when and where to see fall foliage (Japanese version only):

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

ume festivals and ume bonsai

From late January to early February, ume trees began blooming several days later than usual, earlier than last year.

Although ume(梅, Prunus mume) is often translated into English as plum, it is more closely related to the apricot. Plum(Prunus salicina) is referred to sumomo(酢桃 or 李) in Japan.

information about ume festivals: (Japanese version only) (Japanese version only)

Ume matsuri (Plum festival)
Ume matsuri (Plum festival) by pelican /flickr

Yushima Tenjin Plum(Ume) Festival(湯島天神梅まつり)
Feb.16-March 10
Yushima Tenman-gu Shrine(湯島天満宮), Tokyo

Tokyo : 10 Mar 2012
Tokyo : 10 Mar 2012 by chinnian /flickr

Yoshino Baigo Ume Matsuri (Plum Festival) (吉野梅郷梅祭り)
Feb.23-March 31
Ome City, Tokyo (Japanese version only)

梅の公園散策 (Yoshino plum grove in Ome)
梅の公園散策 (Yoshino plum grove in Ome) by cyber0515 /flickr

Prunus_15 by ajari /flickr

Ano bairin(賀名生梅林, Ano ume grove)
Best time to go: late Feb.-late March
Gojo City, Nara Prefecture

RIMG0017 by Tamago Moffle /flickr

DSCN1717 by Tamago Moffle /flickr

DVC00116 by Tamago Moffle /flickr

Oiwake Bairin(追分梅林, Oiwake ume grove) is now closed.
Nara City, Nara Prefecture


Osaka Castle Bairin(大阪城梅林)

plum grove park(Osaka castle)
plum grove park(Osaka castle) by tsuda /flickr

Osaka by that.girl.possessed /flickr

Soga Bessho Ume Festival (曽我別所梅まつり)
Feb.2-March 3
Bessho Bairin, Odawara City, Kanagawa Prefecture

Soga Bairin(曽我梅林) is a generic term that includes the three (Nakagawara Bairin(中河原梅林), Hara Bairin(原梅林) and Bessho Bairin(別所梅林)) ume groves.

plum garden in Soga, Kanagawa

Many ume trees were planted in order to secure ume fruits as army provisions over 600 years ago. Odawara is a town that was a resting spot along the Tokaido road in the Edo period.

Umeboshi(pickled ume fruits) quench thirst, relieve fatigue, and prevent decay. They were popular among travelers, and travelers placed them in box lunches.

Umeboshi is made by pickling ripe ume fruits in salt with red shiso leaves, drying them in the sun. My home-made umeboshi is ready. After that, some people soak them again in the vinegar from the fruits.

ume fruits for umeboshi

梅仕事2009 (1)
梅仕事2009 (1) by salchu /flickr


梅干し by HIRAOKA,Yasunobu /flickr

Bento@06.08.07 / jetalone /flickr

a box lunch with a umeboshi in the center of rice

A plum liqueur. by skyseeker /flickr

Umeshu is a liqueur made by soaking unripe ume fruits in crystal sugar and Shochu(Japanese distilled liquor).


Ume no Utage(梅の宴)
Feb.9-March 10
Yugawara bairin, Makuyama Park(幕山公園), Yugawara-cho, Kanagawa Prefecture

makuyama park
makuyama park by jessleecuizon /flickr

Ume Garden at Koishikawa Korakuen Garden (小石川後楽園), Tokyo

小石川後楽園梅園 by Masashige MOTOE /flickr

Ume Festival(梅まつり)
Feb.20-March 31
Kairaku-en(偕楽園), Mito City, Ibaraki Prefecture

kairakuen by vera46 /flickr

kairakuen by vera46 /flickr

 "plum ambassador" girls

Ume Garden(梅苑) at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine(北野天満宮), Kyoto
Feb.9-late March

Kitano Tenmangu
Kitano Tenmangu by JoshBerglund19 /flickr

Plum Garden
Plum Garden by mrhayata /flickr

Kyoto Gyoen National Garden(京都御苑)

Nagahama Bonbai Exhibition (長浜盆梅展)
Jan.19-March 10
Keiun-kan(慶雲館), Nagahama City, Shiga Prefecture

Bonbai means ume tree bonsai. This event was derived from about 40 ume bonsai that a bonsai lover donated to Nagahama City in 1951.  He collected old ume trees growing in the mountains. After potting them, he trained them into bonsai for years.  Potting old trees is said to be very difficult.  This event started in 1952.

