Enjoy Spring a Little Early! 7 Shrines in Tokyo with Plum Blossoms
Plum blossoms herald the beginning of spring in Japan. They're very similar to cherry blossoms but are somewhat cuter looking, and you can enjoy them in Tokyo for about a month, starting in early February. You wouldn't want to visit Japan in March without seeing these! They have distinctive round petals and a mild fragrance. Shrines with the name "Tenjin" or "Tenmangu" often have plum trees growing on the grounds. Here are 7 shrines to check out for their plum trees.
Jan 21 2019 (Feb 06 2020)
1. Kameido Tenjinja (Kameido)
This is one of the three biggest Tenjin shrines (shrines dedicated to the deity of academics, scholarship, and learning) in the Kanto area. It is located in Kameido, a neighborhood in eastern Tokyo that still retains a traditional working class atmosphere. It's called "Kameido no Tenjin-sama," and has been beloved by many people for a long time. You can even see the Tokyo Skytree from the grounds.
There are around 300 plum trees within the Kameido Tenjin grounds. The trees, spread across the precinct, welcome worshipers as they come to pay their respects at the shrine. These plum trees were carefully chosen by the priests, and they all have a round and beautiful appearance.
The large lake by the main shrine has a beautiful arched bridge over it modeled after Dazaifu Tenmangu, the main Tenmangu shrine in Fukuoka. Capture the plums blossoms and the bridge together in one shot for a truly Japanese photo.
Opening Hours: (Grounds) 24 hours a day
(Main Shrine) 6:00 am - 5:00 pm
Access: 15-minute walk from Kameido Station
Address: 3-6-1, Kameido, Koto-ku, Tokyo (Google Map)
Website (Japanese): Kameido Tenjin Official Website
This article focuses on plum-viewing in the Tokyo area, but naturally the Osaka area has many sites as well! If you're visiting Kansai in February, then make sure to check out these locations for beautiful flower-viewing:
2. Yushima Tenmangu (Ueno)y kawahara/Flickr
Yushima Tenmangu is also one of Kanto's biggest Tenjin shrines. It's near Ueno Park, so you can stop by before or after sightseeing at the zoo or the museum.
Yushima Tenmangu has been famous for its plum blossoms since the Edo period, and there are more than 10 kinds of plum trees in the grounds, totaling around 300 trees altogether. Depending on the type of tree, the color and shape of the blossoms can vary, so compare them and see if you can spot the differences.
The plum festival is from early February to late March. During the festival period, on the weekends and holidays you can enjoy tea and traditional Japanese arts like mikoshi (portable shrine) parades or dances. They also display beautiful plum-blossom bonsai trees, and you can enjoy the faint fragrance of its flowers.
Opening Hours: (Grounds) 6:00 am - 8:00 pm
(Plum Festival) 8:00 am - 7:30 pm
Access: 5-minute walk from Yushima Station
Address: 3-30-1, Yushima, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo (Google Map)
Website (Japanese): Yushima Tenmangu Official Website
Website (English): Yushima Tenmangu Official Website
3. Naruko Tenjinja (Shinjuku)
Naruko Tenjinja is in Nishi Shinjuku and is conveniently located near both Nishi-shinjuku Station and Shinjuku Station. It is a rare shrine surrounded by high-rise buildings.
As it is located in a densely populated area of the city, the shrine has a uniquely long and narrow shape. Many of the plum trees on the grounds were planted when the main shrine was rebuilt a few years ago, so visitors can see young trees here.
Plum blossoms can be split into two categories, white and red, and this small shrine has both types of plum trees growing on the grounds. There are few people here even on weekends, so it's a great spot to enjoy the flowers away from the crowds.
Access: 2-minute walk from Nishi-shinjuku Station
Address: 8-14-10, Nishi Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo (Google Map)
Website (Japanese): Naruko Tenjinja
It isn't just the plum and cherry blossoms that Japanese people look forward to as spring approaches. This article features a few more distinct and beautiful flowers that can be appreciated every year.
4. Hirakawa Tenmangu (Hanzomon)
Hirakawa Tenmangu is a small shrine in the business district of Hanzomon. It was built in the 13th century, and the surrounding neighborhood, Hirakawa, is named after the temple.
