Located just one hour northeast of Tokyo in Mito City, is one of Japan’s three top ranked gardens. Kairakuen, as it is known, is famous for having over three thousand ume (plum) trees which bloom from late February through the end of March. Crowds gather at the park for the Mito Ume Matsuri from February 20th – March 31st to view and photograph the over one hundred different types of plum tree varieties blooming in an array of whites, pinks and reds. This event is a much anticipated precursor to the cherry blossom season which is so revered in Japanese culture.
The garden was built in 1841 by Tokugawa Nariaki and unlike the other two famous gardens, Kenrokuen and Korakuen, it was open to public viewing upon completion. As a matter of fact, its name translates to “park to be enjoyed together.” In addition to the large collection of plum trees, the park is also home to a bamboo grove, a cedar forest and a historic three-story wooden building known as Kobuntei.
Located in the middle of the garden, this building was where Tokugawa Nariaki hosted writers, artists and residents of his domain. Each room features a sliding door with various stunning paintings of flowers and trees. From the third floor of the Kobuntei, one can enjoy a spectacular view of the entire park.
It is important to note that the garden sustained quite a bit of damage from the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011. Fortunately, repairs were completed and the park reopened in February of 2012.
Access to Kairakuen Garden is relatively easy from Tokyo’s Ueno Station via the Joban Line, exit Mito Station. From there the park is 30 minutes on foot or 15 minutes by bus. During the Ume Matsuri, the Joban Line trains temporarily stop at the Kairakuen Station right next to the garden.
Address: 1-1251 Migawa, Mito, Ibaraki