If you're a flower lover in Tokyo, head to Hanegi Koen mid-late February to view the more than 650 'Ume' trees in bloom. The scent is incredible and if you're lucky, you'll be able to catch the bustling Plum Festival with food, drinks and plants for sale. Unfortunately, this has been cancelled in recent years due to Covid-19, but hopefully it will return soon.
The plum grove is located on a small hillside on the Umegaoka side of the park. To be honest, we only go to that side of the park in Spring to see the blossoms, the rest of the year the kids are playing in the mud park and maze on the opposite side. This park is a firm family favourite with lots to do for the kids, food trucks at the weekend and a small shop selling icecreams, sweets, park equipment and coffee.
If you're into walking, walk from Shimokitazawa central to Shin Daita station via the new developments Tefu and Bonus Track, then along to Umegaoka Station. The walk takes around 30 minutes. On the way back, why not pop into Shirohige's Cream Puff Factory and munch on a Tottoro cream puff?
Umegaoka Station, Odakyu Line: 13 mins from Shinjuku
Higashi Matsubara Station, Inokashira Line: 8 mins from Shibuya
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Just before the triple disaster on March 11th 2011 I made an ikebana arrangement featuring early flowering sakura (cherry blossom) branches.
The devastating earthquake at 14:46 on that day triggered a deadly tsunami taking more than 20,000 lives in one wave and the following explosion at the nuclear plant in Fukushima left Japan reeling. We were terrified by endless aftershocks and distracted by where to buy uncontaminated water and (of course) toilet paper.
Those little sakura branches lay forgotten in a bucket of water on our terrace for months. And when the earth had settled enough for us to finally get life in order, I realized that the branches were still sitting there. The blossoms had long since disappeared and in their place, bright green waxy leaves had sprouted. Underneath the water, the branch had grown thick white roots.
Fast forward nine years and one of those little branches is now a tree that blossoms every year. It sprouts the same waxy leaves in the summer and turns golden in the Autumn. After dropping its crisp leaves in the winter, within a matter of days tiny pink buds appear. The cycle is seamlessly endless.
It feels like the world is in a similar place again. This time, a slowly unfurling disaster of epic proportions. But I know we can endure if we all work together. How can I be so sure? The sakura told me so.
EDIT: It's now 2021 and the world is still in flux. Yet, the cherry blossom is back in full bloom, and doing even better than last year.
EDIT: It's now 2022 and the world is upside down, perhaps even more than ever.
We have a new addition to the Sakura family! This teeny tree is a cutting from the original branch and has its first buds ever. Nature prevails.
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I'm Victoria, the founder, designer and creator at Bikudesigns, a vintage kimono accessories brand in Tokyo, Japan.