18 Best Places in Kansai to See Japan’s Gorgeous Ume Plum Blossoms

The blooming of Japan’s plum trees signal the start of spring. While millions of visitors flock to see the cherry blossoms each year, Japan’s plum blossoms are just as beautiful and abundant. Known as “ume” in Japanese, there are plenty of spots in the Kansai region where you can enjoy their beautiful colors. Kansai is home to some of Japan’s most popular tourist destinations such as Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara prefectures as well as off-the-beaten-path destinations like Hyogo, Shiga, and Wakayama prefectures. From gorgeous shrines and castles to hidden valleys filled with flowers, in this article, we’ll introduce 18 of the best spots to enjoy plum blossoms in Kansai!

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What Are Ume Blossoms? All You Need to Know About Japan’s Plum Trees

Originally imported into Japan from China, Japan’s plum blossoms have been an essential part of Japanese culture for centuries. Considered an auspicious sign that signals the end of winter and the beginning of spring, ume blossoms have often been used in traditional Japanese artworks and also in poems to represent the season. It was also traditionally believed that ume blossoms could ward off evil and misfortune

In spring Japan’s plum trees produce beautiful flowers in a variety of gorgeous colors, ranging from brilliant white to beautiful popping pink. The flowers bloom for around a month, after which the trees produce a type of plum called “ume” in Japanese.

Ume are a special variety that more closely resemble apricots than common plums. The plums are used to make traditional delicacies including “umeboshi” pickled plums and “umeshu” plum wine.  

When Do Japan’s Plum Trees Bloom?

Japan's plum blossoms typically come into bloom in late winter and early spring between February and March each year. Just like cherry blossom trees, Japan’s plum blossoms can be found in gardens, parks, and in the grounds of many temples and shrines throughout the country. Many plum festivals, called “ume matsuri,” are held in gardens, at temples, and shrines throughout Japan to celebrate the flowering of the plum blossoms each year.

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What Is the Difference Between Ume Plum Blossoms and Sakura Cherry Blossoms?

Though they look similar there are several ways to tell plum blossoms and cherry blossoms apart. Firstly, the petals of the plum blossom flowers are rounded, whereas cherry blossom petals have more of a tip with a small tear at the peak. Cherry blossom flowers also bloom together in large clusters and have flower stalks, whereas plum blossoms flowers bloom individually directly along the branch of the tree.

Japan’s plum blossoms also feature a deeper range of colors, from bold white to very vivid pinks and reds, while cherry blossoms are much more delicate shades of white and soft pale pinks. Plum blossoms also have a strong and sweet fragrance while cherry blossoms only give off a very faint odor. Japan’s plum trees also bloom earlier and for a longer period of time than cherry blossoms, coming into bud in the late winter and early spring.

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When Is the Best Time to View Plum Blossoms in Kansai?

The best time to enjoy the plum blossoms in Kansai is from mid February to early March. This is towards the end of winter and the beginning of spring. If you’re visiting Kansai at this time of year you’ll be able to marvel at the region’s plum blossoms which begin to bloom and thrive despite the relatively cold temperatures, weeks before the cherry blossoms begin to appear.


The Best Places to Admire Japan’s Plum Blossoms in Kansai

Plum Blossoms in Kyoto

1. Kitano Tenmangu Shrine: Plum Blossoms in Honor of the God of Learning

Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is located in the north of Kyoto, around a 15 minute walk from the famous golden pavilion of the Kinkakuji Temple. Kitano Tenmangu Shrine was built to honor Sugawara Michizane, a famous scholar and poet from the 9th century. After his death Michizane was deified as the god of scholarship.

During his lifetime, Michizane was known for his love of plum blossom trees, and today around 2,000 plum trees can be found amongst the large grounds of Kitano Tenmangu Shrine. On February 25th each year the shrine hosts a special tea ceremony amongst the plum grove, which is performed by local geisha from Kyoto.

2. Jonangu Shrine: Weeping Blossoms in Gorgeous Shrine Grounds

Jonangu Shrine is a Shinto shrine situated in the south of Kyoto which dates from the late 8th century when the city became the capital of Japan. The shrine’s main hall is circled by five different gardens, each beautifully maintained with a variety of flowers that bloom at different times of the year. One of the most famous flowers to bloom at Jonangu Shrine are the weeping pink and white plum blossom trees that burst into color each spring in the Haru no Yama garden.

