The Delight of Plum Blossoms
By Lisa Hong
Plum, or “Ume”, blossoms differ from cherry blossoms in the following ways: Ume flowers are a bit larger and have more of a variety of colors. The flowers grow “tighter” on the branch while cherry blossoms clump in clusters off of the main branch. Ume flowers have a distinct, strong, sweet fragrance. Go ahead. Put your nose right up against one. I guarantee you’ll be hooked on the pleasant scent!
Ume blossoms don’t get nearly as much hype as cherry blossoms, but I adore them. The sun, beautiful flowers, pretty photos, sweet aromas, and plum wine – what’s not to love?
Here are Tokyo’s three popular Ume blossom destinations:
Koishikawa Korakuen – 300 yen entrance fee (off the Korakuen Station on the Marunouchi Line)
Enjoy this beautiful garden with Ume trees planted closely together, displaying an amazing spectrum of white to bright red flowers. I recommend combining this trip with the nearby Yushima Tenjin Shrine (see below), but start here at this park because it is a good warm-up for the spectacular shrine.
Yushima Tenjin Shrine – free entrance (off the Yushima Station on the Chiyoda Line)
Many plum blossom trees can be found throughout this shrine. Very photogenic, and every corner you turn, your breath is taken away by the thoughtfully lined trees. In addition, the shrine is bustling around this time with students praying to do well on their entrance exams. Offer a prayer for them; wish them and yourself a bright new beginning.
Hanegi Park, also known as “Umegaoka” – free entrance (off the Umegaoka Station on the Odakyu Line)
With more than 700 trees of all different colors, this is my favorite location for plum blossom viewing. “Umegaoka” translates to “Plum Hill”, but it is much more than that, with additional Ume planted in the surrounding areas. This provides a huge area of blossoms to meander through. The hill is the highlight, though, with winding walking paths, benches, and areas to set up picnics. I love this place because it really gets you into the spirit of Spring!
Plum blossoms should not be compared to cherry blossoms. These Ume flowers are its own entity and represent something unique unto itself – the changing of the season, bright days ahead, and the promise of warmth.
Don’t be sad as the petals flutter away, because this marks the start of great things to come!