by Sean, staff writer of japan-guide.com
2012/03/08 - Plum Blossom Report from Kairakuen, Mito
Kairakuen in Mito, Ibaraki, is regarded as one of Japan's top three landscape gardens, and it is famous for its plum tree grove. This year marks the 116th anniversary that the Mito Plum Festival is held. We visited Kairakuen in anticipation of looking at some blossoming plum flowers.
The plums are forecasted to bloom later than average this year, but as the past two days were relatively warm, we were expecting more of them to have entered the opening stage. However, we arrived at Kairakuen to find out that the vast majority of the flowers have yet to start opening. Considering that the weather for the next few days will again be cold, my guess is that the weekend of March 17th would be a more likely time when most of the flowers enter the blossoming stage.
Nevertheless, there was still a jovial atmosphere at Kairakuen, and a nice number of visitors were seen strolling through the garden, admiring and taking pictures of the plum trees, with flowers or without. Some of the earlier flowering variety of plum trees have started blooming, and a couple have reached about the 50% mark of opening up. Kairakuen is indeed one of the three great landscape gardens in Japan. I thought it was beautiful even though the majority of the plums have yet to blossom. I'd imagine it'll be gorgeous when they do.
The Mito Plum Festival will be going on till end March, and festivities include the many food stalls set up along the entrances of the garden. There were also Mito Plum Ambassadors standing around, smiling cheerfully as visitors approached to take pictures with them.
It was great to see that Kairakuen has been fully restored to its former glory, after the great earthquake last year that had caused much damage. At the Kobuntei Pavilion, there were pictures on display showing the extent of the damage and the restoration process.
All repair work was completed and the garden reopened on February 7th. Fissures in the ground have been repaired, damaged walls of Kobuntei refurbished and toppled stone lanterns reerected. With the impending flowering of the plum blossoms and the arrival of spring, a new year begins; towards a fresh start for a better year for Japan.