Plum blossom (ume hana) is considered by many to be their favorite Japanese bloom, just after sakura. Not just for its beauty but also because of its lovely aroma. With plums, Japanese people have created a lot of unique products, ranging from umeboshi – pickled Japanese plums, to the popular umeshu – plum wine.
Plum blossom is now at its peak (mankai) in Fukuoka. If you want to enjoy plum blossom with a spectacular view, the Tachibana Plum Blossom Festival in Bairin Tanigawa (Hanamachi, Yame City), is one of the best places in Fukuoka Prefecture. Held once a year during plum blossom season in February, visitors can enjoy 20,000 blooming plum trees spanning 80 hectares, and join in many fun side activities.
It takes about one hour by car to get to the festival venue from Tenjin. You will arrive at the Yame city hall parking area, and from there, a shuttle bus departs every 15 minutes from 9:30 am until 3:30 pm during the festival period (one way ¥100) that takes you to the park entrance gate.
Start with a walk through the area to enjoy the view and the fragrant blossoms in tranquility. Then you can climb to the top of the hill and admire a breathtaking view of the town below with carpet of white and light pink blossoms around the park. The contrasting colors of the blossoms against the green grass and blue sky are dazzling.
Visitors can also enjoy wine tasting at the local Tachibana winery, or shopping for local goods at the main venue as well as trying delicious local Yame delicacies at the many open-air stalls. There are also performances by local children and a monkey performance on Feb. 23.
Apart from that, be sure to see the unique exhibition of 3,000 illuminated carved bamboo lanterns inside a nearby wine cellar (entry ¥400, free for junior high school students and younger), namely “Take akari gensou no sekai” is also a must-see. Using candles in sculpted bamboo poles to create works of art, the exhibition brings visitors fanciful and magical scenery inside the dark tunnel, which is deeply impressive. The bamboo sculptures are made by the Tachibana’s locals and volunteers who create these artworks over two months. Each year they have a different theme for the illuminations; this year’s theme is peace.
Inside the cellar, you can enjoy live musical instrument performances (bamboo guitar – Yame traditional handicrafts) as well as taste delicious sweets and drink the famous Yame tea.
To celebrate the achievement of 150,000 visitors to the wine cellar, there will be a chance for the lucky 150,000th visitor to receive a gift from the organizer. So, be sure to register your name and address information on the backside of the ticket and send it to a box placed in front of the cellar gate to grasp a chance to win. Full event details here.
Additional tips: you can spend the rest of the day strawberry picking at one of the nearby gardens such as Pooh’s Strawberry Farm (プーさんのいちご園). More details in Fukuoka Now’s Strawberry Picking Guide.
Report for Fukuoka Now by: Jenny Nhung Nguyen