Ask anybody what the best thing to do in Japan during spring is, and you'll probably get the following response: enjoy a hanami flower-viewing picnic under the cherry blossoms! But did you know the original flower of choice for hanami were plum blossoms? In the 8th century, the Japanese elite often looked to mainland Asia for inspiration, and plum blossoms were the most popular spring flower in China. When Japan's cultural focus shifted inwards during the Heian Period (794–1185), the Japanese aristocracy began to focus on the cherry blossom.
But come to Japan during peak cherry blossom season, and you'll be hard-pressed to find a place to sit and enjoy your picnic! If you're planning a trip to or around Japan, consider planning around plum blossoms.
We've compiled a little list of some of the most popular plum blossom hotspots, plus a few secret spots, just for you. But first, let's get into the differences between the flowers.
What's the Difference? Plum Blossoms vs. Cherry Blossoms
Plum blossoms and cherry blossoms can be easily confused if you don't know what to look for. Plum branches on all trees except for weeping plums reach upwards. Each bud on these branches only produces one blossom, while cherry buds produce multiple long-stemmed blossoms. Plum blossoms come in various shades of pink, red, and white, and their petals are round with no notches or splits. This petal shape difference is the easiest way to tell plum blossoms and cherry blossoms apart. Plum blossoms are also incredibly fragrant, with a sweet scent far more potent than cherry blossoms!
These fragrant flowers are considered the earliest spring bloomers, but when do the plum blossoms bloom in Japan? They tend to bloom almost a month before their famous floral cousins, ranging from as early as mid-January to as late as mid-April.
10 Places to See Plum Blossoms Around Japan
- Hiraoka Park
- Kairakuen Gardens
- Soga Plum Grove
- Atami Baien Plum Garden
- Inabe City Agriculture Park
- Suzuka Forest Garden
- Nagoya Agriculture Center Dela Farm
- Wakasa Mikata Five Lakes
- Tsukigase Plum Grove
- Shimabara Castle Park
1. Hiraoka Park, Hokkaido
The plum blossoms at Hiraoka Park bloom later than others due to Hokkaido's cold climate, typically blooming in May! If you aren't able to see the blossoms in Honshu, head up to Hokkaido to see beautiful red, pink, and white plum blossoms (and to escape the heat as summer creeps up on the mainland).
2. Kairakuen Gardens, Ibaraki Prefecture
Kairukuen Gardens is one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan, alongside Kenrokuen in Ishikawa Prefecture and Korakuen in Okayama Prefecture. The garden was built in the Edo Period (1603–1868) and is home to almost 3,000 plum trees of about 100 different varieties. It's also home to the famous Mito Plum Festival, which takes place from mid-February to mid-March every year and sees events focused on things like umeshu plum wine and haiku contests!
3. Soga Plum Grove, Kanagawa Prefecture
This location is perfect for those of you looking for a day trip out of Tokyo. Soga Plum Grove has 35,000 plum trees and a picturesque view of Mt. Fuji. Most trees in the region sport white blossoms, making Fuji-san look like it's floating on a sea of floral clouds. The Odawara Plum Festival is held here every year from early February to early March, which coincides with the peak bloom season.
4. Atami Plum Garden, Shizuoka Prefecture
The Atami Baien Plum Garden has some of the earliest blooming plum blossoms in all of Japan, with many of the trees blooming as early as December! With over 450 trees, the garden is full of blossoms well into spring thanks to the different bloom times of 60 different plum varieties. The Atami Baien Ume Matsuri Plum Festival is from January into early March to go with this long bloom period.
5. Inabe City Agriculture Park, Mie Prefecture
This sprawling 6.5-hectare plum orchard features an observation deck where you can view the entire park's 4,000 plum trees of 100 varieties. This stunning red, pink, and white carpet is even more magical when seen against the snow-capped mountains of central Japan. The plums bloom from late February to late March. There is a Plum Festival every March.
6. Suzuka Forest Garden, Mie Prefecture
The Suzuka Forest Garden is a research facility for preserving and passing on traditional plum tree cultivation practices. The weeping plum trees on the grounds are tended to by master gardeners. The garden is only open to the public when the trees are in bloom during the Weeping Plum Blossom Festival from mid-February to late March. There are also evening light-ups of the blossoms.
7. Nagoya Agriculture Center Dela Farm, Aichi Prefecture
This plum grove is the perfect place to visit while in Nagoya. The grove is famous for its weeping plum trees that bloom from late February to mid-March. While you're there, don't miss out on the fresh vegetable sales, most of which are grown on-site.
8. Wakasa Mikata Five Lakes, Fukui Prefecture
This spot is worth the trip if you end up in the Hokuriku region. With Fukui Prefecture being one of the top 3 domestic producers of plums, the southern shores of the Wakasa Mikata Five Lakes are surrounded by plum orchards with bright white blossoms. Every year from mid-February to mid-March, the Mikata Five Lakes Plum Festival is held at the Umenosato Kaikan farmers market, where you can sample umeshu and umeboshi pickled plums (a popular rice ball filling).
9. Tsukigase Plum Grove, Nara Prefecture
Over 10,000 plum trees paint the valley along the Satsuki River in eastern Nara City a bright pink and white! During the Plum Festival held from mid-February to late March, food stalls and tea houses open around the area for visitors to enjoy the peak bloom period. The food stalls serve snacks like plum ice cream and udon noodles garnished with pickled plum.
10. Shimabara Castle, Nagasaki Prefecture
The city of Shimabara's official flower symbol is plum blossoms, and with good reason! At the base of Shimabara Castle is a small plum grove with 300 trees with red, pink, and white blossoms. The plums bloom from late January into late February, and during the bloom period, visitors can enjoy the view while drinking tea by joining a tea party.
If you don't have the time to head out of the city, you don't need to worry — there are also plenty of places around Tokyo where you can find plum blossoms!