Spring brings a wealth of beautiful blossoms to Japanese gardens, but it can be easy to mistake any pink flowers for cherry blossoms. In fact, the blooms could be plum or peach, which are also abundant across Japan. Holding cultural significance and national pride, the blossoms of Japan are a true source of wonder.
As a whole cherry, plum and peaches are stone fruits. However, In Japan, many varieties of all three varieties produce only flowers or blossoms. In Japan, the annual event of viewing the blossoms called matsuri or festivals of these types of trees can occur during different times of the spring.
In many parts of Japan’s urban parks and inner-city settings, you’ll rarely see one of these trees producing fruit as the varieties that were selected and planted was specifically for their springtime blossoms.
Continue reading for a comprehensive exploration guide of Japan’s blossoms that will teach you how to differentiate between cherry, plum, and peach blossoms, while helping you discover some of the best viewing spots across Japan.
Learn Japanese blossom phrases and the significance of this national emblem for the residents of Japan.
Cherry, Plum, And Peach Blossoms Of Japan.
Millions of visitors take springtime trips to Japan in the blossom season of March to May to view the spectacular sights of the country’s famous blossoms matsuri or festivals called hanami or Hanami 花見, “flower viewing”.
There are many things to enjoy about the blossom season, from night-time illumination shows to cherry blossom-flavored Starbucks, donuts, and even street foods.
But, the main attraction of a springtime visit to Japan is the stunning sight of millions of blossom trees in bloom and the festival-like atmosphere that takes place.
What Are Blossoms?
The term blossoms generally refer to fruit trees or flowers that bloom for short periods during the spring months.
While many blossoms produce fruits such as cherries, plums, peaches, nectarines, and apricots, numerous species are also bred for purely ornamental purposes. These varieties have little to no fruit but boast a spectacular blooms.
How To Tell The Difference Between Cherry, Plum, And Peach Blossoms.
One of the easiest ways to identify a blossom is to observe the natural shape of its petals. Cherry blossoms have a unique cleft at the tip of their petals, plum blossoms have rounded petals, while the petals of peach blossoms are teardrop-shaped and can have a pointed appearance.
Although this is a good general guideline, varieties that have been bred and crossbred can contain flowers that are somewhat different in appearance.
In the photo above the cleft or indentation is visible on the cherry blossom. The center photo shows the rounded petals of the plum and finally (right) the teardrop shape of the peach blossoms.
Cherry, plum, and peach blossoms all have pink flowers, but there are subtle differences you can look for to tell the difference. The flowers of the plum blossom are most commonly a shade of purple, which makes them easier to differentiate from the other two species.
Peach blossoms have flowers that are pale pink, but the center is often a deep magenta color. Furthermore, both cherry and plum blossoms can produce flowers that have white petals.
The scent of plum blossom is similar to jasmine, with a gentle and sweet smell. Peach blossoms also have a mild and sweet aroma that you can detect from the leaves and the flowers. The scent of the cherry blossom is often the mildest, with Yoshino cherry trees emanating a particularly faint smell.
While some varieties of cherry blossom emit a more pungent scent, they are uncommon in city areas, so you are unlikely to come across these in common urban tourist spots.
The way these blossoms attach themselves to the tree is a tell-tale sign to indicate their type. Cherry blossom has a long stem that connects to a branch from one single bud, whereas plum blossoms grow from the branch itself and doesn’t have a stem.
On the other hand, Peach blossoms have shorter stems, and two flowers can sprout from the same branch. Plum blossoms often have only one flower per bud space, whereas cherry blossoms will grow together in clusters.
