While spring does not officially start until March 20th, flowers have already started to bloom in Yamaguchi Prefecture. These flowers are a sign that spring and warmer weather are coming soon. Why not take a trip to a part of the prefecture you have yet to explore and enjoy the beauty of nature?
Camellia flowers typically bloom from late December or early January until late March or early April. Perhaps the best place to see tsubaki, or camellia flowers, in bloom in Yamaguchi is Hagi. The Tsubaki Matsuri (Camellia Festival) will take place in Hagi from February 21st to March 22nd at the Kasayama Tsubaki Gunseirin (Kasayama Camellia Cluster Forest). The forest has roughly 25,000 camellia trees, a sight that is sure to delight any visitor. The festival will also feature local performing arts and delicacies.
Early February to early March is typically ume, or plum blossom, season. One could say that the start of the ume season is the unofficial start of spring. Ume were originally imported to Japan from China and played an important part in Japan’s cultural history. After the Heian Era (794-1185), the flowers became prized for their scent and became the subject of many poems. Ume also play an important culinary role as well. The fruits from ume trees are used to make umeshu, Japanese plum liqueur, and umeboshi, pickled Japanese plums. Below is a list of recommended locations to view ume. Like the poets of the past, perhaps you, too, will be inspired by their beauty!
Kanmuriyama Sougou Koen Ume no Sato (Kanmuriyama General Park Plum Village) - Roughly 2000 trees and 100 types of ume bloom from early February to early March. The Ume Matsuri (Plum Blossom Festival) will take place from February 1st to March 8th.
Hofu Tenmangu - The ume is the official flowering tree of Hofu. There are roughly 1100 trees and 16 varieties of ume at the shrine. The ume trees at Hofu Tenmangu start to flower in early Feburary, just in time for the Ume Matsuri that will take place from February 15th to March 1st.
Togyoan - Roughly 200 trees bloom from mid-February to mid-April. Togyoan was built to protect the grave of Shinsaku Takasugi, a samurai from the Choshu domain (a part of present-day Yamaguchi Prefecture).
Once the time for ume viewing has ended, the next flower to bloom is the sakura, or cherry blossom. Sakura usually bloom a few weeks after ume have finished blooming. Both the start and the peak of the sakura season are eagerly anticipated by people throughout Japan. Here in Yamaguchi, the sakura should start to bloom in late March. However, sakura bloom much later in colder regions. For example, sakura do not bloom until May in Hokkaido.
Going to look at the sakura in Japan is an event not to be missed. People of all ages go to parks or other locations that have sakura for the sake of hanami, literally flower viewing. It is not uncommon for people to eat and drink as they sit under the trees. Why not invite some friends, family, or coworkers to join you for hanami? Make sure you arrive early in order to find a good spot! Here are some recommended locations for hanami from the Oidemase Yamaguchi homepage.
Tokiwa Koen (Tokiwa Park) - Tokiwa Koen was chosen as one of the hundred most famous places to see sakura in Japan. The park is home to roughly 3500 trees and has nights where the trees are illuminated. The best time to view sakura at the park is from the end of March to mid-April. Tokiwa Koen Sakura Matsuri (Sakura Festival) will take place from April 1st to 7th.
Kintaikyo - Kintaikyo was also chosen as one of the hundred most famous places to see sakura in Japan. There are roughly 3000 trees in the park, which illuminates the trees on certain nights. The Sakura Matsuri will take place in the park from April 4th to 12th. The best time to view the sakura is from late March to early April.
Yasaka Sports Koen - The best time to view the 1800 trees in the park is the first part of April. The park itself is located in the Miwa-cho section of Iwakuni.
Shunan Ryokuchi Koen (Shunan Green Park) - The best time to view the 1550 trees in the park is from late March to early April.
Utanokawa Dam - There are 1000 trees, comprised of 4 varieties, planted along the circular path around the shore. The best time to view the trees is in early April.
Akiyoshidai Kazoku Ryokomura “Sakura no sono” (Akiyoshidai Family Travel Village “Cherry Blossom Garden”) - The best time to view the roughly 1000 trees is in early April. The types of sakura in the garden include someiyoshino, yaezakura, yamazakura.
Sakura no Sato (Cherry Blossom Village) - The roughly 1000 trees bloom from late March to early April. The types of sakura include someiyoshino and yaezakura.
Tokusa Hachimangu - Roughly 300 trees line the walkway to the shrine. The trees bloom from early to mid-April. The shrine’s Sakura Matsuri will take place according to when the flowers are projected to be in full bloom.
Hofu Tenmangu (Tenjinyama Koen) - Roughly 430 trees bloom in the park on the shrine’s grounds. The sakura should reach their peak in late March to early April.
Rurikoji (Kozan Koen) - The 170 trees in the park on the temple grounds bloom from late March to early April. Rurikoji and the sakura that surround it create the perfect landscape for a photo.