Atami has a beautiful plum garden called Atami Baien that becomes amazingly magnificent with millions of ume blossoms during its Atami Baien Ume Matsuri. Here, ume matsuri means plum blossom festival. Please, bear in mind that Atami Baien is one of the top 10 plum blossom viewing spots in Japan. It is a beautiful coastal city located on Izu Peninsula in Shizuoka Prefecture. Often many people who live outside Japan think that both ume and sakura (cherry) blossoms are similar. Your imagination is totally wrong, don’t you believe me? Then please, find out the facts of difference between cherry and plum blossoms right away. Open your eyes before you fall in love with ume.
Atami Baien Ume Matsuri begins on the second week of January during winter and ends after two months on March in early spring. Does it make sense when a festival like this runs through two months at a stretch? Firstly, it does and secondly what’s the difference! This is not a boring festival you would ever come across rather I believe this is what you wish to be part of in winter season. January and February are seen to be the months of heavy snowfall in northeastern and northern Japan. While on the other hand, the ume trees in Shizuoka start blooming at that time. How incredible! Other parts of Japan get lots of snow and here it is time for viewing early spring blossom! This is a magic performed by our nature, no doubt.
Atami Baine (Plum Garden)
Atami Baine is one of the prominent plum groves in Central Japan. It was opened for public in 1886 and it is about 14,000 square meters in size. The garden is blessed with interesting flora. A wide variety of plants can be found in the entire garden. The plant that dominates the most is the ume tree or so called plum tree. There are 472 plum trees of 59 different kinds. It is quite impossible counting each and every plum tree though you can imagine their existence viewing the blossoms come in different colors. Here, most of the ume trees are early bloomers but there are some varieties which start blooming late in end of February. Early flowering ume trees buds appear in early December. February is the best time to visit Atami Baine because most of the trees at that time are in full bloom. There are some traditional Japanese style garden bridges along the walking paths. You can have a stroll along the paths and enjoy viewing the delicate ume flowers.
Except viewing ume, you would be experiencing something special such as a artificial man-made waterfall, next to it you find a large wooden bridge. The bridge becomes awesome with those ume trees planted nearby. Please don’t forget to visit the Sawada Seiko Memorial Museum, Korean Garden and Nakayama Shinpei Memorial Hall. I can’t say that Atami Baine shows its ultimate beauty only in early spring but you can experience its colorful autumn beauty during the Atami Baine Momiji Matsuri. There are hundreds of maple trees that leave turn to red in autumn season, usually from mid November to early December.
About the Festival
The Atami Baien Ume Matsuri is all about falling in love with ume. Don’t you think so? In details, the festival is about viewing different kinds of ume blossoms, participating in many cultural programs and the tea ceremony. The festival is held for two months from the second week of January to early March. Every year thousands of visitors from abroad take a visit to this plum garden during the festival time. If you are planning to visit Tokyo either in January, February or February then I strongly recommend you coming here in Atami. It takes only a-50 minute train ride by Tokaido Shinkansen from Tokyo to Atami.
Here I will be guiding you how you could enjoy the whole festival once you are in the garden. February is the month of celebrating many winter festivals in Japan. Ume matsuri at Atami Baien does not feature fireworks display, and illuminated snow sculptures like the Asahikawa Winter Festival. Its opening hours start at exactly 8:30 and the festival can be celebrated till 16:00. Before the sunset the garden gets back to sleep till the next morning when again it begins its show. Try coming here early before 8:30, especially on weekends and holidays. It gets crowded on Saturday and Sunday, you would have no idea where all these visitors are coming from!
Don’t Miss the Live Performances
Every year, a schedule is published with the programs listed sequentially that will be held throughout the festival period for two months. You should not miss watching the cultural programs like Taiko Drum performances, Miss Atami Photo Session, Tea Ceremonies, Geisha Hand Fan Dance, and Live Concert. You will be offered free Amazake – it is sweet sake made of rice with ZERO alcohol. Drink it, warm your body and then CHEERS. Walk along the garden paths and delight your entire trip viewing the beautiful ume flowers. Red, pink, white, yellow and other eye-catching color of ume can be seen. Take some deep breaths all the way to the last stop. Why? Because I am sure you will be lost in the plum garden with the sweeter fragrance of ume blossoms.
Relax and Have Something
The garden is absolutely stunning that gives you experience an early spring atmosphere. It takes about 2 hours to enjoy everything inside the garden. It certainly would make you a little bit tired. To get rid of it I strongly suggest you to spend some times at the foot bath spa located in the park. It will be relaxing!
Now it is time for satisfying your mind and stomach. You can buy some foods from the food stalls you find there. Japanese street foods including drinks and souvenirs can be found from the lined vendors located in the park.
