Plum Blossoms in Tokyo

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—should not be overlooked.

Plum (ume) blossoms’ reddish, pink, or white flowers 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. When in doubt, 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.

(If you want the full “sakura” experience however, do check out our Japan Cherry Blossom Forecast)

plum blossoms in tokyo
Plum or cherry blossoms? Photo by kanegen, used under a Creative Commons license.

Before the Nara period (10-794 AD), hanami (flower-viewing) referred to plum blossoms, not cherry blossoms, and they still haven’t been forgotten to this day, if the plum blossom festivals (ume matsuri) around the country are any indication. Here are some good places to see plum blossoms in Tokyo.

Visiting Tokyo soon? Don’t leave without downloading our ebook!
20% off coupon code: TYO7382.

Normally, while most of these places’ ume matsuri start in early February, the best time to actually visit is late February, as most of the flowers will hardly be blooming at the start of the month. However, in 2017, the plum blossoms seem to have bloomed early. In some parks, such as Koishikawa Korakuen and Hanegi Park, the plum blossoms already started blooming in late January—much earlier than the official dates for the plum blossom festivals.

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

Join a photographic journey in Tokyo after dark. Get tips from professional local photographers and explore this fascinating city through your viewfinder. With Tokyo as click here for details
 Suggested Activity 

Ume Matsuri 2017 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 (Japanese)

2. Hanegi Park

111342348_7b225fc42e_o
Photo by yy 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 will sell plum-themed food such as madeleines and jelly, and there will also be some performances.

Setagaya Ume Matsuri 2017 dates: February 11-March 5
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 festival in that there are no booths or special performances; it’s all about enjoying the fragrant blossoms in tranquility. The park only has a few plum trees, but you can enjoy the rest of the scenery, and not just the plums.



2017 plum blossom dates: late January-early March
Admission: 300 yen
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

3221923505_69af87bbb5_b
Photo by Yuko Honda 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 2017 dates: February 4-March 5
Address: 3-6-1 Kameido, Koto-ku, Tokyo
Access: 15-minute walk from Kameido Station (Sobu Line)
Website: http://kameidotenjin.or.jp/ (Japanese)

5. Ushi-Tenjin Kitano Shrine

12970628064_9779ce220a_k
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 the last Sunday of the festival (that’s the 19th for 2017), the first 200 visitors can take home a small plum branch, and visitors will be treated to amazake and tonjiru (miso soup with pork)—as long as there’s enough to last, of course.



If you’re into collecting goshuin (temple/shrine stamps/seals), Ushi-Tenjin Kitano will have commemorative ume matsuri stamps on the 5th, 1th, 12th, and 19th. Also, throughout the duration of the festival, anyone who avails of omamori (charms), goshuin, or ofuda (amulets) will be presented with some umeshu (plum wine).

Koubai Matsuri 2017 dates: February 1-25
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 a sight to behold. 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.

At Shiba Park’s festival, visitors can enjoy a koto performance, and up to 350 guests a day can join an open-air tea ceremony for 350 yen.

Ume Matsuri 2017 dates: February 17-18
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/ (Japanese)

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

7. Odawara Ume Matsuri

104046935_b31f94b4dc_o
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 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 on Feb. 11, plus lion dances, a calligraphy performance, concerts and more. Be sure to check the event schedule (in Japanese).

2017 dates: February 4-March 5
Access: 15-minute walk from Shimosoga Station (Gotemba Line)
Website: http://soganosato.com/index.html (Japanese)

This post is updated annually. Last update: Feb. 2, 2017.

Location Map:


Watch this next

New Video: Getting Wifi In Japan

Our guide to prepay SIM cards, wifi routers, cafe wifi and other places to quickly find wifi whilst visiting Japan.




Get our Tokyo Cheapo Hacks direct to your inbox




Recommended hotels located nearby



4 Responses to “Plum Blossoms in Tokyo”

  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

    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

    Kyu Shiba Rikyu garden is also good for plum blossom!


Questions or comments about this article? Start a thread on our community forum