About 90 bonsai trees are open to the public.
Now some bonsai experts take care of these bonsai trees. They also collect old ume trees, potting them and trained them into bonsai for 10 to 20 years.  After training for years, ume trees make their debut as bonsai at this event every year.

Keiun-kan Guest House(慶雲館) was built as a temporary palace for Meiji Emperor on a tour in 1887. Its circuit style garden created by Jihei Ogawa is designated as a national scenic beauty. Usually, the house is open to the public from March 24th to November 30th.

Plum bonsai
Plum bonsai by MShades /flickr

Furo(不老, eternal youth), far right, is about 400-year-old ume tree with double red flowers. It is 2.5 meters high and 1.8 meters around.

This event shows other old ume trees such as Shoryubai(昇龍梅, rising dragon), Sazareiwa(さざれ岩).
Shoryubai is about 250-year-old ume tree with single white flowers. It is 1.9 meters high and 1.0 meter around.
Sazareiwa is about 350-year-old ume tree with double rose-pink flowers. It is 2.8 meters high and 1.6 meters around. Sazareiwa (or Sazareishi)  means limestone breccia.

Plum bonsai
Plum bonsai by MShades /flickr

Plum bonsai
Plum bonsai by MShades /flickr

Bonsai trees by individual lovers are also exhibited.

Plum bonsai
Plum bonsai by MShades /flickr

Kakubu(鶴舞, crane dance) is about 150-year-old ume tree.

Plum bonsai
Plum bonsai by MShades /flickr

Shirosudare(白簾) is called from its resemblance to a curtain made of strung white beads.

Plum bonsai
Plum bonsai by MShades /flickr

Hakuryu(白龍, white dragon)

Plum bonsai
Plum bonsai by MShades /flickr

Plum bonsai
Plum bonsai by MShades /flickr

Plum bonsai
Plum bonsai by MShades /flickr

Plum bonsai
Plum bonsai by MShades /flickr

Hanasudare(花簾) is called  from its resemblance to a curtain made of strung beads.

Anpachi Ume Festival(安八梅まつり) 
Feb.17-March 17
Anpachi Hyakubaien Park(安八百梅園), Anpachi-gun, Gifu Prefecture

performances of koto at Anpachi Bonbai Exhibition 
IMG_8679 by shail05 /flickr

things related to ume

umegae moti
umegae moti by moon angel /flickr

Umegae-mochi(梅が枝餅) is a rice cake filled with sweet bean paste and a ume design is stamped on top.  Its name is derived from an episode of Sugawara Michizane.
Umegae-mochi is sold in Dazaifu City, Fukuoka Prefecture.
Legend has it that the ume blossoms in his garden followed him to Dazaifu  in the air.

Japanese White-eye
Japanese White-eye by kuribo /flickr

Ume and a white-eye

Maiko wear kanzashi decorated with silk ume blossoms in February.

Kitanotenmangu maiko
Kitanotenmangu maiko by flackblag7 /flickr


  1. What a beautiful and informative post, as always! The images are marvelous. I have always heard that the plum blossoms are varied in color and can cover a mountain side during the early spring. Learning about the many festivals is very interesting.

    1. Another ume blossoms can be viewed at my previous posts
      Ume blossoms are not gorgeous like cherry ones, but they have a pleasant smell.

  2. I was just in Japan last week and the plum blossoms shocked me - mostly because at home it's around -20C and we have 30 cm of snow on the ground, so nothing's going to be blooming for weeks yet. It was a plesant shock, but a surprise nonetheless.

    Incidentally, everyone keeps saying that callined ume "plums" in English is a misnomer, but I disagree. "Plum" is an extremely large category in English, refering to more than 20 separate species, all in the genus "Prunus". For instance, there are 10 separate species in the English-speaking part of North America alone, all with "Plum" in their names. It's the apricot that, if it were following the naming conventions of the rest of the genus, ought to be called something-plum in English and isn't, by a mistake of history.

    1. Traditionally, 'ume'(Prunus mume) has been seen as something separate to 'sumomo'(Prunus salicina) in Japan. プラム(plum) means Prunus salicina in Japan. I feel reluctant to call them by the same name. The same is true of camellias, irides, magnolias.

    2. The name "plum" doesn't, and never has, refered to a single plant in English, rather, it refers to a family of closely related plants.