A Quick Guide To Blossom Tree Identification
|Cherry Blossom||Plum Blossom||Peach Blossom|
|Petals||Petals are long and overlapping, with a small cleft visible at the tip of each.||Round petals.||Flowers are either solitary or paired and have five petals shaped like teardrops.|
|Bark||A cherry tree’s bark often has lenticels, small horizontal lines.||The bark of a plum tree is darker and has no distinct markings.||Young peach blossoms have bark with lenticels similar to that of the cherry blossom. However, as the peach blossom matures, its bark becomes scaly.|
|Buds||Cherry blossoms grow in clusters, and each bud attaches to the branch at a single point. The buds are an oval shape. Cherry blossom buds grow on stems much longer than that of the plum or peach blossom.||The buds of the plum blossom are spherical. They have no stem attached and grow straight from the branch.||Peach blossoms have a stem though it is shorter than cherry blossoms. These buds most commonly grow in pairs.|
|Scent||A slight scent, generally very faint.||More pungent, floral scent.||A strong sweet scent.|
|Leaves||The leaves of the cherry blossom unfold and often don’t grow until after the tree has flowered.||The leaves of a plum tree have rolled leaves that are reddish-purple in color.||When the flowers of a peach tree bloom, its leaves often partially emerge.|
What Is The Significance Of Blossoms In Japan?
The cherry blossom (along with the chrysanthemum) is the national flower of Japan revered for its short but spectacular bloom. Cherry blossoms or Sakura represent beauty, transience, and fragility, and people in Japan refer to them as mono-no-aware or the pathos of things.
The Imperial family’s seal is the chrysanthemum (kiku) flower, which, together with the cherry blossom (sakura), is considered the national flower of Japan. Since the Heian Era, Chrysanthemums have been grown in Japan (794-1185).
Plum blossoms are a favorable flower in Japan as their presence signifies the arrival of spring. Designers often use their blossoms in the designs of New Year’s cards, and you will find the Kanji symbol for plum blossoms in common nouns, on family crests, and in the designs of traditional card games such as karuta.
The cherry blossom also heralds the approach of spring along with the arrival of the rice planting season. In today’s society, the cherry blossom has become a symbol of a new school year or semester; and cherry blossom viewings have become a tradition for many Japanese residents.
Peach blossoms hold significance as a symbol of longevity. The Doll festival celebrated annually on 3rd March is sometimes called the Peach Festival and uses these blossoms within their customary displays.
Due to the popularity and love of cherry blossoms, Japan often gifts these trees to various countries worldwide, which has helped them spread across Europe and North America.
When Do Cherry Trees Blossom?
Cherry trees prefer a climate that is temperate with cold but mild winters and therefore flourishes during the springtime. Their peak bloom often lasts from one to two weeks, depending on the weather conditions. The influence of wind or rain can cause them to drop their petals prematurely.
Because of their climate dependency, altitude and latitude can affect the timing of a cherry blossom’s bloom, along with the tree species, which may be naturally an early or late bloomer.
What Are The Flowering Times For Each Blossom?
In general, plums bloom between late January and the end of April, peach blossoms from the beginning of March to late April, and cherry blossoms bloom from the middle of March until late April.
How Are The Blossoms Celebrated?
Atami Baien is a beautiful plum garden in the Shizuoka Prefecture. January and February are the months that experience the heaviest snowfall in Japan; they are also when the plum blossoms begin to bloom.
Hinamatsuri, also known as Doll’s Day, is a national holiday celebrated on the 3rd of March in Japan. Red, carpet-like material is used to cover platforms that display dolls. These dolls represent the emperor and empress of the Heian period, along with their attendants and musicians.
Before, during, and after the festival of Hinamatsuri, peach blossom flowers are sold to mark the occasion. Additionally, areas that host many peach trees may hold a Hanamomo or peach tree festival.
Cherry blossom viewing or Hanami when the cherry blossom trees are in full bloom is a popular custom in Japan. Since the Edo period, these events have gained in popularity and invite people to enjoy drinks and a picnic under the famous trees.
What Are The Best Locations To See Cherry, Plum, And Peach Blossoms?
There are many spots where you can enjoy the sights of cherry, plum, and peach blossoms in full bloom. Some of the most popular are listed below.
