Ume, is not just half of an “umeshu,” a Japanese liqueur made from unripe and green ume fruits, it is actually a quite lovely tree. “Prunus mume” is tree species more commonly referred to as Chinese plum or Japanese apricot tree. The tree produces a delicious fruit that is usually referred to as a plum, but is closer to an apricot. You may know it best as “umeshu” if you have an affinity for too sweet alcoholic drinks, or “umeboshi,” if you eat bentos boxes with any regularity or have an affinity for too sour foods. The fruit is used to flavor many candies, juices, alcohol, and sauces in Japan. Another product of the ume tree are plum blossoms, which brings us to the topic of this article; Plum Blossom Viewing and the best places to do that in Nagoya.
You may be more familiar with the word “hanami,” or cherry blossom viewing, but there is a different term for viewing ume blossoms; “umemi / 梅見.” Umemi is usually in late winter and early spring, just before the more famous “sakura” cherry blossoms. Their timing makes them a herald of spring, and traditionally the Japanese have loved the strong, sweet smell of the pink, red, and white flowers. The peak period for viewing the blossoms will depend on the variety of tree, but the season is from early February until late March. Many locations will hold a festival during their specific peak period, and catching that will be well worth the trip!
If you are interested in braving the lingering cold of winter and enjoying your own day under the plum blossoms this year, you can try one of these locations.
A trip to Nagoya’s Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens, located near Higashiyama Koen Station on the yellow line, is a very convenient option for enjoying umemi. If you are looking for a quick and easy way, this might be your best option, and with 200 trees in 30 different varieties, you are likely to see blossoms from January until March, though the ideal times is from mid February to early March.
Higashiyama Park Station on the Higashiyama (yellow) Subway Line
3-70 Higashiyama Motomachi, Chikusa Ward, Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture 464-0804 (google map)
Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens (Japanese)
Nagoya Castle beautiful symbol of Nagoya, and a classic landmark of historical significance. It was built in 1612 by Tokugawa Ieyasu, Nagoya’s most famous resident, but rebuilt after the war knocked it down. The surrounding grounds, including Meijo-koen Park, hold a number of interesting things, most relevant here are a number of gardens. The castle is a convenient place to see umemi, but with only 100 trees in 13 varieties is best visited from middle February to early March.
Shiyakusho Station on the Meijo (purple) Subway Line. Use exit 7 (castle)
Meijo Koen Station on the Meijo (purple) Subway Line. Use exit 2. Walk west (park)
1-1 Honmaru, Naka Ward, Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture 460-0031 (google map)
The Nagoya Agriculture Center is located in Tenpaku Ward. It is free to enjoy the cafe and a shops selling a variety of organic vegetables and other healthy foods, as well as green houses and a model farm complete with live stock. Some sections require a fee to use, but the grounds are perfect for picnics, if a bit crowded during blossom season. This location features 800 trees in 12 different varieties; including some very lovely and distinctive hanging types. Best visited from middle February to early March.
Hirabari Station on the Tsurumai (blue) Line. 15 minutes walk east
2872-3 tenpaku cho oozawa hirabari kuroi, Tenpaku Ward, Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture 468-0021 (google map)
Togokusan Fruit Park is an agricultural park dedicated to outdoor and agricultural education. It features 15 separate orchard of local and “world” fruits, as well as a fishing area, a Japanese garden, and fields full of seasonal flowers and plants. They of course also offer restaurants and shops. The park features 200 trees in 21 varieties, allowing blossoms from January until March, though the ideal times is from mid February to early March.
This park is built around a water retention pond on the Chita Penninsula. The park has a stunning 4,600 ume trees in 21 varieties, making this an excellent place to visit from January until March, though the ideal times is from mid February to early March. The ideal time is made more ideal by the matsuri (festival) held here during this time, where you can view stage events, and outdoor tea ceremonies held under the blossoms.
2017 schedule for the matsuri is Saturday February 11 until Sunday March 12th. Events vary, see website for details… sorry; its not in English! http://www.city.chita.lg.jp/docs/2016121200043/
Asakura Station on Meitetsu Tokoname Line. Then Chita Bus bound for Sohri. Get off at Ume-no-yakata-guchi.
3-101 Sohridai, Chita-shi, Aichi 478-0018 (google map)