How do the Japanese know that spring is around the corner? 

The most well known spring blossom in Japan is, without a doubt, beautiful pink cherry blossom. The peak season is generally from late March to early April and, as you probably know, all famous spots for cherry blossom are always crowded with visitors. It depends on the weather of the winter just before the spring – it comes earlier if it was a mild winter and later if it was a cold one. Did you know that cherry blossom is the country's iconic spring flower, however, not the first sign of the spring?  It is Ume*, or plum/Japanese apricot blossom.   *Often translated as ‘plum’ but it is different from European purple plum  

Ume blossom

Ume, or Plum/Japanese Apricot blossom 

Originated from China, plum blossom has been well loved by Japanese people. The flower season is generally from early February to middle March, just a few weeks before the cherry blossom season kicks in! The flower has lovely five white/pale pink/dark pink petals which looks like cherry blossom, but they are rounder and smaller. It also has strong lovely fragrant too. Although being called ‘plum’, it is more closely related to apricot family. Many people visit places to admire this beautiful blossom too. In my previous blog ‘Three Great Gardens in Japan’, I have introduced Kairakuen that is famous for its amazing plum trees. They hold plum blossom festival every year in February - March and is visited by many.   


Plum trees do not only flower dainty blossoms, but they also produce juicy fruits! As it is related to apricot family, the fruit is generally a size of ping pong ball, but it can get as large as a plum. Unlike European purple plum, this plum or Japanese apricot is normally green to yellow in colour and not very sweet. So rather than eaten as a fruit, they get soaked in salt then dried in the sun… and voila! become one of the most loved Japanese foods called umeboshi, or pickled plum.    


Umeboshi is one of the most popular Japanese foods. 'Ume' means plum and 'boshi' means dried. It comes with a bowl of rice, or it is nice to be consumed on its own. This unique flavour is one of Japanese favourite seasoning as well. Umeboshi flavour is used in such as crisps, noodles, salad dressing, sweets etc. It is obviously vegan friendly, so it has gained some popularity globally as vegan food too. It is extremely salty and sour, so it may be a challenge if it is your first time to try it. I saw some YouTube videos which the youtuber tries Umeboshi for the first time. This unique food has high content of salt that makes it as preserved food, and it also has a lot of health benefits. It is said that it has benefits for: regulating the functions of the intestines, prevention of cols/flu, relieving fatigue, anti-aging, improving metabolism, and prevention of food poisoning.  

Umeboshi with a bowl of rice

Umeshu/Ume syrup 

Umeshu, or plum wine is a popular drink in Japan too. The fruits are harvested whilst they are still green and steeped in shochu, or Japanese vodka and crystal sugar. You can enjoy umeshu neat, but it is also nice mixed with soda or lemonade. You can also make non-alcoholic version by soaking the plum fruits in crystal sugar only. Ume syrup makes lovely drink when mixed with water or soda. 

Umeshu (fresh ume fruits and some soaked in cryastal sugar and Japanese vodka)

Apparently, some people who admire Japanese food or Japanese culture so much that they grow their own plum trees and harvest fruits to eat and/or make their own umeboshi and/or umeshu!    Now you know how Japanese people know that spring is around the corner. You also know that how much plum or Japanese apricot is loved by the Japanese, you will not be surprised to hear that there are a lot of products with plum motif. We have great range of products with plum motif here at The Japanese Shop!  

plum Garden in Kameido Hiroshige Woodblock Print

Red Japanese Kimono Short Plum Polyester

Hanga Plum Japanese Incense

Hanga Plum Japanese Incense Holder  

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