As we leave the holidays behind and start looking forward to the warmer months ahead, pink and white hues begin to appear on trees. Although easily mistaken for the famous cherry blossom, it’s the plum blossom that welcomes spring.
The plum blossoms typically bloom in late winter, from mid-February to March. They can be distinguished from cherry blossoms by their oval petals that, unlike sakura, have no spiky ends. The popularity of the cherry may outshine the plum, but when it comes to peace and quiet, the plum has the edge.
Whether you wish to avoid the sakura season crowds, or simply want to celebrate the first signs of spring, we’ve gathered the best spots in and around Tokyo for you to see and enjoy the wintery plum blossoms.
Where to See Plum Blossoms In Tokyo
With almost 650 plum blossoms in pink, red and white scattered around, Hanegi Park is the perfect place for plum spotting. The park also holds the annual Setagaya Plum Blossom Festival (February 11 to March 5), which means that during weekends there are performances and workshops, as well as food stalls that sell delicious plum-themed snacks.
Yushima Tenjin Shrine
If you wish to attend a festival at a shrine, this could be the one. Popular since the old days, Yushima Tenjin Shrine attracts over 400,000 visitors per week during its Plum Blossom Festival (February 8 to March 8). As with other festivals, there are a number of stalls selling food and other goods, as well as live performances such as taiko drumming and outdoor tea ceremonies on weekends. You can also pray for success in your studies at the shrine.
Jindai Botanical Garden
This botanical garden has some very unique plum blossoms in terms of variety and shape. It’s also right next to the Jindaiji Temple complex, a fun area known for its soba noodle shops, which are definitely worth checking out. Jindai also has its own Plum Festival (February 14 to March 5) with some food stalls and a concert on February 23.
This garden near Tokyo Dome is a tranquil space in the middle of the city and is one of the oldest landscaped parks in Tokyo. You can enjoy the sight and smell of plum blossoms against the backdrop of other gorgeous flora and fauna.
Although Shiba Park doesn’t have as large a plum blossom garden as the others, it’s particularly impressive since the plums frame Tokyo Tower looming in the background.
Ome City in Tokyo is famous during cherry blossom season, but it’s also a sight to behold during plum blossom season. Various trees, including 1,200 plum trees are planted alongside the hillslopes of Umeno Park. It’s on the outskirts of Tokyo, so it’ll take a bit of travel, but it’s definitely worth it.
Well-known for the multitude of cat figurines that adorn this temple’s grounds, Gotokuji is also an excellent plum blossom site. What could be better than plums and cats?
Kyodonomori Park in Fuchu is a peaceful place for a picnic or leisurely stroll under the plum blossoms. Around 1,100 plum trees bloom on the expansive grounds of the Fuchi Kyodonomori Museum, so make sure to not only observe plum blossoms but also the traditional farmhouses, townhouses and historic buildings that are property of the museum. Kyodonomori Park also hosts a plum festival (February 4 to March 12) with a special light up event on two weekends. There are also organized special walks, ceremonies and performances.
Shinjuku Gyoen will never not be one of the best parks in Tokyo to go to, whether it’s for a long stroll, a picnic or to grab a coffee at the charming Starbucks in the park. You’ll find the plum grove in the traditional garden near the tea house, where you can enjoy plum-flavored sweets.
Where to See Plum Blossoms Near Tokyo
Egara Tenjin Shrine (Kamakura)
Tenjin shrines are great places in general if you wish to enjoy plum blossoms, since the god of learning, after whom the shrines are named, had a love for plum blossoms. This means that many Tenjin shrines have plum groves on the premises. The trees also bloom during the time of exam results, so the association between plums, Tenjin and study success is strengthened.
Soga Plum Grove (Odawara)
One of the largest areas of plum blossoms in the Kanto region is the Soga Plum Grove, where over 35,000 plum trees cover the area around Shimosoga Station in Odawara. Odawara’s history with plum blossoms dates back to the 14th century and to this day the area is famous for its pickled plums. If you’re lucky and visit on a clear day, you’ll also see Mount Fuji in the background.
Atami Plum Festival (Atami)
Atami has some of the earliest blooming plum blossoms in Japan. There are 59 different varieties and close to 500 plum trees scattered throughout Atami Plum Garden during the annual festival (until March 5). It costs ¥300 to enter during the festival. As one of the most popular plum blossom destinations, however, there is a lot going on. The park hosts performances, dances, concerts and foot baths. There are also plenty of restaurants and shops.