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Oshukubai, a plum tree and a Nightingale

I visited Rinkoin (林光院) in YUMEYAKATA Kimono the other day.

Rinkoin is a quiet Zen temple which have a deep history with the Shimazu (島津) clan, the lords of former Satsuma-han (薩摩藩), familiar to many Japanese via this year’s NHK history drama “Segodon (西郷どん)”. In the garden, a plum tree called Oshukubai (鶯宿梅, meaning “a plum tree where a nightingales resides” in Japanese) was blooming. The tree has an impressive story.

In the Heian period, a plum tree in the palace died. The emperor ordered to find a plum tree as beautiful as the died one, and people found the most suitable one at Kino Tsurayuki’s (紀貫之, a poet of the Heian period) residence to transfer to the palace. However, the emperor found a piece of Tanzaku (短冊, rectangle paper) attached to the tree, on which a sad tanka (短歌, Japanese poem) written on it.

It was Kino Tsurayuki’s daughter who wrote the sad poem which expresses how much she loved the tree and how sad she was to say good bye to the tree. The Tanka’s overall translation is: I cannot refuse to offer this tree because it is the emperor’s order. However, how can I reply to the Uguisu (鶯, nightingale) bird in the tree when it comes back and asks me where her tree is. Reading the Tanka, the emperor realized his own selfishness and returned the tree to Kino Tsurayuki.

It’s wonderful to have such a legendary tree thoroughly saved. I felt my mind was eased by viewing this beautiful tree called Oshukubai.

Kyoto Certificate 1st grade holder Akane Kibune




5 mins on foot from Imadegawa station, subway Karasuma line



#plumflower #kimono #templesinKyoto #japanculture #kyotoculture