Best Cherry Blossom Viewing Locations
Hirosaki Park is located in the Aomori prefecture and houses 2,600 cherry trees encompassing 52 species that include Yaezakura and weeping cherry trees. Additionally, Hirosaki park houses more than 400 Yoshino cherry trees that are over 100 years old.
It is famous for its view of Hirosaki castle surrounded by blossoms, along with Hanaikada, an area carpeted in the stunning pink hues of fallen cherry blossom petals. It is named one of the 100 Best Cherry Blossom Spots in Japan.
Hirosaki Park experiences a later blooming season and the optimum time to visit is between late April and early May for the most spectacular views.
A 2300 foot long tunnel of cherry blossoms lines a promenade on the Imperial Palace’s west side along the Chidorigafuchi moat.
The Yoshino cherry trees also dye the water’s surface in a light shade of pink. The best time to visit this watery paradise is from late March to early April.
The entirety of Mount Yoshino is painted in shades of pink, white, and crimson by the 30,000 cherry trees it houses. Including wild cherry blossoms, the best time to view these trees is from early to mid-April.
Located in the Ibaraki prefecture, Kairakuen is one of the three most famous gardens in Japan. Built-in 1842 by Tokugawa Nariaki, the feudal lord of the time, Kairakuen’s plum trees were collected and planted by Nariaki himself.
Today, Kairakuen houses over 3,000 plum trees composed of more than 100 varieties. With a mix of species, flowers bloom here for more extended periods, from late January to the end of March.
Osaka Castle Park
Located in central Osaka, this park boasts a view of beautiful plum trees set against the background of Osaka castle. The park is around 183,000 square feet and has 1,270 plum trees encompassing 100 different varieties.
Again, due to the variety of species contained in the large park, you can view blooms from January all the way through until March.
Peach Blossoms Sites
Located in the Yamanashi prefecture, Shimpu Togenkyo is a peach field covering around 150 acres of land in Nirasaki City. The area grows edible rather than ornamental peaches, set against a backdrop of snowy mountains, including Mount Fuji and the Yatsugatake volcanoes.
The annual flowering time for the peach blossoms in Shimpu Togenkyo is from mid to late April.
Kinokawa River Togenkyo
Located in Kinokawa City, Momoyama-Cho is the production site of Arakawa no Momo, a luxury peach brand. Here, you can view as many as 100,000 peach trees with a single glance, and the proximity of the field to the Kinikawa river dyes its entire south side of water in pink.
To enjoy the sites of the Togenkyo area, visit between late March and early April when the blossoms are in full bloom.
Are Cherry Blossoms Edible?
Cherry blossoms are edible though their flowers lack both taste and scent. In Japan, people often pickle the flowers in vinegar or salt before adding them to dishes such as sakura mochi. Additionally, the Japanese turn cherry blossoms into seasonal ice creams, sweets, teas, and alcoholic beverages.
Japanese Words Used During The Cherry Blossom Season
Sakura: cherry blossom
Derived from Saku, which means to bloom, cherry blossom flowers are symbolic of springtime and renewal.
Hanagasumi: flower haze
This term describes a scenery that incorporates a wealth of cherry blossoms into its vision.
Hana-no-ami: flower rain
An incredibly beautiful sight of rain falling on the cherry blossoms, captured in the phrase Hana-no-ami
Hazakura: cherry tree leaves
When the blossom petals fall and small leaves appear on the trees, it signifies that summer is on the way.
Final Thoughts On Flower Blossoms In Japans Springtime
Cherry Blossom season is a popular time of the year for Japan when domestic and international visitors gather in the millions to witness the extraordinary beauty of these blooms.
With a wealth of places to take in the spectacular views of this seasonal phenomenon, Japan is an ideal travel location in the springtime to interact with locals and experience and explore this wonderful season of nature.
Virtual Sakura Season In Japan