Cherry blossoms get all the glory. But the sturdy and humble plum blossoms are not a sight to be Missed! Japanese Plum Festival also known as Ume Festival or Ume Matsuri, begins in February, so you’ll still have to bundle up to go see it, but at least you’ll know spring is on its way.
Image by col&tasha (license)
The plum blossoms are a local signal to go out for the first picnic of the year.
In Tokyo area, plum blossoms typically flower in February and March. The event is celebrated with plum festival (ume matsuri) in the parks, shrines and temples. The actual plum fruit is more sour than the western plum, that’s why the Japanese invented various way to process it before eating it. The most famous and fun way way to consume the fruit is in the form of sweet plum wine – Umeshu. And that happens a lot during festival Days!
Marinated plum in salt is called Umeboshi and you can eat it in sushi rolls, famous for their sweet/sour taste.
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Some popular Japanese Plum Festival Spots in and Around Tokyo
A small city park with 700 plum trees of various varieties. The Ume Matsuri is celebrated here on weekends and holidays through February. The plum perfume in the air is unmistakable! Expect Picnics, food vendors, and a festive atmosphere especially when the weather is mild.
Getting there: Odakyu line, Umegaoka station, 5 minutes walk from the station
One of the city’s oldest and most Romantic Japanese gardens. This beautiful Japanese landscape garden in central Tokyo features a few dozen plum trees. It’s hard to believe this calm oasis is minutes away from one of Tokyo’s most bustling business areas. Water lilies in the pond blossom from May to September, followed by Autumn leaves on the Japanese Maple trees in Mid-November. In one word – Bliss. Don’t miss the tiny restaurant overlooking the Garden (at the entrance) serving Traditional Japanese meals at a very reasonable price.
Koishikawa Korakuen is a short walk from Iidabashi Station.
Getting there: Japanese Gardens in Tokyo
Surrounded by office buildings on all sides, none the less, this Japanese garden is among the most relaxing and Romantic things to do in Tokyo. It has no Tea-house, but the huge fish at the pond will gather around you waiting for food as you step on the tiny Japanese garden bridge.
Getting there: Hamamatsucho Station on the Yamanote line.
Yushima Tenjin Shrine
University applicants and students love this shrine. It’s associated with the spirit of learning, so every year students come to pray for success in their college entrance exams. The plum festival is held here annually from February to March, with various events on weekends and holidays, such as singing, tea ceremonies, bonsai plum trees and other traditional Japanese art forms you can see only here.
Getting there: Tokyo Metro Chiyoda line, Yushima station, two minutes walk.
Mt Fuji Ume Matsuri
Combine the views of Mt. Fuji with 35,000 white plum trees, and you get a sight to remember for a lifetime! Odawara city hosts traditional festival activities such as calligraphy and horseback archery.
Getting there: Mt Fuji
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