Picnic Party Under Ume Trees
If you are coming here with a group of 3 to 5 members then there is a big opportunity for organizing a little picnic party under ume trees. An outdoor picnic party at Atami Baien before Hanami arrives in spring would be just great. In fact I did it with my friends there. Before arriving there we had bought a bottle of sake, and some foods including fruits. Though we were running out of foods, what a shame! As a result we had to buy some other foods from the food stalls that took place at the festival area. A friend of mine there was pretty upset for not getting offered free Amazake knowing that it was served only on weekends. The day we went there was Friday!
Atami – The Great City
Living in Atami for a long period of time would be truly awesome because here its landscape throughout the year makes me think of such. Gorgeous seasonal beauty display featuring many festivals and events all year round could blow your mind. In fact many people recognize Atami for one particular reason which is the hot springs resort located around the city. It is said that the city has about 7 old hot springs; some of them are quite relaxing for foot bath.
Atami features some of the top sightseeing attractions of Shizuoka prefecture. One of them certainly is the MOA Museum of art. Do you know that Atami harbor and Sagami Bay can be seen clearly from this Museum? When you go exploring inside the museum all of a sudden you may see a view of the harbor from the top – then your expression would be just “Wow”. The museum is surrounded by a beautiful garden filled with many plum trees in which one can have a leisurely stroll along the walking path. If you visit the garden of the museum in February then I can guarantee you that you would be overwhelmed by the beauty of plum blossoms. They simply look stunning with variety of colors and sweeter fragrances coming out off the blossoms.
There is a nice observatory at Atami Castle from where you can view the whole Atami city, its harbor and the Sagami Bay. The observatory is located on the top floor of the castle. The castle stands 100 meters above sea level. Impressive view of Atami Marine fireworks from this spot can’t be forgotten easily. You can experience this only in summer season! In spring the castle grounds get covered with millions of cherry blossoms. Please note that, Atami Castle is seen to be one of the best Sakura viewing spots in Shizuoka.
Atami is a great source of producing dried or semi dried fish in Shizuoka prefecture. It is said that 50% of all dried and semi dried fish in Japan are produced in Shizuoka. You can see a lot of old-fashioned shops located in the street of Atami. Not all of them sell dried fishes of many varieties rather you can get everything else you need as a daily basis from rice to souvenirs. You can try eating local delicacies such as Onsen Manju and Atami Sushi. I have mentioned only two here, there are more find them and have them at a restaurant you find around city.
How to Get There?
A day trip from Tokyo to Atami Baien is possible. You get there in the morning around 9:00 or 9:30, then you can leave for Tokyo again after visiting the plum garden and having your lunch elsewhere in Atami. You can get to Atami by Tokaido Shinkansen (Bullet Train) comes from Tokyo directly. The entire trip (one way) takes only a-50 minute. A JR Pass would cover the train fare. You are to get off the train at JR Atami Station. From there it is only a 15 minutes bus ride to Atami Baien.
Kinomiya station is the nearest JR station to Atami Baien. Access to Atami Baien is easy from JR Kinomiya Station. You just walk for 10 minutes from the station then reach to the plum garden. How to get to JR Kinomiya Station from JR Atami Station? There is a train service on Ito line from JR Atami Station to Kinomiya station, it requires only 3 minutes train ride. I have seen many visitors also take taxi from JR Atami Station. That would be fast and won’t be time consuming! To know more about Atami Access please read this post.
Where to Stay?
If you don’t run out of time then I guess you better stay a night in Atami. This would help you to visit all the top sightseeing attractions at once. Please note that, if you stay in a hotel or ryokan in Atami you would have to pay only 100 Yen as admission fee to Atami Baien. Usually, the admission fee is 300 Yen per head (adults). Be a hotel guest, and then save 200 Yen showing your hotel reservation slip or receipt at the ticket counter. Below are the top rated best hotels and Ryokan in Atami:
- Watei Kazekomichi – Only 1.4 km Away from Atami Onsen.
- Ohtsuki Hotel Wafukan – A 6-minute drive away from Atami Castle.
- Furuya Ryokan – A 15-minute walk from JR Atami Train Station.
- Hotel Kan-ichi – A 13-minute walk from JR Atami Station.
- Hotel Micuras – A 10 Minute walk from JR Atami Station.
Important Things to Know
Address: 8-11 Baien-cho, Atami-shi, Shizuoka
Opening Hours: 8:30 – 16:00
Admission: 300 Yen (Adult), Free for junior high school student or less
Phone: +81-557-85-2222 and 0557-86-6218
Official website: http://www.ataminews.gr.jp/ume/
You have got all the useful information that you need to visit this amazing plum garden. Before you get in the train make sure you check its official website. The Japanese people know how to adore ume blossoms, how about you? In fact you can adore it just visiting the festival and exploring the utmost beauty of ume blossom.
Ume refers as a symbol of wisdom in Japan. If you are curious about the Japanese plum blossom and its tradition then please read this article. Your best friend may lie to you but the 100 years old ume trees that are still alive at Atami Baien can’t say that “we are not beautiful with our blossoms in early spring”. Make your dream come true visiting it and enjoy splendid view of Atami’s plum grove.
Copyright 2015 @ takkhis