Earning its rank among the top three landscape gardens in Japan, Kairakuen Park is a botanical beauty known for its ume or Japanese plum blossoms. The name Kairakuen, in fact, translates to “a garden for everyone’s pleasure” – a role it’s been fulfilling since the Edo period.
The ninth feudal lord of the Mito clan, Nariaki Tokugawa, who ruled the region that is now present-day Ibaraki, was inspired by a phrase from the Confucian Classic: The Book of Rites. The phrase stressed the balance between tension and relaxation, thus sparking the construction of a public park to relax both the body and mind after a strenuous day of military training.
And since Nariaki appreciated not only the aesthetic of plum blossoms, but also their practicality (with pickled plums serving as a survival food during military operations), his floral choice was an easy pick.
While the acres of plum trees were planted back in 1842, Kairakuen currently boasts 3,000 blooming ume trees in over 100 varieties. The Mito Plum Blossom Festival, held annually from February 20th to March 31st, is a celebration of the coming of spring. On Saturdays and Sundays a host of events – ranging from live traditional music performances to open-air tea ceremonies – are as fun as Nariaki would have intended.