Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Feb-ulous Kyoto: Plum Blossom

Mid-February is way too early for the annual cherry blossom festivities but we arrived at Kyoto right on time for the prime plum blossom season. These days, plum blossom might not get as much attention as the cherry blossom, which came later in mid-spring, but to me that means it’s less crowded but just as beautiful when the red or white plum flowers lined the street or park.

With the cold weather still lingering we only caught the early part of the plum blossom season this year. Upon arriving at Kyoto in early morning, we left our luggage at the train station and headed to Nijo Castle, one of the popular sightseeing spots and known for the plum tree forest planted on one end of the castle ground.

We probably did not come at the best time to visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the ground is under renovation and it’s been cold and drizzling all morning. And only half of the plum trees planted in the forest were blossoming. Nonetheless, we enjoyed having a leisure stroll in the garden, and to take a glimpse inside the main castle building, which was last rebuilt in the 1800s.

Nijo Castle: www2.city.kyoto.lg.jp/bunshi/nijojo/english/index.html

Kitano Tenmangu Shrine(北野天満宮)  at northwest part of Kyoto was actually a more well-known place as far as plum blossom viewing is concerned. We crammed ourselves into the bus on Sunday and a 45-minute bus ride later, arrived at the front gate of this 1000-year-old shrine. By that time the sky has cleared up so we enjoyed walking in the plum tree garden, opened to public only during the blossom season. Here more plum trees were planted along the canal and footpath, plus a tea-house serving plum tea and sweets which was included in the admission fee we paid. And the shrine was crowded not only for the blossom viewing visitors but for students wishing luck and blessing for their upcoming examinations, as the shrine was built in honor of "God of Academics".

I agree cherry blossom is probably more spectacular, but I think ume hanami (plum blossom) deserves more appreciation, especially if you come at the right season.

Kitano Tenmangu: www.kitanotenmangu.or.jp/top_en.php

(Feb-ulous Kyoto Part 6 - check out the whole series here!)

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