Cherry blossoms tend to steel the spotlight but Japan has other stunning floral displays. Like the plum blossoms, which bloom in February signal the start of spring. Read on for all you need to know on the best places to see the plum blossoms in Tokyo.
Plum trees were introduced into Japan from China during the Nara period (710–794 AD), and were the original hanami (flower viewing) blossoms. The plum holds a special place in Japanese culture, symbolizing hope and vitality, and reassuring everyone that even if it’s still very cold, warmer weather will come. Plum blossom festivals (ume matsuri) are still held all around the country.
Get in the mood for spring with our guide to the season in Tokyo.
When to see plum blossoms in Tokyo
Plum trees start blooming when it’s still good and chilly; you can expect to see them from late January or early February in most years, well before even the earliest cherry blossoms start to bloom.
Although most plum blossom festivals start in early February, the best time to visit the places we list here is usually mid- to late February, as most of the flowers will hardly be blooming at the start of the month.
Where to see plum blossoms in Tokyo
Although there’s no shortage of plum trees in the metropolis, it’s when they are en masse that their beauty truly stands out. Here are seven good places to see gorgeous plum blossoms in Tokyo (plus a bonus day trip).
1. Hanegi Park
The park’s location, Umegaoka (which means “Plum Blossom Hill”) in Setagaya Ward, should already tip you off about what to expect here! Hanegi Park has about 650 plum trees, making it a fitting location for the Setagaya Ume Matsuri.
In regular times, on weekends during the festival vendors sell plum-themed food such as madeleines and jellies, and there are also some performances. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 the festival won’t be happening in 2022, but you can still swing by the park itself to see the plum trees.
Setagaya Ume Matsuri 2022 dates: Cancelled due to COVID-19
2. Koishikawa Korakuen
Koishikawa Korakuen is closed until further notice due to COVID-19.
A quiet garden near Tokyo Dome, tranquil Koishikawa Korakuen is beautiful all year round. While it has dates marked as plum blossom season, it’s not so much a plum blossom festival in that there are not usually booths or special performances; it’s all about enjoying the fragrant blossoms in tranquility. The park only has a small number of plum trees, but you can enjoy the rest of the scenery too.
3. Yushima Tenjin
This shrine is devoted to Sugawara no Michizane, a scholar who became deified as a tenjin (god of learning). Since the University of Tokyo is a short walk away, it’s unsurprising that many prospective students come here to pray for luck in their entrance exams.
Although the shrine is small, it’s known for its beautiful plum blossoms, and, annually, it commemorates the plum blossoms with a month-long festival filled with performances, a mikoshi (portable shrine) procession, and food stalls. The performances are cancelled this year, but the event itself is still on and, so far, there will still be booths on the weekends. The plum tree-lined staircase going down past the shrine and out into the streets is a wonderful sight.
Ume Matsuri 2022 dates: February 8 to March 8
Yushima Tenjin Shrine
4. Ushi-Tenjin Kitano Shrine
This shrine is known for its striking red plum blossoms (koubai) and also its pink weeping plum blossoms (shidare ume). For the duration of the festival, you can try amazake (a fermented rice drink, which is actually non-alcoholic) and ginger tea on Saturdays. On Sundays, they offer plum sweets, dried plums, and Kitano no Fukukoubai, a kind of umeshu (plum wine) that’s been fermented for 5–10 years. *Note that these extras may not be available due to COVID-19.
If you’re into collecting goshuin (temple/shrine stamps/seals), Ushi-Tenjin Kitano will have commemorative ume matsuri stamps.
Koubai Matsuri 2022 dates: February 1 to February 25
Ushi-Tenjin Kitano Shrine
5. Shiba Park
Here’s where you can enjoy the plum blossoms with Tokyo Tower in the background. With only 70 trees, Shiba Park‘s so-called plum forest may be modest compared to the other places listed here, but it’s nonetheless spectacular. The trees, which used to be called the “Silver World” in the Edo period, were transported here from present-day Shinjuku in the Meiji Era.
Ume Matsuri 2022 dates: No event dates have been released on their website, but you can drop by and see the trees for yourself.
6. Kameido Tenjin
Another place with “Tenjin” in its name? Here’s a hint: Tenjin shrines tend to be associated with plum blossoms. Kameido Tenjin is known as the shitamachi (downtown) Tenjin shrine, and it has over 300 plum trees. Amidst those is a famous tree — “Goken no Ume” — which has both red and white blossoms. The shrine’s arched bridge is also a sight to behold.
Ume Matsuri 2022 dates: Not confirmed
Kameido Tenjin Shrine
7. Ikegami Plum Garden
Ikegami Baien (“baien” means “plum garden”) was a private garden left to Ota ward after the owner’s death. The garden is home to 30 different varieties of plum trees.
Ikegami Plum Garden
And if you want to go somewhere slightly past Tokyo for a day trip …
8. Odawara Ume Matsuri
Odawara is in Kanagawa Prefecture, but is only an hour and a half away by train from Tokyo. The plum blossom festival mainly takes place at and around Soga Bessho Bairin, a grove of about 35,000(!) plum trees that offers a clear view of Mt. Fuji. There are different kinds of plum blossoms here — red, white, pink, weeping; you name it!
Make sure to check out the festivities as well — there’s a yabusame (horseback archery) demonstration, lion dances, a calligraphy performance, concerts and more. Sadly, these events have been cancelled for 2022 due to COVID-19.
2022 Odawara plum blossom festival dates: February 5-27
Website: Odawara Ume Matsuri (Japanese)
Odawara Flower Garden
Atami Plum Garden
Plum blossoms vs. cherry blossoms: How to tell the difference
Plum blossoms’ reddish, pink, or white flowers usually remain in bloom until early March, although there’s an occasional overlap between late-blooming plum blossoms and early-blooming cherry blossoms, which can lead to some confusion. If they look similar to you, just remember that cherry blossoms have split-ended petals, whereas plum blossoms don’t.
Also, several cherry blossoms bloom from a single bud and are attached to the branch by a long stem, while there’s only one plum blossom per bud. And plum blossoms often have a lovely fragrance, while cherry blossoms don’t really smell like much.
Still fixated on seeing the cherry blossom? Here is our complete guide to Tokyo’s best hanami spots.
While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. Dates should be treated as approximate, as nature does her own thing. This post is updated annually. Last updated in January 2022.