March was ume (Japanese Plum) blossom season and while there are many plum trees in our neighborhood and even four of them in our own yard, there is nothing like a visit to Kairakuen - Mito City's hilltop park with 3,000 ume trees of 100 varieties overlooking beautiful Lake Senba - to celebrate Ume Matsuri. We went twice this year, as we often do, in order to see the blossoms in different stages. The air is filled the sweet scent of the blossoms ~ heavenly. No wonder this park was an inspiration for poetry during the Edo period.
(There also sugi trees (Japanese cedar) adding their pollen to the air, bringing allergy attacks to some folks, like the Moody Minstrel.)
In addition to the Japanese plum trees, there is a grove of cedars and another of bamboo, plus gardens, ponds and Kobuntei - a villa which you can walk through, built in 1841 by 9th Daimyo (Lord) of Mito, Tokugawa Nariaki. You can read about the history of the park in one of the previous posts here: Umematsuri - Plum Festival
The blossoms were awesome, there were the usual young women dressed in Kimono as "Ume Abassadors" to pose with visitors, various shops selling delicious bento lunches, potted ume plants (K bought one which she is shown holding in our St. Patrick's Day post), that infamous fermented soy health food "natto" for which I have actually acquired a taste, ume flavored tea, and more. The post office even sets up a booth and sells stamps featuring the park and other stamps showing flowers of different parts of Japan.
As for "even some to drink" - there is "umeshu" (plum liqueur), pictured at the top of this post, which is made with whole plums in shochu (distilled spirits from rice or sweet potatoes), and honey. A bit sweet for my taste, but very good none the less with a definite aroma and flavor of ume. A lot of people make their own and in our neighborhood tarps can be seen under plum trees to collect the falling fruit. Plum wine is also popular.
Our view as we sat on a log railing eating our bento lunches.
This spring called "To-Gyoku-Sen" (to eject-jewel-fountain) has been in use for centuries. The water tastes excellent, and is said to cure eye diseases. The current stone was placed there in 1989 and is marble from Mt. Mayumi, north of Mito.
Bamboo grove - I like the fence too.
K buying a potted ume tree.
Pandabonium, holding K's ume tree flanked by Ume Ambassadors.
A slide show of some of this year's blossoms...