Plum Blossom Festivals   梅見

Date of publication :
Before the cherry trees do not overshadow them, it is before the plum blossoms that were walking the Japanese.

Before the cherry trees do not overshadow them, it is before the plum blossoms that were walking the Japanese.

Making umeboshi plums by soaking in salt.

Umeboshi are made by macerating plums in salt

Plums are admirable earlier this year, when their flowers bloom, the opportunity to offer the first picnic of the year.

Plums are admirable earlier this year, when their flowers bloom, the opportunity to offer the first picnic of the year.

From Tokyo to Kyushu, via Nara and Kyoto, there are many places to watch the plum flower.

From Tokyo to Kyushu, via Nara and Kyoto, there are many places to watch the plum flower.

The bright pink plum blossoms. It is said that their presence move away evil.

The bright pink plum blossoms. It is said that their presence move away evil.

Sweet plum

Before the cherry blossoms were the backdrop for parties, it was plum blossoms that delighted the Japanese. A type of hanami that some still practice.

The ephemeral nature of cherry blossoms and the belief that gods inhabit these trees has left the plum tree, or ume in Japanese, overlooked. Imported from China during the eighth century, it is said that plum trees get rid of evil spirits. Because of this they used to be planted near doors where demons or evil spirits were supposed to linger, called kimon. Like cherries, plums come in many varieties and have been cultivated for centuries. Their colors range from white to dark pink. The Japanese often prepare the fruit by marinating it in salt to make the famous "umeboshi". While the ume itself is very sweet, umeboshi are very bitter. Plum is also used to make a delicious alcohol called umeshu. Plum trees are particularly pretty at beginning of the year, when their flowers bloom. It's an opportunity for the first picnic of the year, announcing the warmer weather ahead.

Where to see them

You can admire many flowering plum trees in Kyoto at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine where nearly 2,000 plum trees bloom. The shrine itself is associated with the image of their flowering. Every year on February 25 the temple hosts the Baika-sai Festival or plum blossom festival. In addition to contemplating the trees, you can also stroll through the flea market, monthly and very popular. The highlight of this festival is the outdoor tea ceremony, hosted by geiko and maiko. Prayers begin at 10am, and the ceremony takes place from 10am to 3pm. Kaju-ji Temple also attracts visitors due to the presence of the oldest plum tree in Japan, transplanted from the Imperial Palace. It's advisable to visit in February to enjoy the most beautiful views of the garden and Mount Daigo in the background.

Among other places not to be missed is the village of Yoshino in Nara, where you can find the National Chichibu Tama Kai-park. You can visit private gardens that open their doors during blossom season. The entrance fee is 200 yen. There are also many local museums in the village.

To admire the plum blossoms in Tokyo, go to Umeno Koen, or plum park. There are over 120 different species of plum, ranging from red to white and offering an unforgettable fragrance. You can also discover Hanegi Park in Setagaya. Among its 650 plum trees, you can find one named "Omoinomama" that combines red and white in the same flower. Also in Tokyo and popular among students is Yushima Tenjin Temple. It hosts the festival of flowering plum trees from February 8th to March 8th. In the vicinity of the capital is the garden Kairakuen, ranked among the three most beautiful gardens in Japan, and is famous for its 100 varieties of 3000 plum trees.

In the Kyushu region, go to Kumamoto to admire plum trees planted on the grounds of the castle, as well as those of Suizen-ji Park, which includes the most beautiful views of the old Tokaido road connecting Edo (old Tokyo) and Kyoto. Finally, in Fukuoka, visit Tenmangu Temple in Dazaifu. Besides being strikingly beautiful, this temple has over 6,000 plum trees to delight the senses.

Comments Read comments from our travellers