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Plum Blossom Festivals in Japan

Posted By on Mar 16, 2015

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Cherry blossoms (sakura) always tend to overshadow plum blossoms (ume), yet many people confuse the two as they’re both equally beautiful.

Plum blossoms only have one blossom per bud and cherry blossoms have a little indent at the end of each petal—I know those characteristics don’t help that much in telling them apart, but those are the main differences!

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Plum blossoms tend to begin to bloom in late February unlike cherry blossoms, which often don’t bloom until April.

Plum blossoms’ reddish pink flowers were once the subject of hanami, or flower-viewings, across the country before the Nara period (10-704 AD).

Even though most tourists don’t visit for plum season, Japan still has many plum blossom festivals all over the country. Most of these festivals take place in February, even though usually the best time to see the blossoms at their fullest is in early March.

Here are three top spots to visit Ume Matsuri near Tokyo and its surroundings:

Odawara Ume Matsuri

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Located in Kanagawa Prefecture, this is a short train ride away from Tokyo. You’ll find the festival at Soga Bessho Bairin, which is home to over 35,000 plum trees. The area also gives a clear view of Mount Fuji, which is beautiful to take photos of with blossoms in the foreground.

Dates: February 7-March 1

Setagaya Ume Matsuri

Located in Umegaoka, meaning “plum blossom hill”, Hanegi Park is the perfect spot for plum blossom viewing. While it’s small with only 650 plum trees, the matsuri here is lots of fun with plenty of vendors selling plum-themed food. You’ll also find cultural performances going on during the matsuri on the weekends.

Dates: February 7-March 1

Kameido Tenjin

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Tenjin shrines tend to be associated with plum blossoms. Kameido Tenjin has over 300 plum trees, including a famous tree called “Goken no Ume,” which has both red and white blossoms on it. People travel from all over to witness this special tree and to attend the plum blossom festivals here. The temple’s arched bridge makes for beautiful photo opportunities as well!

Dates: February 14-March 15

 

[post by Beth]

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Beth Williams

Originally from Chicago, Beth got her first true taste of travel when she studied abroad in Japan during her final year of university. She ended up loving Asia so much, she found herself moving right back upon graduating and is currently teaching English full-time in Hong Kong. Armed with her camera and a passion for travel, she is currently on a mission to photograph the world-- proving that you can work the normal “9-5” and still find time to travel on her blog Besudesu Abroad.

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