From late February to early March, plum blossom (梅の花）arrives in Tokyo. Whilst this doesn’t attract quite the same levels of fervour as cherry blossom season, you should expect lists of the best viewing spots to start circulating online and your Facebook feed to become a flower fest.
One of the things I love about Tokyo is that – despite the fact it is a monstrous metropolis with over 30 million people – parks and gardens are plentiful and you don’t have to travel far to find yourself a small bit of green relief.
There are many things that I love about Japanese parks/gardens. Firstly, the tree-sculpting has to be been to be believed. I’m not talking purely about topiary – I’m referring to a wider process of making bushes trees grow into beautiful curved shapes and supporting their branches so all the bushes look like elderly people on crutches.
But one of my absolute favourite things is to step back and admire the garden as a whole with the skyscraper-cityscape behind it. The contrast is spectacular. I love mixed architecture – whether it be an area or within a building design itself. I love mixed fabrics in clothes – denim and silk, denim and leather. Contrasts are fascinating, whether they work or clash.
Of course, there wasn’t a huge amount of time for pondering ‘nature’ versus the city: we rushed to the plum garden to fight with all the other camera-happy viewers for some prime blossom photo snapping. Check out the gallery below:
The garden is definitely worth visiting in other seasons – I’ll probably be back for cherry blossoms, summer and/or autumn leaves – but parts of it are currently being renovated so be forewarned that it’s not looking as stunning as it usually is.
Koishikawa Korakuen (小石川後楽園)
Where: 1-6-6 Koraku, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 112-0004
When: 9:00 – 17:00 (last entry 16:30)
Transport: Iidabashi station (Chūō-Sōbu; Tōzai Line; Yūrakuchō Line; Namboku; Toei Ōedo Line), Korakuen station (Marunouchi; Namboku)
Right next to Korakuen is Tokyo Dome City, a massive complex which not only hosts baseball game but also a giant spa and entertainment complex, topped off with a rooftop rollercoaster, reminding everyone that Tokyo is a metropolis that can swallow up and spit out any form of entertainment within easy reach.
Also in the area is the Bunkyo Civi Center, where we were fortunate enough to catch some of the Bunkyo International Cultural Exchange Festa, which had everything from European breads, Myanmar cuisine, bellydancing, and calligraphy.
We missed the final tea ceremony of the day but we were treated to a cup of matcha (very bitter Japanese green tea) and a sweet called Kamome no Tamago (Seagull’s egg), which is not actually an egg, but looks just like it! I’m not entirely sure what it was made of – but it was soft and very mildly sweet. The sweet is eaten first to counteract the bitterness of the tea.
TOP SIGHTSEEING TIP: take the elevator to the 25th floor for an amazing free view of Tokyo. Look at how far the city stretches…
Bunkyo Civic Center
Where: Kasuga 1-16-21, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 112-8555
When: 08:30 – 17:15