3 Recommended Plum Blossom Spots in Kyoto

As mentioned previously in my “Plum Blossoms in Kyoto” post, I’ve promised to write down a list of recommended plum blossom spots here in Kyoto. Since there aren’t exactly a lot of plum blossom spots as compared to the mighty cherry blossoms, I could only list down 3 locations. Unlike my “5 Favourite Photography Spots in Kyoto” post, the rankings here will be in order, with #1 being my top recommendation. So here it goes…

 

1. Jonangu Shrine

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Plum Grove at Jonangu Shrine | 28.2.2017

Hands down, this is the best location for me when it comes to plum blossoms. Most of you might not know anything about this place or have never even heard about it before. Well, I don’t blame you. It’s rather underrated and mostly overlooked due to its location and its less-than-famous name in travel guides and travel websites.

Jonangu Shrine is located south of Kyoto station, probably around 30 mins subway ride (approx. 10 mins) and on foot (approx. 20 mins). You can also opt to take a bus from the shrine to Takeda station but hey, it’s nice to take long walks once in a while, right?

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Plum Blossoms at Jonangu Shrine | 28.2.2017
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Plum Grove at Jonangu Shrine | 28.2.2017

Anyway, the site of Jonangu was once said to be the part of a huge imperial palace of retired Emperor Shirakawa, with his mausoleum actually located nearby. Amazing, isn’t it?

Jonangu Shrine now of course, is more popular for its wonderful plum blossom garden that has about 150 weeping plum trees and numerous varieties of camellias. The man-made hill on which these trees are planted create a beautiful and interesting landscape, making it a paradise for nature photographers. It is best to visit around late February or early March to see the plum blossoms.

Take note that it might get slightly crowded, especially during weekends, so it’s always best to go early in the morning.

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Plum Grove at Jonangu Shrine | 8.3.2016
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Plum Blossoms at Jonangu Shrine | 28.2.2017

 

Access

From JR Kyoto Station’s Shinkansen Hachijo Gate

– 10 minutes by taxi (about ¥1200)
– 15 minutes by R’EX (Kyoto Rakunan Express) bus
(Departs every 20 minutes; Fare: adults ¥300, children ¥100)

From Takeda Station on the Kyoto City Subway Karasuma Line

– 3 minutes by taxi or 15 minutes on foot

From Takeda Station on the Kintetsu Kyoto Line

– 3 minutes by taxi or 15 minutes on foot

 

Plum Blossom Garden

Hours

February 18th – March 22nd

9 am – 4.30 pm (Last entry is at 4pm)

Admission

Adult – ¥600

Elementary/Middle School Students – ¥400

 

 

2. Kitano Tenmangu Shrine

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Plum Blossoms at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine | 25.2.2016

Much more popular than Jonangu Shrine, Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is said by many visitors to be the best location to look for plum blossoms. This historic shrine boasts a huge plum grove of about 2000 plum tree blossoms. Yes, that’s right. That’s more than 10 times the number of trees in Jonangu Shrine. The garden is quite huge in size too, but so too is the number of visitors. So please be prepared for the huge crowd!

If you’re planning to visit Kitano Tenmangu Shrine for its plum blossoms, I would recommend you to come on the 25th of February. Every year, the shrine holds an event called the ume matsuri, which means “plum festival”. You will be surprised to know that on this day too, there is a Tenjin-san flea market going on. It is an outdoor street market within the shrine’s grounds and outside of it. A number of goods are sold such as handcrafts, kimono fabrics, jewelry, wooden crafts, Buddha statues, traditional Japanese dolls, lucky charms, home décor accessories, and so on.

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Plum Festival at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine | 25.2.2016
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Plum Blossoms at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine | 25.2.2016

Anyway, on this day, one of the main events along with viewing the plum blossoms is the special outdoor tea ceremony, called baikasai. In this ceremony, you will be served hot matcha tea and traditional Japanese sweets by several Geiko and Maiko. As you probably have known, Geiko and Maiko are traditional Kyoto idols known worldwide for their grace and beauty. This is therefore a very rare opportunity for visitors to see them up close and maybe exchange a few words!

