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On April 8th, Japan celebrates Buddha’s Birthday, Hana Matsuri (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.

In this day, in Buddhist temples, an interesting ceremony takes place, Kanbutsu-e (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).

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 leafs.