The Life of a Plum Blossom

Plums, called ume in Japanese, are arguably more a part of Japanese culture than the cherry blossoms. The sakura are so short-lived that I feel like if you blink you’ll miss them, and then it’s all over for another year. Whereas the plum blossoms stick around for a good month or more. But not only is the flower popular, the plum fruit itself is well integrated into Japanese cuisine! You are guaranteed to find an umeboshi (pickled plum) in almost every bento lunch box, sitting on top of the rice. It’s too sour for me, though. My hiking buddies often snack on sour, dried plums as an energy boost! Another common way to have it is as furikake seasoning sprinkled on top of your rice. You can not only eat it, but drink it, too. Umeshu is sweet alcohol made with plums and is always listed on the drink menu at restaurants (I love it!).

While the famous cherry blossoms bloom when the weather is much warmer, the plum blossoms start to show their faces towards the end of winter. I actually saw the first plum blossoms just starting to bloom in mid-January! Since early February, they have taken over the streets and parks of Tokyo. Lots of public gardens have official plum festivals, but you don’t necessarily need to go to those places to see these beautiful flowers. There are so many trees randomly all over the place, in people’s backyards, next to train tracks, even growing in alleyways! The flowers range from white to pink to red to yellow. They are like splashes of colour all over the city.

Looking through the photos I’d taken over the past month, I noticed there were lots of images showing the different stages of blooming. I think the little buds are adorable! And then, when they burst into life, it’s really a spectacular vision. One day I want to do a timelapse video of this! For now, I’ve decided to do a little ‘life of a plum blossom’ photo story. Enjoy!

Hanegi Park
The beginning – the birth of a flower.
Hanegi Park
The first burst.
Hanegi Park
Searching for sunlight.
Hanegi Park
Slowly opening their eyes after a long slumber.
Hanegi Park
Welcome to the world!
Hanegi Park
Altogether, they bask in the sunlight.

Then, everyone joins the party! The whole park comes alive with a distinct, sweet fragrance filling the air!…

The flowers stay like this for a few weeks before falling to the ground. Then it’s time for the fruit to grow!

I don’t remember enjoying the plum blossoms as much in any other year I’ve been in Japan. For some reason this year I’ve really taken notice of them. I love how they have the power to draw so many people, but at the same time they make each person slow down and stay a while to enjoy their beauty and sweet smell. Nature is pretty remarkable!

19 thoughts on “The Life of a Plum Blossom

  1. Plums is such an integral part of Japanese living, I didn’t know…O! The photos are beautiful, the evolution to different stages, you have wonderfully captured the facets of flowers and the liners you have added gives a lovely story line to the entire photography…the close view, the blue sky background and the spread of trees.

    It is indeed very refreshing and joy for the eyes…


    1. Hi Nihar :-) Yes I don’t think many people know it, since the cherry blossoms take all the limelight! The plum blossoms are a welcome sight after months of winter. They are definitely a sign that the warmth is on its way, and that’s enough to make anyone happy!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Celia, it was indeed so refreshing to see these lovely pictures, reminding the beauty of nature. Change of season and the fruit or flower defining that change is exciting to see…perhaps plum has defined that change. Interesting to know how one fruit dominant the other…

        Have a great weekend…

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, Sandy! Seeing the blossoms after winter always makes me smile and brightens my mood. It must be so nice to have them in your own yard. Something to look forward to each year :)


  2. 卵(たまご)の黄身(きみ)のような 黄色の梅の花があることを はじめてしりました。 
    梅は 松竹梅(しょうちくばい)のモチーフの いとつとして おめでたいときに つかわれます。
    寒いときに咲く 梅の花は 強(つよ)く、長持(ながも)ちする イメージが あるようです。
    桜の花は 春の風雨(ふうう)に 弱く 短期(たんき)で 散(ち)ってしまう 弱(やわ)さが あります。
    うめのはなの甘いにおいは さくらのはなと にていますか。
    わたしの祖母も 梅干(うめぼし)や 青梅(あおうめ)で 梅酒(うめしゅ)を つくるのが すきでした。
    梅は 観賞(かんしょう)と 食用(しょくよう)に 両用(りょうよう)できる すばらしい植物ですね。 
    セリアさんの撮った 梅の写真を たのしく 鑑賞しました。美しい梅の花が 心を明るく してくれました。 


    1. その黄色いの梅は蝋梅(ロウバイ)だというお花です。私もはじめて見ました!蝋梅の写真の下にある梅の花は青っぽいと思いました。全部の色と種類は綺麗ですね! 


  3. Hi Celia,
    Lovely photos and interesting insights into the relative popularity of two beautiful species. I don’t know why, but it made me think of economics where scarcity tends to attract higher values. I hope you don’t blink at the wrong time and miss the Sakura though :). Take care ….


    1. Thanks John, I’ve already got my friends thinking about where we should do hanami this year so I hopefully won’t miss the flowers!
      That’s an interesting connection – nature and economics! Actually it’s probably true for the cherry blossoms… I think half its attraction is its scarcity.


  4. I do not remember which masterpiece it was but I remember being awestruck by a scene in an Akira Kuruzawa film where the camera lingered for a very long minute on a vase of plum blossoms. It was exquisite. Enjoy the plum blossoms.


  5. OMG! Beautiful photos! I personally haven’t seen plum blossoms in bloom. I think it’s because I would only come out during the cherry blossom season. UGH! Love your blog!


    1. Thank you so much!!
      Yeah it’s a little unfortunate that the cherry blossoms overshadow the plum blossoms, but there are some really spectacular plum parks.


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