While the cherry blossoms, azaleas and tulips are still sometime off, the first of spring's flower spectacles, the "ume", or Japanese plum tree, begins by mid-February. Ibaraki is blessed with several good viewing points including the nationally famous "Kairakuen" in Mito, which is one of the traditional "big three" gardens in all of Japan. The weather will affect when the "ume" are at their peak, but typically it is during the first or second week in March. This year is special, as it is the 100th anniversary of the first "Ume Matsuri" held at the opening of the Joban train line from Ueno to Mito in 1896.
If Mito is a bit far for you to go, Tsukuba has several nice displays of "ume" as well. Top on the list are the "bairin" (plum orchard) on Mt. Tsukuba. If you drive up the main road leading to the resort town, half way up the mountain, several acres of plum trees are located on the left side of the road a few hundred meters before you reach the town. There is a nice sized parking lot that is free, and it is a short walk up the path from there to the trees.
Both Kairakuen and Mt. Tsukuba host "Ume Matsuri" (Plum Blossom Festival) from Feb. 20 to March 31, with special events on the weekends. The following is a list of events scheduled for the Mt. Tsukuba "Bairin" on 2/25 3/3, 3/9, 3/10, 3/17, and 3/20:
In town, you will find some nice plum trees on the small island in Matsumi Park that are worth a visit. Also, on the grounds of the traditional farm house next to the Expo Center are a couple of nice trees, though these early trees often peak by mid-February. They are on your left (west side) as you face the planetarium at Expo Park. The farm house display is open every day except Mondays, and is worth a visit anytime just to sip a cup of traditional Japanese tea and see how rural Japanese lived a couple hundred years ago.
The International Women's Network (IWN) is a group of women who enjoy chatting with people from all over the world. We hold a monthly potluck dinner where we exchange information about the local community while eating a variety of foods. No reservation is needed to attend the potluck. Just bring one dish of food and show up at the meeting. Newcomers are always welcome! Take advantage of this unique opportunity to enjoy the international city of Tsukuba with us!
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