“Mito Plum Blossom Festival,” the harbinger of spring

In February when it is still cold day after day, Japanese people sense that the end of winter is approaching when they see red and white pretty plum blossoms starting to bloom. Famous spots where lots of plum trees are planted can be found everywhere in Japan and many events are held to enjoy the plum blossoms in February and March. One of the most famous is the “Mito Plum Blossom Festival” at Kairakuen in Mito City, Ibaraki Prefecture. Kairakuen is one of the three great gardens in Japan along with Kenrokuen in Ishikawa Prefecture and Korakuen in Okayama Prefecture. It is a large garden with nearly 170 years of history, made by the Lord of Mito Domain during the Edo period.

Plum blossoms at Kairakuen

The “Mito Plum Blossom Festival” is held from February 20th to March 31st every year with 3,000 trees of around 100 varieties of plum blossoms in full bloom in the garden. The entire garden filled with the fragrance of plum blossoms and colored in gradations of light pink is simply fantastical. Perfume of the scent of plum blossoms is also sold at a shop in the garden. You can also enjoy the illumination at night for about 2 weeks during the festival period.

Viewing plum blossoms is not the only fun to be had. A variety of other events are also held in the garden and at adjacent facilities during the festival including “Nodate,” where you can enjoy powdered green tea outdoors and Yagai Koto-no-kai or outdoor koto performance. For example, in the event “Yoru Ume Matsuri,” held only for one night on March 14 (Sat), you can view plum blossoms at night while enjoying candles on display, taking a night-time walk with a guide around the garden and watching fireworks being launched into the sky.

Mito Plum Blossom Festival

Venue: Kairakuen

Dates: February 20 – March 31, 2015

Access: About 1 hour and half by express train from Ueno Station in Tokyo, get off at Mito Station. About 20 minutes by bus for “Kairakuen” from Mito Station.

*Trains that stop at JR Kairakuen Station (a temporary station) will be available on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays during the festival.