3. Umenomiya Taisha Grand Shrine: Historic Shrine that Hosts a Famous Plum Festival

Umenomiya Taisha Grand Shrine is another of Kyoto’s historic shrines that is famous for its beautiful gardens. The shrine’s plum blossom grove features around 500 ume trees, which each year hosts a ume matsuri festival on the second Sunday of February. Beside plum blossoms, Umenomiya Taisha’s gardens also feature iris flowers, cherry blossom trees, hydrangea and azalea as well as a large picturesque pond. Umenomiya Taisha is associated with an 8th century empress, who after struggling to conceive gave birth soon after visiting the shrine. Today many people visit the shrine to offer prayers to become pregnant and for a safe birth.

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Plum Blossoms in Osaka

4. Osaka Castle Park: Plum Blossoms With Amazing Castle Views

Each year in February, Osaka Castle Park is filled with color as over 1,000 plum blossom trees reach full bloom. There are over 100 different types of ume blossom tree inside Osaka Castle Park which produce a gorgeous range of white, pink and red petals. The plum blossoms are spread out through the park between Osaka Castle’s inner and outer moats. The beautiful colors of the plum blossoms against the backdrop of Osaka Castle is a truly spectacular sight.

5. Domyoji Tenmangu Shrine: 80 Varieties of Plum Blossom at Ancient Temple

Domyoji Tenmangu Temple is located in the southeast of Osaka and is also associated with Sugawara Michizane, who is said to have visited here in the 10th century. Today, within the grounds of Domjoyi Tenmangu Temple is a beautiful plum grove that features a walking path and an elevated platform from which the trees can be admired. There are 80 different varieties of plum blossom trees within the grove and around 800 plum blossom trees in total. The garden also boasts a rare type of plum blossom tree that blooms all year round.

6. Kozen Park: Plum Tree Walks in a Popular Park in Sakai

Around an hour south of central Osaka, Kozen Park is situated in the city of Sakai. Kozen Park is a vast green space, at the center of which is Tajihayahime Jinja, a large shrine which was established in the 6th century. In the north of the park is an impressive grove of around 1200 plum blossom trees. There are around 50 different varieties of plum blossoms here which can be admired from the wide path that winds through the grove.

Plum Blossoms in Nara

7. Nara Park: Admire Cute Deer Beneath a Small Plum Grove

Nara Park is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Japan thanks to the thousands of wild deer who roam its grounds. In late winter and early spring, the small Kataoka Bairin plum grove located in the south west of the sprawling Nara Park is also one of the most idyllic places to see Japanese plum blossoms in Kansai. Here you’ll spot the park’s deer graze beneath the grove’s 250 beautiful red and white plum trees.

8. Tsukigase Plum Valley: An Array of Colors in a Beautiful Valley

Nestled deep in the far northeastern corner of Nara Prefecture, Tsukigase Plum Valley is a breathtaking area that has been part of the local landscape for hundreds of years. Over 10,000 plum blossom trees sweep along the Satsuki River in the Tsukigase Plum Valley, creating a stunning vista of white, pink and red flowers each spring. Tsukigase Plum Valley is said to date from sometime during Japan’s Kamakura period (1185-1333). The valley was visited by the famous Japanese poet Matsuo Basho who was so inspired by the plum blossoms he wrote a haiku about their beauty.

9. Anou Plum Grove: Plum Blossoms Dating Back to the 14th Century

Anou Plum Grove is one the most spectacular plum tree regions in Kansai, if not Japan. Located in the remote hillsides of Hoshino Valley south west of the city of Gojo, Anou Plum Grove is home to 20,000 plum trees, double the amount in Tsukigase Plum Valley. Just like Tsukigase Plum Valley, the beautiful Japanese plum blossoms here have been admired for hundreds of years. It is believed that Anou Plum Grove dates back as far as the 14th century, and today this remains one of the most incredible ume blossom groves in the country.

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Plum Blossoms in Wakayama

10. Minabe Plum Grove: The Largest Plum Grove in Japan

Minabe Plum Grove is the largest in area size in Japan. There are said to be 100,000 plum trees in Minabe Plum Grove in total which create a breathtaking view of the plum blossoms when they reach full bloom. Located amongst the hillsides and mountains of rural Wakyama, Minabe Plum Grove dates from the Edo Period (1603-1868) when the area’s ruling samurai lords promoted the growing and cultivation of plums in the region. Today the grove is open to visitors between January and March each year when the plum blossoms reach full bloom. As the plums from the ume trees are harvested for consumption there are many different types of umeboshi on sale when the grove is open.

11. Kishu Ishigami Tanabe Bairin Ume Orchard: 300,000 Plum Trees in Wakayama’s Mountains

Further north of Minabe Plum Grove is Kishu Ishigami Tanabe Bairin Ume Orchard, located deeper into the mountains, located 300 meters above sea level. As with the plum blossoms in Minabe, Kishu Ishigami Tanabe Bairin Ume Orchard also has a long history that stretches back to the Edo Period. As the land on the hillsides is unsuitable for the cultivation of rice, the local lord suggested growing plum trees as an alternative use of the land. Now there are 300,000 plum trees spread across the sloping mountain sides that surround the village of Ishigami.