While this shrine only has one plum tree, it's a very rare type. When the flowers fall, it bears fruit. On most trees, one plum grows where each flower was, but on this tree the plums grow in pairs. Because of that, this tree is known as the "plum tree of relationships", and is said to bring good fortune in love and romance.
You can receive a signature and a seal called a "goshuin" if you bring a ledger. It is a scarlet seal that shows that you've visited the shrine. The goshuin ledger is about 1500 yen, and you can receive the goshuin for 300 yen. If you ask for a goshuin here, you also receive the shrine's special plum-shaped senbei (rice cracker) as well.
Access: 1 minute walk from Hanzomon Station
Address: 1-7-5, Hirakawa, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo (Google Map)
Website (Japanese): Hirakawa Tenmangu Official Website
5. Ushi-Tenjin Kitano-Jinja (Iidabashi)
There are various shrines called Kitano Jinja throughout Tokyo, but Ushi-Tenjin is known as the one with the most beautiful plum blossoms. They also have cherry blossoms, morning glories, and chrysanthemums, so you can enjoy various flowers throughout the year.
90% of the Ushi-Tenjin plum blossoms are red blossoms, so the grounds are filled with various bright shades of pink and red. They also have the only weeping plum blossom tree in all of Kanto.
They hold their plum festival for around a month, starting in early February. On Saturdays during that period, they offer plum-shaped sweets and amazake (sweet beverage made with fermented rice). While amazake does have the word "sake" (alcohol) in it, it is almost completely non-alcoholic, and even children can drink it. Warm yourself to the core with this mildly sweet beverage.
Access: 10-minute walk from Iidabashi Station
Address: 1-5-2, Kasuga, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo (Google Map)
Website (Japanese): Ushi-Tenjin Kitano-Jinja Official Website
If you're looking for tips on how to enjoy the more common form of flower-viewing, the cherry blossom, as well as the best time and place for it, check out our hanami guide below!
6. Yabo Tenmangu (Yaho)
Yabo Tenmangu is about 35 minutes away from Shinjuku by train. The grounds are wide and full of greenery, making it an ideal location for a leisurely walk.
The plum grove within the grounds consists of about 350 trees. When you enter the grove, you'll be surrounded by gentle colors as far as your eyes can see. They hold a plum festival on the weekend in late February, and visitors can enjoy live music of traditional instruments like taiko drums and koto (traditional Japanese stringed instrument).
At Yabo Tenmangu, there are chickens roaming freely around the grounds. They even get into the trees sometimes, so keep an eye out for them. They're friendly birds that often come right up to the visitors.
Opening Hours: (Plum Festival) 10:00 am - 3:00 pm
Access: 3-minute walk from Yaho Station
Address: 5209, Yaho, Kunitachi-shi, Tokyo (Google Map)
Website (Japanese): Yabo Tenmangu Official Website
7. Machida Tenmangu (Machida)
Machida Tenmangu is located in Machida, about 30 minutes by a rapid-service train from Shinjuku. There are events and festivals held here almost every month, so it's always bustling with visitors.
Different types of plum trees are planted throughout the grounds. The peak season varies based on the species of trees, so you can enjoy plum blossoms over a long period of about 2 months starting in mid-January. You can check the status of blooming via the blog on their official homepage.
On the first day of every month, from 7:00 am to 4:00 pm, they hold a flea market on the shrine grounds. About 130 stalls managed by locals are set up, featuring a wide variety of products like antiques, kimono, and handmade crafts. Have a look around the stalls for a hidden gem while enjoying the plum blossoms.
Access: 10-minute walk from Machida Station
Address: 1-21-5, Haramachida ,Machida-shi, Tokyo (Google Map)
Website (Japanese): Machida Tenmangu Official Website
Plum blossoms are the first signs of spring. They're not as well-known as cherry blossoms, but their beautiful appearance and fragrance are just as attractive. Enjoy the typical Japanese scenery of plum blossoms at some of these recommended shrines.
Plums can be admired from afar, yes, but they also taste delicious! Umeshu, a form of "wine" made by soaking plums in a liquor, is a much-loved beverage that is sweet, sour, and not too strong. Read this article to learn all about it:
The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.