Umeshu is the perfect drink for the plum blossom season!

14 Feb 2019

Plum blossoms are the first sign of the spring in Japan

The most iconic flower in Japan is perhaps the cherry blossom or sakura, blooming in most regions of Japan in late March or early April. However, the plum blossom is a beautiful and underrated flower that blooms a little earlier, with the season beginning in early February. These blooms are the first sign of the spring approaching.

Just like sakura, plum trees come in many varieties, many of which were cultivated by humans over the centuries. Most plum blossoms have five petals and range in color from white to dark pink. Unlike cherry blossoms, plum blossoms have a strong, sweet fragrance.

The actual ume fruit is sourer than the Western plum and is usually processed in various ways before eaten. The most popular processed form is the umeboshi, a sour, pickled plum, which is usually enjoyed with cooked rice. Umeboshi is one of the most typical Japanese flavors. Umeshu, a sweet alcoholic beverage made of plums, is also popular.

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Plum Blossom Festival in Mito

To celebrate the blossoming of the plum trees, many places hold Plum Blossom Festivals annually. The most famous one is the “Mito Plum Blossom Festival” at Kairakuen in Mito City, Ibaraki Prefecture. Kairakuen is one of the three great gardens in Japan along with Kenrokuen in Ishikawa Prefecture and Korakuen in Okayama Prefecture. It is a large garden with nearly 170 years of history, made by the Lord of Mito Domain during the Edo period.

There are approximately 100 varieties of the plum tree growing in Kairakuen, and they all bloom at different times. Early blooming varieties (hayazaki) begin around mid-January to mid-February, mid-season blooming varieties (nakazaki) around early February to mid-March, and late blooming varieties (osozaki) around early March to early April. These times can vary every year though, depending on the climate.

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Recommended drink

Recommended drink is, of course, umeshu! Nakano BC Umeshu is the classic style plum wine that never gets old.

Nakano BC uses a superior quality Nankō ume to make its umeshu. To preserve the delicious flavor of ume, the brewing tanks are managed by a team of skilled workers who carefully check the acidity and sweetness of umeshu, mixing the fruit and changing tanks as necessary. The umeshu is ready after around a year and a half.

This umeshu is popular due to it sweet and sour taste, and relatively low alcohol content which makes it easy to drink and can be enjoyed even by people who generally dislike alcohol.

We hope you will someday visit Japan in this wonderful season and attend Plum Blossom Festival! In the meantime, you can feel the spirit of Japanese spring with a glass of refreshing umeshu.

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