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Friday, Feb. 18, 2011

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Plum viewing: A walk through the plum blossoms is a traditional way to welcome spring in Japan. © IBARAKI KANKOU BUSSAN KYOKAI / © JNTO


Plum-viewing season marks start of spring

Staff writer

With freezing weather hopefully a thing of the past, it's easier to plan outings now — and viewing plum blossoms are a great way to get in the mood for spring.

Now's the time to get a peek into a traditional pastime that has a history going back to the Nara Period (710-794). Many parks and plum forests across Japan are holding or will soon kick off special events to complement beautiful carpets of plum blossoms with colors that range from white to pink and red. And unlike cherries, plum blossoms last longer.

In Kanto, hordes of people come out to view plum blossoms at Kairakuen in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, which is known as one of Japan's top three landscape gardens (along with Kenrokuen in Kanazawa and Korakuen in Okayama). During the annual Mito Plum Festival, which runs from Feb. 20 till March 27, various events, ranging from live performances of traditional instruments to free tea ceremonies, will be held. In Ome, western Tokyo, some 25,000 plum trees will be in full bloom at Yoshino Plum Park from early to mid-March, setting the stage for what is arguably the most spectacular plum viewing venue in the nation.

If you don't have the time to travel far out, there are still a plenty of opportunities to enjoy the blossoms in central Tokyo. The Setagaya Plum Festival, running through Feb. 27 at Hanegi Park in Setagaya Ward, will do all it can to promote its 250 plum trees, with events ranging from tea ceremonies to sales of plum-related foodstuffs, such as plum daifuku (sweet cake) and plum pies.

For more information (in Japanese only), visit: Kairakuen: www.mitokoumon.com, Yoshino Plum Park: www.omekanko.gr.jp, or Hanegi Park: www.city.setagaya.tokyo.jp.

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