Photo:pelican on Flickr

Plum Blossoms vs. Cherry Blossoms

Cherry blossoms are pretty much synonymous with Japanese culture meaning most people are probably aware of them. What some may not be aware of, however, are the equally beautiful but less famous Japanese plum blossoms! Plum blossoms, like cherry blossoms are a signal for the beginning of spring, and though they are often overshadowed by the popular cherry blossoms, the flowers are stunning in their own right. Though they are similar in some ways, they are also quite different in appearance, variations and blooming period. So if you’re interested in viewing some of Japan’s beautiful blossoms this spring, here’s a brief outlook on plum and cherry blossoms.

Difference in Appearance

If you are unaware of plum blossoms but are aware of cherry blossoms then you may mistake the former for the latter! As they are similar in some ways it is easy to make this mistake and people often confuse plum blossoms (especially in pink variations) as cherry blossoms! Despite often being mistaken, their appearances do differ in several ways. Here are some differences so you can spot which blossom you have found.

The first difference is the variety of hues that the flowers come in. Plum blossoms, depending on the tree, can be white, pink (dark and light), dark red and occasionally a light yellow, whereas cherry blossoms usually come in only pink/white variations. 

Secondly the actual shape of the flowers is different too. Plum blossoms have rounder petals and round buds, compared to the more oval shaped petals and buds of cherry blossoms. Cherry blossom petals also have a split at the end whereas plum blossoms do not.

As well as these two differences, there is also another way to spot the difference. The leaves on both trees are quite different. Cherry blossom leaves are green and unfolding, unlike the plum blossom leaves which are a reddish purple (except for on some white plum blossom trees which can have green leaves).

Finally though cherry blossoms tend to have little or no smell, plum blossoms on the other hand have a rather strong, sweet fragrance, making them a treat for the eyes and nose!

When to See Them

In addition to aesthetic differences these two blossoms actually bloom at different times (although occasionally there can be crossovers). The best time to see cherry blossoms is typically at the very end of March or very early April (this can vary slightly depending on the year). Normally the flowers start to bloom in late March meaning the perfect time to see the full blossoms is in the last few days of March. Cherry blossom season usually lasts around 2 weeks and so there is only a short period that you are able to see the pretty blossoms. As for plum blossoms, the flowers start to bloom a lot earlier than cherry blossoms, usually starting around mid-February (depending on the variation). These blossoms are best to see towards the end of February when they are reaching full bloom and usually last until mid March!

Where to See Them

Now that you know the difference between the two blossoms and when they bloom, it’s key to also know where you can view both flowers.

For Plum Blossoms Some Great Places Are:

Osaka Castle Park (Osaka)

Photo by Mc681 on Wikimedia Commons.

Cost: Free

Address:  1 Osakajo, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 540-0002

Accessible by: Osakajokoen Station on the JR Osaka Loop Line or Tanimachi-4-chome Station on the Tanimachi and Chuo subway lines

Osaka Expo ’70 Commemorative Park (Osaka)

Photo by MIKI Yoshihito on Flickr.

Cost: 250 yen 

Address: 1-1 Senribanpakukoen, Suita, Osaka 565-0826

Accessible by: Bampakukinenkoen Station on the Osaka Monorail

Kairakuen (Ibaraki)

Photo by vera46 on Flickr.

Cost: Free

Address:  1 Chome Tokiwacho, Mito, Ibaraki 310-0033

Accessible by: Mito Station on the JR Joban Line

Hanegi Park (Tokyo)

Photo by Kentaro Nagatani on Flickr

Cost: Free

Address: 4-38-52 Daita, Setagaya, Tokyo 155-0033

Accessible by: Umegaoka Station on the Odakyu Line

Kitano Tenmangu Shrine (Kyoto)

Photo by Guilhem Vellut on Flickr.

Cost: 700 yen for the plum grove (shrine access is free)

Address: Bakurocho, Kamigyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 602-8386

Accessible by: Kyoto City Bus 50 or 101 from Kyoto Station

Nara Park (Nara)

Photo by Ai Amo on Flickr.

Cost: Free

Address: Nara, Nara Prefecture

Accessible by: Nara Station on the Kintetsu or JR Lines

For Cherry Blossoms Some Great Places Are:

Osaka Castle Park (Osaka)

Photo by Perry Li on Flickr.

Cost: Free

Address:  1 Osakajo, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 540-0002

Accessible by: Osakajokoen Station on the JR Osaka Loop Line or Tanimachi-4-chome Station on the Tanimachi and Chuo subway lines

Shinjuku Gyoen (Tokyo)

Photo by Kakidai on Wikimedia Commons.

Cost: 500 yen

Address: 11 Naitomachi, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 160-0014

Accessible by: Shinjuku Station on the JR Line

Himeji Castle (Himeji)

Photo by Wei-Te Wong on Flickr.

Cost: 1000 yen 

Address: 68 Honmachi, Himeji, Hyogo 670-0012

Accessible by: Himeji Station on the JR Line 

The Philosopher’s Path (Kyoto)

Photo by ::::=UT=:::: on Wikimedia Commons.

Cost: Free

Address: Tetsugaku-no-michi, Sakyō-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu

Accessible by: Kyoto City Bus 5 from Kyoto Station

Yoshino (Nara)

Photo by Tawashi2006 on Wikimedia Commons.

Cost: Free

Address: Yoshino District, Nara Prefecture

Accessible by: Yoshino Station on the Kintetsu Line or Yoshino-guchi on the JR Line, then take a shuttle bus

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