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Beyond Tokyo JAN-FEB 2022

Kairaku-en Plum Garden in Mito prefecture

Let’s visit the perfect garden for how we’re feeling right now

🌸Like cherry blossoms, which are beloved because their brief but glorious life is the perfect metaphor for our own lives, plum blossoms have a special meaning too. They bravely bloom when there’s still a chance of snow, when nothing else in the world is blooming or green, and nothing looks particularly hopeful. Which is why a trip to the amazing Kairaku-en plum garden might be just what we need right now, in our current weary world.

Plum blossoms at Kairakuen garden in Mito Japan
February is the best time to see Kairaku-en, because there’s a chance a late winter storm will deliver the amazing sight of spring’s first flowers peeking out from under a blanket of snow
Plum blossoms at Kairakuen garden in Mito Japan
Plum trees in full bloom don’t hide their branches in a cloud of blossoms the way that cherry trees do—in fact, they’re prized not just for their surface beauty, but because they’ve got “good bones.”
Plum trees in full bloom at Kairakuen garden in Mito Japan
The trees at Kairaku-en have been meticulously pruned for many years, and are shaped into ideal examples of what a plum tree should be. (Don’t you love the shadows they cast?)
Plum blossoms at Kairakuen garden in Mito Japan
Up close, the flowers are beautiful, of course
Plum blossoms at Kairakuen garden in Mito Japan
And they come in both single and double varieties
Plum blossoms at Kairakuen garden in Mito Japan
From pinkest pink
Plum blossoms at Kairakuen garden in Mito Japan
…to nearly white
Plum blossoms at Kairakuen garden in Mito Japan
…and sometimes both on the same branch
Plum blossoms at Kairakuen garden in Mito Japan
Or even in the same flower
Weeping plum blossoms at Kairakuen garden in Mito Japan
Kairaku-en has trees that take every possible form, including many graceful weeping varieities
View of plum trees in full bloom at Kairakuen garden in Mito Japan
But what makes this one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan (and not just in my own imperious opinion!) is that it’s so vast, you can wander for hours and hours among blooming trees and never see the same kind twice
Plum trees in full bloom at Kairakuen garden in Mito Japan
The paths wind through a valley where each tree is more breathtaking than the last
Plum trees in full bloom at Kairakuen garden in Mito Japan
And sometimes they meet overhead, so you’re walking through a veritable tunnel of fragrance. Because unlike cherry blossoms—which look like they should smell heavenly, but mostly don’t—plum trees do deliver the sweet smell of spring
Bonsai plum trees in full bloom for sale at Kairakuen garden in Mito Japan
Naturally, all this plum-viewing makes you wish you could take it all with you…and you can! A stand selling bonsai versions of their most popular trees makes it possible to take home the best souvenir ever
Samurai residence with plum trees in full bloom at Kairakuen garden in Mito Japan
An additional bonus is that the garden used to be the estate of a samurai lord, and you can walk through his restored house, imagining what it was like to be the kind of guy who sat on his veranda and gazed out on plum trees as far as the eye can see
Painting of plum trees in full bloom at Kairakuen garden in Mito Japan
Or stay inside and be dazzled by the famously gorgeous paintings on the walls like these of (what else?) plum trees just beginning to bloom
Timber bamboo in the snow at Kairakuen garden in Mito Japan
There’s also a bamboo grove that’s the most spectacular example of timber bamboo outside of Kyoto (not to mention the killer fences—I’m a sucker for Japanese fences, and all my favorite varieties are on display at Kairaku-en!)
Plum trees in full bloom at Kairakuen garden in Mito Japan lit up at night
And if all that weren’t awesome enough, during peak season the garden is lit up at night and open until late, so you can enjoy the trees again, in a whole new way

Hours: 
Mid-February – September 30 : 6:00-19:00 
October 1 – mid-February : 7:00-18:00 

Open: Every day of the year

Admission: Adults ¥300, Children (12 and younger): ¥150

Here’s where Kairaku-en Plum Garden is:

Map showing location of Kairakuen garden in Mito Japan

Here’s a more local map, showing where the nearest train station is:

Local map showing location of Kairakuen garden in Mito Japan

Here’s how to get to Kairaku-en from Tokyo:

Train route to Kairakuen garden in Mito Japan
The Hitachi is a bullet train, so you will have to buy a ticket before you board, at the ticket office in Ueno Station

I used the Japan Navigation phone app to figure out this route, and you can easily use it too, with your actual date and preferred arrival time. It’s also good for finding the easiest way to get to Ueno Station from where you’re staying. Here’s where to get the app and how to use it.

Getting to Kairaku-en from Mito Station

It’s about a 20 minute walk from the train station to the garden entrance, but you can also easily catch a cab at the station.

You can check to see the progress of the blooming trees on the Kairakuen official website

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More Beyond Tokyo destinations are in the JAPANAGRAM ARCHIVE

Spend your next workout in Japan!

The Last Tea Bowl Thief is now out in audiobook

Cover of The Last Tea Bowl Thief audiobook
For three hundred years, a missing masterpiece is passed from one fortune seeker to the next, changing the lives of all who possess it…read more
In paperback, ebook or audiobook

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense on Amazon

“A fascinating mix of history and mystery.” —Booklist

Jonelle Patrick writes mystery novels set in Tokyo, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had

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