Plum blossoms in Japan, the arrival of spring

The sakura It is the most well-known and admired flower in Japan, but it is not the only one worth seeing. In fact, in Japan plum blossoms herald the arrival of spring. And with it, the cherry blossoms, of course. That is why the plum blossoms or ume (梅) are highly appreciated and loved by all Japanese people.

There are many parks, temples and sanctuaries that, in mid-February, when the plum blossoms begin to bloom, organize small festivals in their honor. Called ume matsuriwhich means "plum festivals".

Different varieties of plum blossoms at Osaka Hachimangu Shrine
Different varieties of plum blossoms at Osaka Hachimangu Shrine

These festivals allow you to enjoy the intense aroma of flowers and the thousand shades of ume. They range from white to pale pink, passing through fuchsia and even the most intense red.

Also, plum blossoms symbolize perseverance because, after all, they bloom when temperatures are still wintry. And that is why, for centuries they have been, together with the song of the little uguisu or nightingale, a sign of the arrival of spring.

When do plum blossoms bloom in Japan?

He ume The Japanese plum tree begins to bloom in mid-February, so the end of the month is the ideal time to enjoy its beautiful flowers.

Is a low tourist seasonso traveling to Japan will be much cheaper than a few weeks later, when the cherry trees are in bloom. Both flights and hotel availability will be much better on these dates.

Forget the crowds of tourists who arrive with the cherry blossoms. During the flowering of ume you will enjoy the flowers and the festivals that are organized in their honor with much more calm. And honestly, we recommend it!

Plum blossoms at Ninna-ji Temple in Kyoto
Plum blossoms at Ninna-ji Temple in Kyoto

Snow, ski and plums

It's still cold in February (take layers and warm clothes!), but instead you can enjoy snow sports in many regions of Japan. In fact, you can even ski on the slopes located on the outskirts of Kyoto (we were there, we'll tell you about it in a specific post). It is a joy to be able to combine plum blossoms and skiing.

Where to see plum blossoms in Japan

There are many specific festivals to celebrate the plum blossoms in Japan. Below, we recommend some of the most popular or easily accessible during your trip to Japan.

  • Kairaku-en Gardens (Myth): Northeast of Tokyo, they are one of the three most beautiful traditional gardens in Japan (along with the Kenroku-en of Kanzawa and the Koraku-en of Okayama). And they are especially popular in February, when their more than 3,000 plum trees bloom, creating a wonderful atmosphere.
  • Kitano Tenmangu Shrine (Kyoto): Located at one end of the geisha quarter of Kamishichiken, it is especially popular in February, when it celebrates the blossoming of its plum trees. For the occasion, a public tea ceremony is organized in which maikos and geishas offer matcha tea to those present.
  • Umenomiya Shrine (Kyoto): In the western area of ​​the sanctuary garden there are about 450 plum trees of some thirty different varieties that turn everything pink when they bloom in February.

Beautiful plum blossoms in Japan
Beautiful plum blossoms in Japan
  • Kyoto Gyoen Imperial Park (Kyoto): The park around the Kyoto Imperial Palace has about 200 plum trees in the southwest area.
  • Osaka Tenmangu Shrine (Osaka): The shrine responsible for the famous Tenjin summer festival holds a wonderful festival dedicated to plum trees in February. Soon you will have a post on the web.
  • Osaka Castle Park (Osaka): Osaka Castle Park features a plum garden with about 1,300 trees of more than 100 different varieties. Seeing them in bloom, with the castle tower in the background, is a real beauty.
  • Yushima Tenjin Shrine (Tokyo): Near Ueno Park, in the middle of the Bunkyo plateau, the sanctuary celebrates its Ume Matsuri every year from February 8 to March 8.

Plum blossoms of various shades at Osaka Tenmangu Shrine
Plum blossoms of various shades at Osaka Tenmangu Shrine
  • Hanegi Park (Tokyo): Located in the Setagaya district, in this park there are about 700 varieties of plum trees whose blossoming is celebrated during the Setagaya Ume Matsui (from the beginning of February to the beginning of March).
  • Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens (Tokyo): These gardens are beautiful at any time of the year, but they also have a small area with several plum trees.
  • Kameido Tenjin Shrine (Tokyo): Very popular for its wisteria, this shrine to the east of Tokyo also has 300 marvelous plum trees.
  • Expo 70 Memorial Park (Osaka): Located on the outskirts of Osaka, you will find about 600 plum trees of 120 different varieties around the Sun Tower, as well as several more plum trees in the traditional garden.

Thousands of plum trees in Osaka castle park
Thousands of plum trees in Osaka castle park
  • Nara Park (Nara): Near the Nara National Museum there is a plum garden with about 250 trees of different varieties. Plum blossoms and deer, great combination! And if you want more, in the valley of the plum trees of Tsukigase there are 10,000 trees, a wonder!
  • Atami Cherry Garden (Atami): This marvelous garden has half a thousand plum trees of about 60 different varieties, some of which bloom as late as January.
  • Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine (Fukuoka): The most important of the Tenmangu shrines (dedicated to Tenjin), it has about 6,000 plum trees in its gardens... seeing them in bloom is impressive!
  • Odawara Ume Matsuri (Odawara): At the foot of Mount Fuji, in the city of Odawara, a large Ume Matsuri is held with more than 35,000 plum trees and lots of activities.
Precious colors of plum blossoms in Japan
Precious colors of plum blossoms in Japan

Japanese plum and its uses

The ume The Japanese plum (sometimes also called an apricot, although visually it looks more like a plum than an apricot) is considerably more acidic than the Western one. For this reason, it is not usually consumed as is, but the Japanese pickle it (umeboshi) or use it to make liquor (umeshu).

How to Differentiate Plum, Peach, and Cherry Blossoms

Plum blossoms are sometimes confused with peach blossoms and especially cherry blossoms, even though their bloom times are different.

The problem is that there are varieties of cherry trees that bloom earlier than usual (commonly called "winter cherry trees"). For this reason, sometimes you can be traveling in Japan in February and find flowers and not know if they are plum trees or winter cherry trees.

There are notable differences between these two flowers —and also with the peach blossom—, so below we will tell you what you should look for in order to know how to identify the flowers you see during your trip.

Differences Between Plum, Peach, and Cherry Blossoms in Japan
Differences Between Plum, Peach, and Cherry Blossoms in Japan

In summary:

  • petals: Plum blossoms have rounded petals. Peach blossoms have pointed petals while cherry blossoms have rounded petals but with a cut in the center.
  • petioles: Plum blossoms are born directly from the branch. However, peach blossoms are borne on a short petiole or stem. Finally, cherry blossoms are born on a long petiole, with several petioles growing from the same place.
  • Colors: Plum blossoms have a wide variety of colors, from white to red through all kinds of pinks. By contrast, peach blossoms are white and hot pink, while cherry blossoms are white and pale pink.
  • Scent: Plum blossoms have a strong scent, while peach blossoms have a more subtle scent. Also, the vast majority of cherry varieties hardly have aroma.
Plum blossoms in Osaka castle park
Plum blossoms in Osaka castle park

Enjoy the plum blossom in Japan!

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