Plum Blossoms in Tokyo: Where to See Them

Tiffany

It’s true, cherry blossoms do tend to overshadow Japan’s other stunning flowers. However, plum blossoms in Tokyo, which typically bloom in late February to signal the start of spring, are a delight in their own right and should not be overlooked. Plum blossoms are on display in and around Tokyo’s parks, gardens and shrines.

plum blossoms tokyo spring
Plum blossoms typically bloom in February, before the cherry blossom season. | Photo by kanegen used under CC

When to see plum blossoms in Tokyo

Before the Nara period (10-794 AD), hanami (flower-viewing) referred to plum blossoms, not cherry blossoms, and 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. Despite the predominance of the more famous sakura season, plum blossoms haven’t been forgotten, at least if the plum blossom festivals (ume matsuri) around the country are any indication.

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Plum trees start blooming when it’s still good and chilly: you can expect to see them from February in most years, some time 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 late February, as most of the flowers will hardly be blooming at the start of the month. 

Pro tip: Keep your eyes peeled, as plum blossoms in Tokyo have been know to bloom early, like in 2017. In some parks, such as Koishikawa Korakuen and Hanegi Park, the plum blossoms have been known to jump the gun and can already start blooming in late January—much earlier than the official dates for the festivals.



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 (including several festivals) to see gorgeous plum blossoms in Tokyo.

1. Yushima Tenjin

IMG_3621
Photo by Tiffany Lim used under CC

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 plum tree-lined staircase going down past the shrine and out into the streets is a wonderful sight.

Ume Matsuri 2019 dates: February 8-March 8
Address: 3-30-1 Yushima, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo
Access: 2-minute walk from Yushima Station (Chiyoda Line), 10-minute walk from Hongo-Sanchome Station (Marunouchi or Toei Oedo Line)
Website: http://www.yushimatenjin.or.jp/pc/ume/index.htm (in Japanese)

2. Hanegi Park

plum blossoms tokyo spring
White plum blossoms catch the late sun in Hanegi Park | Photo by kanegen used under CC

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, while also small, has about 650 plum trees, making it a fitting location for Setagaya’s ume matsuri. During this festival, on weekends, vendors sell plum-themed food such as madeleines and jelly, and there are also some performances.

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Setagaya Ume Matsuri 2019 dates: February 9-March 3
Address: 4-38-52 Daita, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
Access: 5-minute walk from Umegaoka Station (Odakyu Line)
Link: https://tokyocheapo.com/events/setagaya-plum-festival/

3. Koishikawa Korakuen

A quiet garden near Tokyo Dome, Koishikawa Korakuen is beautiful all year round. While it has dates marked as plum blossom season, it’s not quite 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.

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2019 plum blossom dates: February 9-March 3
Admission: ¥300
Address: 1-6-6 Koraku, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 112-0004
Access: 8-minute walk from Iidabashi or Korakuen Station
Website: http://teien.tokyo-park.or.jp/en/koishikawa/

4. Kameido Tenjin

plum blossoms tokyo 2019
Plum blossoms frame the pond at Kameido Tenjin | Photo by ginomempin used under CC

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. Its arched bridge is also a sight to behold.

Ume Matsuri 2019 dates: February 3-March 2 (not confirmed)
Address: 3-6-1 Kameido, Koto-ku, Tokyo
Access: 15-minute walk from Kameido Station (Sobu Line)
Website: http://kameidotenjin.or.jp/ (in Japanese)

5. Ushi-Tenjin Kitano Shrine

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Photo by Guilhem Vellut used under CC

This shrine is known for its red plum blossoms (koubai) and shidare ume, or pink weeping plum blossoms. 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. On February 17th, visitors will be treated to amazake and tonjiru (miso soup with pork)—as long as there’s enough to last, of course. Plus, 200 visitors can take home a small plum spray.



If you’re into collecting goshuin (temple/shrine stamps/seals), Ushi-Tenjin Kitano will have commemorative ume matsuri stamps.

Koubai Matsuri 2019 dates: February 1-February 25
Address: 1-5-2 Kasuga, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo
Access: 10-minute walk from Korakuen (Marunouchi or Nanboku Line) or Kasuga Station (Toei Mita Line)
Website: http://www.ushitenjin.jp/ (Japanese)

6. 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 2019 dates: Plum blossom festival dates are yet to be confirmed for 2019
Address: Shibakoen, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Access: 1-minute walk from Shiba-Koen Station (Toei Mita Line) / 6-minute walk from Akabanebashi (Oedo Line)
Website: http://shiba-italia-park.jp/shiba/ (in Japanese)

And if you want to go somewhere slightly past Tokyo for a day trip …

7. Odawara Ume Matsuri

plum odawara fuji
Plum blossoms come early in the year, often while snow is still thick on Mount Fuji | Photo by joka2000 used under CC

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. Before going, check the event schedule (in Japanese).

2019 Odawara plum blossom festival dates: February 2-March 3
Access: 15-minute walk from Shimosoga Station (Gotemba Line)
Website: http://soganosato.com/index.html (Japanese)

Plum blossoms vs. cherry blossoms: How to tell the difference

Plum (ume) 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.

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 by Kylie van Zyl on January 8, 2019.

Written by:
Filed under: Events, Outdoors, Things to do
Tags: Flower Festivals, Flowers, Nature, Plum, Plum Blossoms, Seasonal, Seasonal Flowers, Spring, Ume
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4 Responses to “Plum Blossoms in Tokyo: Where to See Them”

  1. There are some lovely plum blossoms down south near Taura too if you don’t mind the train ride. Taura Station for JR line or Anjinzuka for Keikyu. While in Anjinzuka you can head up to the memorial for William Adams, the basis for the character in Shogun. I believe they brought a finger bone or something from his body, which is actually buried elsewhere. But I think his Japanese wife is buried in Anjinzuka too.

    • Tiffany

      Ah, I didn’t know that! That sounds interesting! Thanks for the info. 🙂

  2. Bimbolera November 21, 2015

    Mabuhay! I was wondering how to find the exact location of the Number 6 Odawara Matsuri. I’m actually planning to go to Japan and visit Kanagawa prefecture to personally behold that lovely place. Hope you could help me. Maraming salamat!

  3. Denise Stephens February 9, 2017

    Kyu Shiba Rikyu garden is also good for plum blossom!


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