Finally! Spring is here! Time to roll out the Hanami mats and sit under the beautiful blossoms…
In the Nara Period (710 – 794), Japanese people viewed Ume (梅, Japanese Plum) Blossoms, as they were the first blossoms that signaled the coming of Spring. Around the Heian Period, however, Sakura viewing parties became more popular among the elite. There are a few reasons why I like Ume: they smell really nice and they come in different hues that are just so pleasing to the eye. I love Sakura, but Ume is a little bit more special, I think.
A lot of the Ume Matsuris have been underway since the beginning of February, but unlike Sakura, Ume is in bloom for a whole month, sometimes a month and a half. There are several places in the Kanto Area where they can be viewed, below are a few suggestions. Enjoy the start of Spring and don’t forget your camera!
Mito Ume Matsuri (Mito, Ibaragi)
Plum blossoms can be viewed at one of the three finest landscape gardens of Japan, Kairakuen. Over 3000 trees, in all colors can be enjoyed from mid-February to late March. It is a 65-minute trip by JR Joban Line from Ueno, costing around 4,020 yen.
Koishikawa Korakuen (Tokyo)
One of Tokyo’s most beautiful traditional landscape gardens, Koishikawa Korakuen is attractive all year round, boasting of an assortment of plum trees, cherry blossom trees and maple trees. Entrance costs 300 yen.
Soga Bairin (Odawara, Kanagawa)
View Hakone and Mt. Fuji during the Plum Blossom Festival at Soga Bairin and Joshi Koen in Odawara City. It is a 2-hour trip from Shinjuku Station to the Shimosoga Station on the JR Gotemba Line, then the park is a 10 minute walk from there. The park has 35,000 trees.
Yushima Tenjin Shrine (Tokyo)
This shrine is popular with students who wish to pass entrance exams. They have poetry readings and traditional concerts on weekends and holidays. The nearest station is Yushima on the Chiyoda Line.
Setagaya Ume Matsuri (Hanegi Park, Tokyo)
A small park with about 700 trees, tea parties and other events are held on weekends until the end of February.
Naritasan Koen (Narita, Chiba)
460 trees can be viewed while on tour of Naritasan Temple, in Chiba. The city of Narita is worth making the trip for, too.