Shakyamuni Buddha’s birthday is celebrated on April 8th. He was born 2500 years ago to King Suddhodana and Queen Maya in the garden of Lumbini which was located in Kapilavastu, a small kingdom in the Himalayan foothills. He was called Siddhartha and later, Shakyamuni Buddha.
It has long been said that at the time of his birth Shakyamuni Buddha said, “Heaven, earth and I are all one person.” At each temple throughout Japan, a small pavilion, covering a statue of the baby Buddha pointing one index finger toward heaven and the other toward earth, is set up and decorated with flowers. This stature is bathed with sweet tea and this is the way Flower Festival is observed.
Flower Festival is not held only at temples, however. It is observed as a general, public event especially at kindergartens, where it is often held on a big scale. Let us believe in the true happiness brought about by Shakyamuni Buddha’s teaching and celebrate the unsurpassable joy it gives.
Sweet tea is an essential element of the Flower Festival. According to the legend, two Dragon Kings rained warm and cool sweet water from heaven to bathe the baby Buddha. Not only is sweet tea drunk at the Flower Festival, but there is also the custom of grinding sumi ink with it and writing “April 8th is a day of good fortune and insects are driven away.” The piece of paper this is written on is hung upside down and thought to keep away disagreeable insects.