Names in this site follow the Japanese custom of family name first.

March 17, 2012

Japanese Gardens: Yoshino Baigo in Ome, Tokyo

One of the best plum viewing areas close to Tokyo (in fact, part of the metropolis although you would not believe it) is the Yoshino Baigo Park in Ome.

Ome is a municipality in northwestern Tokyo Prefecture, on the river Tamagawa, and interestingly the very name of this city means "green plum," demonstrating an old link with the "Ume" or plum tree. Not surprisingly, it is an area where traditionally plum trees are grown and where the fruit in pickled form is sold as umeboshi. (Rice with a pickled plum on top is called a Hinomaru Bento, because it resembles the Japanese flag: a red circle on white).

[Yoshino Baigo, Ome]

In the form of the Yoshino Baigo Park Ome is also one of the best places for plum blossom viewing in early spring. The good thing is that there is a lot of space here and that the park is in a natural state, not deformed by a playground or miniature trains.

The name Yoshino Baigo points at several large and small plum tree parks that lie south of the Yoshino Kaido Road. 25,000 plum trees have been planted here, and in season their delicate fragrance comes wafting from all sides through the air. The fame of the area for plum viewing goes back to Edo times, and there are many old trees, too. The best place for flower viewing is the 40,000 square meter large plum tree park (Ume no Koen), where 1,500 trees stand in pleasantly hilly terrain.

[Yoshino Baigo, Ome]

The plum tree season is from the end of February to the middle of March. It gets crowded in weekends, but not so much as comparable cherry viewing spots do. If you are hungry from the two hour train ride from Tokyo, buy or bring something to eat in the park. There are no restaurants in the area, but you can stock up on onigiri and canned tea in convenience stores on the Yoshino Kaido; there are also "yatai" stands selling yakisoba and other delicacies around the park in season. Do not enter the park via the main entrance, but rather take a small path to the left just before arriving there, which seems to lead to a graveyard. In fact it brings you to a less busy part of the park, from which you will have an excellent view over the whole area.

Afterwards, take a leisurely scroll in the area along what has been dubbed "Plum Viewing Road" (Kambai-dori) among farmhouses selling plum trees for your garden as well as pickled plums. From the park, there is a pleasant walking route to the rustic house and garden of popular author Yoshikawa Eiji, of Musashi fame. And still further on, in Mitake, stands the a small museum dedicated to the gentle paintings of Kawai Gyokudo, who often painted the scenery of Ome... or you can climb the mountain to the hoary Mitake Shrine.

Access to Yoshino Baigo:
Take the JR Chuo Line from Shinjuku Station to Tachikawa Station and transfer to the Ome Line to Hinawada Station (on Sundays there are some direct trains as well). From Hinawada station, it is a 15 min walk to the Yoshino Baigo plum tree park (follow the road over the bridge that leads straight on to the hills). Entrance free.

Access to the Yoshikawa Eiji House:
After seeing the park, follow the signs pointing to Yoshikawa Eiji's museum. You will walk over small roads, among houses and farmhouses interspersed with more plum trees and small parks. The hills should be on your left and the Yoshino Kaido Road on your right. It is only a 30 min walk to Yoshikawa Eiji House & Museum.