When we talk about spring in Japan, the first thing that pops up in your mind is definitely Cherry Blossom or widely known as Sakura. Sakura usually blooms once a year, and only blooms for one week period. That’s why the Cherry Blossom Festival becomes the most crowded festival in Japan. It’s really popular for tourists and locals. People come to the park and do Hanami (Cherry Blossom View). They bring some food for picnic with their families or friends while enjoying the view of Cherry Blossom.
But do you know that there is a kind of flower that looks like Sakura? It’s really hard to differentiate it with Sakura, even for local Japanese. The name of the flower is Plum or Ume in Japanese. The most basic difference between Ume and Sakura is the blooming time. Ume usually starts to bloom in colder weather around February-March, while Sakura blooms when the weather become warmer in the end of March. Therefore, Ume Blossom becomes the sign that the spring season is coming soon.
Last week I looked up for some Plum Blossom in nearest park and found Hanegi Park. Hanegi Park is a large park located in Daita, Setagaya. It has around 650 Plum trees. Setagaya Ume Matsuri (Setagaya Plum Festival) is held there starting from 9th February until 3rd March 2019. Usually the festival in Japan will have some special performances and some booths selling Japanese food on the weekend. In weekday you can only enjoy the view of the Plum Blossom. If you are going to the park from Shinjuku, take Odakyu Line train and stop at Umegaoka Station, take a 5-minutes walk from the station to arrive at the park.
In Setagaya Ume Matsuri, there are different special performances in weekend, such as Koto (Japanese musical instrument) performance, tea drinking, Taiko performance, Mochi making, etc. I have never seen the process of Mochi making in Japan, so I decided to visit the festival last Sunday. They had 3 sessions of Mochi making, and I managed to get there for the last session. It was a great experience to see how the Japanese men pounding the flour then it slowly transform became elastic dough. After the mochi is pounded, it will be served by some ladies and it was given free to the visitor. We lined up for the mochi and finally we got the freshly made mochi. There are 2 kinds of mochi they served, one mochi served with red beans sauce (anko) and another one served with grinded nuts (kinako). It was so delicious, I can’t choose which one is better because both of them had different kind of taste. The mochi making is usually performed once a year around February.
After finished the mochi, we strolled around the park and found an interesting kids play park. The kids were not playing the slide or see saw. They were climbing a wooden house! I have never seen such scene in Indonesia. The kids are really amazing, they easily step by step climbing up to the roof part. We observed the house for a while and realized that there were some logs placed as stairs so the kids can climb easily. There were no kids sitting and playing with their phones or game consoles, all of them played happily in the park, climbing, and running everywhere.
The next thing that you shouldn’t forget to do is visiting the food booths! We are so in love with mochi so we decided to try Isobe Mochi, mochi that grilled on fire and wrapped with a nori (dry seaweed). It tasted salty because of the nori, and I think it’s delicious but not as delicious as the fresh sweet mochi before. The price is ¥200 for 2 pieces of Isobe Mochi.
We decided to enjoy the Plum Blossom for a while before got back home. Setagaya Ume Matsuri’s official website stated that as per 24th February there were 376 Plum trees that already bloomed. There were still some of the tree that haven’t bloomed yet. If you are going to visit Japan in February or early March, you won’t have chance to enjoying Cherry Blossom (Sakura). But don’t be sad! Try to find some Ume or Plum Blossom Festival. It’s also as good as Sakura.
Anyway, this is my first post in English, please pardon me for some grammar errors since my English is not that good. Usually I wrote in Indonesian, but I also want to share my experience to people who don’t understand Indonesian. If you have any suggestion for my next post you can reach me by leaving some comments below.
Hope you guys enjoy my blog and see you in next post <3