As with any other locations that I have recommended in my blog, it is always best to go early in the morning, or you can also go late in the afternoon, right before it closes its gates to visitors.

 

Access

From JR Kyoto Station

– 30 minutes by Kyoto City bus 50 or 101 (¥230)

 

Plum Grove

Hours

Early February – late March

10 am – 4 pm

Admission

Adult – ¥700 (includes traditional sweet & matcha tea)

Elementary/Middle School Students – ¥350 (includes traditional sweet & matcha tea)

 

Tea Ceremony

Hours

Every 25th of February

10 am – 3 pm

Admission

¥1500 (includes traditional sweet & matcha tea)

 

Flea Market

Hours

25th of every month

6 am – 9 pm

Admission

¥1500 (includes traditional sweet & matcha tea)

 

3. Kyoto Imperial Park

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Plum Blossoms at Kyoto Imperial Park | Image by jpellgen @ http://bit.ly/2GdtrsO

This location is for those who prioritises peace and serenity, while at the same also getting to enjoy the plum blossoms.

The 1300 meter long and 700 meter wide park also serves as recreational space for both tourists and residents, featuring attractive, broad gravel paths and lawns. The park is even bigger in size as compared to the other locations in this list, and has a huge area set aside just for tree groves, which include cherry trees, plum trees and even maple trees too! Though each tree in the park had its admirers, there was really only a small scattering of people around, and so you can enjoy the blooms in a more relaxed and pleasant manner.

Admission is free and the palace grounds are open to the public all year round, so you can actually take morning or afternoon strolls here while admiring the blossoms!

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Plum & Cherry Grove at Kyoto Imperial Park | Image by jpellgen @ http://bit.ly/2DHkedE

 

Access

From JR Kyoto Station on the Kyoto City Subway Karasuma Line

– 7 minutes by subway (alight at Marutamachi station)
– 10 minutes by subway (alight at Imadegawa station)

 

Kyoto Imperial Park

Hours

No closing hours

Admission

Free

 

 

 

 

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Plum Blossoms in Kyoto

Do You Know What Plum Blossoms Are?

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Plum Blossoms at Jonangu Shrine | 28.2.2017

Say what? Plum blossoms?

Yes, those are exactly the reactions that I usually get when I show them photos of plum blossoms. The fact is that, many people don’t even know what plum blossoms are. Most of them only know about cherry blossoms, also known as “sakura”, but when asked about plum blossoms, they shrugged their shoulders and gave me that “What did you say?” look on their faces.

Plum Blossoms Are Japanese Apricots

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Plum Blossoms at Jonangu Shrine | 28.2.2017

Plum blossoms, or also known as “ume”, are actually Japanese apricots. They are sometimes regarded as late winter or early spring flowers. Foreigners outside of Japan will probably think that plum blossoms are not popular in Japan as cherry blossoms. However, that’s definitely not true!

Plum blossoms are just as popular as cherry blossoms, but there aren’t just as many plum blossom viewing spots as there are for cherry blossoms. The successful marketing campaign to attract tourists to visit Japan during the cherry blossom season had also somewhat caused all the plum blossom viewing culture to be overshadowed by their much successful counterpart.

See the Plum Blossoms in February or March

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Plum Blossoms at Jonangu Shrine | 28.2.2017

Hence, there aren’t as many visitors at plum blossom viewing spots as compared to the overcrowded (and sometimes overrated) cherry blossom viewing spots. So I strongly recommend you to visit at least one of the plum blossom viewing site in Kyoto if you are here in February or March. This is definitely a plus point for nature photographers or those who just love to look at flowers without being interrupted by other visitors rushing and taking such a long time to take photos.

You’ll be delighted to know that you can actually find many different varieties of plum blossoms in the whole of Kyoto prefecture. As you walk around the grounds of temples & shrines including public parks, you will be able to see the plum blossoms scattered around. If you are a nature fanatic, I would highly recommend you to come visit during the plum blossom season!

If you are hoping that I come up with a recommended list of places to visit for plum blossom viewing in Kyoto, don’t worry! I will do that very soon!