12. Heisogen Park: Plum Blossoms With Stunning Ocean Views

Heisogen Park is located in a beautiful spot high up overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Shirahama, one of the most popular beaches in Wakayama. Though more famous for its 2,000 cherry blossom trees, Heisogen Park is also home to a plum tree orchard. As well as the plum and cherry blossom trees, Heisogen Park also has a range of other seasonal flowers, including a rose garden and colorful Narcissus and nanohana flowers that bloom at different times of the year.

Plum Blossoms in Hyogo

13. Sekai no Ume Park: 300 Varieties of Plum Blossom Trees with Sea Views

Sekai no Ume Park is a dedicated plum blossom park with over 300 different types of plum trees that are indigenous to countries all over Asia, not only Japan. The park opened in 1993 on the hilltops that overlook the Seto Inland Sea in Tatsuno City. In total there are around 1,200 plum blossom trees in Sekai no Ume Park, and there are also several Chinese-inspired buildings dotted around the grounds as well as observation spots which offer gorgeous views of the plum trees against the beautiful backdrop of the sea.

14. Mikuriya Shrine: Local Shrine Famous for its Colorful Ume Blossom Trees

Mikuriya Shrine is located in the city of Akashi, which is situated between Kobe and Himeji. The origins of Mikuriya Shrine are uncertain, but it is believed to date back at least as far as the 9th century. Mikuriya Shrine is dedicated to Sugawara no Michizane, the scholar and poet famed for his love of plum blossoms, and fittingly the grounds of the shrine are filled with a variety of different ume trees that produce a range of beautiful colors in the spring. Every year on February 25th the shrine holds a plum festival to celebrate the blooming of the blossoms.

15. Yagi Weeping Plum Tree: Stunning 70 Year Old Plum Tree in a Garden of a Private House

Located in the garden of a private house deep in the countryside of Awaji Island, the Yagi Weeping Plum Tree is one of the most beautiful plum blossom trees in Japan. Around 8 meters tall and 12 meters wide, the stunning cascading colors of the Yagi Weeping Plum Tree are a sight to behold. The solitary tree is now over 70 years old, and despite its remote location still draws plenty of visitors each year. Despite being on private property, the house owners open their garden to visitors each spring when the bright pink plum blossoms begin to bloom.


Plum Blossoms in Shiga

16. Hikone Castle: Gorgeous Plum Blossoms in Grounds of National Treasure

Hikone Castle is one of only four castles in Japan to be classified as National Treasures. The construction of Hikone Castle took 20 years and was finally completed in 1622, though the plum grove is a much newer addition. 400 plum blossom trees were planted in the grounds of the castle in 1951, complementing the 1,000 Yoshino cherry blossom trees that were planted here in the 1930s. The red and white plum blossoms were planted to celebrate Hikone Castle being designated as one of the top 100 sightseeing spots in Japan.

17. Ishiyamadera: Venerated Temple Known For its Beautiful Grounds

Ishiyamadera is a historic temple located on the edge of the city of Otsu, near the southern tip of Lake Biwa. Built in the 8th century, Ishiyamadera sits along the ancient Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage route that passes through 33 temples along a stretch of the Kansai region. The beautiful grounds of Ishiyamadera feature a huge range of flowers that bloom in different seasons throughout the year, including 400 plum blossom trees of 40 different varieties. In the spring the Ishiyamadera Temple Japanese Plum Blossom Festival takes place, where you can also see around 40 plum blossom bonsai trees which are also on display.

18. Ho Park: Enjoy Plum Blossoms with Views of Lake Biwa

Ho Park is another beautiful spot that is blessed with a variety of colorful flowers that bloom throughout the year. The park sits on Lake Biwa next to Nagahama Castle, once the home of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who was one of the most famous samurai and feudal lords in Japan. Ho Park was opened in 1909 and is more famous for its 600 cherry blossom trees. However the plum trees make for a wonderful scene as they bloom in early spring against the backdrop of Nagahama Castle.

Recommended Hotel to Stay in Kansai and Enjoy Gorgeous Ume Plum Blossoms

Hotel Resol Kyoto Kawaramachi Sanjo

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Hotel It Osaka Shinmachi

Enjoy the Many Beautiful Views of Kansai’s Plum Blossom Trees

Kansai is blessed with countless great spots to admire the beautiful colors of Japan’s beautiful plum blossoms. No matter which prefecture in Kansai you’re visiting, if you’re traveling in the early spring, you’re guaranteed to find the perfect place to admire some of the region’s stunning ume blossoms.

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Kansai Feature

The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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James Davies
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