Although the sakura season (when cherry blossom trees are in full bloom) is what most people look forward to, early spring also has some blossom to offer. In februari the plum trees around the city bloom and I visited two places to view the white and pink beauty.

A nice place to view the plum blossom is Koishikawa-Korakuen garden (one of the 9 Metropolitan Gardens, like the Komagome gardens I wrote about earlier), near Suidobashi station. Although being a beautiful garden with plum trees blossoming in a variety of colors, the garden also has its downsides. Located next to Tokyo Dome and the adjacent small amusement park Tokyo Dome City, the peaceful silence you would expect in a Japanese garden is often disturbed by people screaming during their roller coaster ride and other noise. It also seems to be a lot more popular than the Korakuen gardens, according to the number of visitors. Fortunately most people stick around the large main pond, so you can escape from the crowd in the garden’s many corners.

Another place to view the plum trees in bloom is the Yushima Tenjin shrine, west of Ueno. The shrine is surrounded by plum trees and a small festival with food stalls is held when the trees are in bloom. The shrine, located close to Tokyo University (the most prestigious university in Japan), is dedicated to Tenjin, the god of learning. Many young Japanese come to the shrine to pray for good luck during the university entrance exams, which take place in spring. They leave ema, wooden plaques on which you can write your prayers or wishes. While you normally see a few ema hanging around shrines, with the upcoming entrance exams the ema-racks at the Yushima Tenjin shrine can barely hold the weight of all the wood. The combination of the ema and the plum trees in full bloom definitly makes late february the best time to visit.