It’s mid-February, and it feels like spring is just around the corner. As winter begins to draw to an end, the warmer weather brings out one of my favourite flowers: the plum blossoms!
Despite looking very similar, the ume (plum blossoms) are very much overshadowed by the sakura (cherry blossoms). I think it’s safe to say the Japanese prefer to consume the plums and observe the cherries! The plum fruit is used in various forms in a lot of food and drinks, but you generally don’t see Japanese people doing hanami (picnicking under the flowers) with plum trees. The ume bloom when it’s still quite cold out, so understandably no one wants to be outside for longer than is necessary. Perhaps the difference in popularity is more about timing than anything.
The sakura – a symbol of Japan, maybe the most celebrated flower in the world – as beautiful as they are, there is one thing the ume have on them.
While the sakura have no scent at all, plum trees smell like they’ve been spritzed with a sweet, honey perfume. It’s so intoxicating. Honestly, it makes standing in front of tree, taking photos of the flowers, that much more enjoyable! And with the pretty colours, the sweet smell, the soft petals, the sour taste of the fruit… this tree has amazingly got four of the five senses covered.
Over the past two weeks, I’ve been out and about chasing these beautiful flowers as well as early-blooming sakura. It’s a little hard to find information on where to see the ume, but if you’re in Tokyo now and wanting to see them for yourself, head to Hanegi Koen in Setagaya (where you can see around 600 trees) or Sugekari Koen in Naka-meguro (a small park), where these photos were taken. Yushima Tenjin is another popular place in Tokyo. If you’re up for a day trip, then I’d recommend Soga Bairin in Odawara (35,000 trees!) or Kairakuen in Ibaraki (3,000 trees and considered one of Japan’s top 3 gardens).