Mito and Kairaku-en

One of the most famous times of year in Japan is the cherry blossom season, which starts around the end of March and the beginning of April each year. Signalling the start of spring, cherry trees all over the country fleetingly bloom in beautiful pink blossom; the blossom tends to only last for a week or two before the wind or rain drives it away, so it’s important to take advantage and go and have a look while you have the opportunity.

Less well-known is the plum blossom, which blooms a week or two earlier in mid-March. A famous place to look at the plum blossom is Kairaku-en park in the town of Mito, Ibaraki, about an hour northwest of Toyko. Kairaku-en is considered one of the three Great Gardens of Japan (along with Kenroku-en in Kanazawa, which we visited last May, and Koraku-en in Okayama, which he haven’t been to), and hosts a plum blossom festival throughout March.

Due to the ephemeral nature of nature, it’s always difficult to judge exactly  when the best time to visit might be. We went to Mito towards the end of March, hoping to catch either the end of the plum blossom or the beginning of the cherry blossom. Unfortunately, we ended up missing them both!

In the end, we still had a wander around the garden but couldn’t help noticing how bare all the trees were; with a little imagination we could imagine how it must have looked either the week before or a week after, but alas we couldn’t appreciate what it had to offer.

It must look great with blossom on all the trees!

The locals taking pictures of the one tree with any blossom on it

Back in Ueno Park in Tokyo, we actually saw some cherry blossom the week after!

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