, when, according to legends, he raised, and took 7 steps forward and while pointing his right hand to the heavens and left hand to earth, he said: “I alone am honored in heaven and on earth”(Tenjou tenga yuiga dokuson – 天上天下唯我独尊).

The ceremony recreates the legend that at birth, Buddha was sprinkled with perfume by two Dragon Kings, ryuu. Another version of the legend is that a gentle perfumed nectar rain bathed the baby Buddha. So, the temple visitors are invited to pour on the statue sweet tea,ama-cha, made from hydrangea leaves.


And, in conclusion, here’s a haiku by Matsuo Basho, inspired from a baby deer born on Buddha’s Day.

kanbutsu no
hi ni umare-au
ka no ko kana

happening to be born
on Buddha’s birthday
a baby deer!


Hana Matsuri – Kanpuku-ji Temple, Katori

Photos by chidorian and rabbitonigiriinusa via Flickr Creative Commons

Author of this article


Muza-chan (real name Lili), is a Romanian travel writer and photographer, living in Bucharest and frequently visiting Japan. She publishes daily photos from Japan, with insights and comments about the areas she visited. She also writes about Japan travel, culture and traditions and her hobbies include pop-culture, music and cuisine. 

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