TRAVEL: Of Plum (Ume) and Cherry (Sakura) Blossoms.

Another day till the end of March.

Recent photographs online of the Hanami Festival in Japan, got me in a mode of nostalgia and remembering the excitement of being nearly a part of the festivities leading up to the blooming of the Cherry Blossoms.

Sadly, I had not been able to view them in bloom during my trips. But the chance to taste the food associated in lieu of it’s anticipation brings a certain sense of comfort.

Also, coming to know about the Plum Blossoms whilst in Taiwan and Tokyo.

Actually seeing my very first fresh Plum Blossom in Liyu Lake (鯉魚潭) in the Shoufeng Town of the East Rift Valley

Liyu Lake, Hualien

Beginnings of the Plum Blossom. Liyu Lake, Hualien

It had no doubt brought back memories and romantic imaginings of my favourite Qiong Yao‘s Classical romance story, 梅花三弄之一《梅花烙》 Plum Blossom Trilogy.

Aptly named Mei Hua Lao (梅花烙) in  the 1990’s!

The old man I shared the front driver train seat with, whose eyes lit up when asking if me and my friends were staying a little longer in Taiwan. In anticipation to the start of the Plum Blossoms in a week. We weren’t. But I was lucky to see a tree in slowly blooming by the waterfalls.

Mr Driver of the train in Wu Lai, Taipei

Early Plum Blossom in Wulai (烏來), Taipei.

Plum Blossom in Wu Lai, Taipei

Plum Blossom in Wu Lai, Taipei

And that, brought on a surprise, this little compassion towards nature and awe to it’s power to generate beauty. Sometimes, forgotten in this side of the world, where seasons does not exist. Oh beauty and new found knowledge!

Somehow the pink flowers and the witnessing of the changing seasons from Winter to Spring. The different curious chances of tasting the food associated to the much talked about Hanami in Japan. The girlish pleasure of buying and owning pretty things in pink and flower associated, makes me smile because of the certain whimsical charm it brought me.

Plum Blossom and Sakura  Charms for Happiness.

Plum Blossom themed charms at Yushima Tenjin

Sakura themed charms at Yushima Tenjin

A season, a place I was in, beauty and colour that was seemingly transient. Yet, the importance of that moment in time, the events that took place and the pure moods people derived from the arrival of it.

A colour and a hidden side of me that I never quite think I would associate myself in a long time. A penchant for the colour – Pink.

It seems a colder than usual winter this year has brought certain changes to the transition of seasons and the behavioral of the beautiful trees. Maybe, but writing about memories now would still connect me and coincide with the beauty that seem so far away right now.

Because the plum blossoms are some of the first blossoms to open during the year, it is associated to the onset of Spring. And I bid my own ‘Hello’ with the beautiful flowers at Yushima Tenjin Shrine (Yushima Tenmangu)one of Tokyo’s most popular spots to view the plum blossoms. A shrine dedicated to the Shinto deity of education. Who had a great love of plum blossoms, and shrines dedicated to him usually have plum trees planted around the grounds.

Ume Matsuri @ Yushima Tenjin, Tokyo

The Ume Matsuri, a month long plum festival with food stalls set up around the grounds held annually from February 8 to March 8.

Where I had my first most expensive 500Yen Hot Potato in the cold. Greatly enjoyed, but oh the cost!

But I learnt, quality and the simple coveted taste is what made the price worth it. And the view? Priceless.

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The witnessing of the Japanese people’s respect and joy towards the flowers and it’s beauty. Hot food and the festive atmosphere amid the cold. And people from all walk and genres gathering. Young and Old, Fashionistas and not. What a spot to people watch!

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Ume shu! Properly introducing it’s taste for the first time to me during an impromptu Monjayaki/Okonomiyaki dinner. What a pleasure it was! And having my last taste of it at the airport. I bid Japan Adieu.

Umeshu, a fruit liqueur which I begin to love.

Umeshu - Plum LiquerUmeshu - Plum Liquer

And then comes the Cherry Blossoms – Sakura. Which has predominantly taken over the Plum Blossoms.

So lush in it’s cascading pink softness.

I amuse myself with the thought – Haven’t seen them but tasted them.

Somehow the memory becomes more cherished. Ingrained through the oral savoring of each moment I came in contact with the season. Yet missing out on the true human appreciation of it visually.

Sakura Taiyaki on a late night out in Kichijoji. Surprised by the appearance of the Sakura themed Taiyaki. A Japanese Fish Shaped waffle like cake with fillings.

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Yet, so happy after a tiring day out and tasting it’s pretty flavour once back in the hotel. It ended my day sweet literally.

Sakura Taiyaki

Sakuramochi  (桜餅) usually eaten during Hina Matsuri – Girl’s Day or during Hanami – Cherry Blossom viewing festival.

Funnily enough I had only just found out, that I had bought one on Hina Matsuri at Shimote Kitazawa. Opting out to check out the festival’s event at the Shrine. Instead for a lazy day out shopping at a really nice neighbourhood (Will get to writing about it).

A Kansai-style sakura mochi, interestingly there are two types of presentation for two different regions. Kansai and Kanto.

Kansai Style Sakura Mochi

One thing though, Pickled Sakura Leaf is not for everyone! I spat it out thinking it was inedible. It actually is I think.

Funny moment :)

Pretty blushing pink liquids in bottles being sold one late morning at Tokyo Midtown. That I yearned to own, and left Japan with them on my mind. And finally had a bottle brought over to Singapore.

Rosé Sakura or Sakura Wine (桜の花がワイン), which I intend to open at a picnic one day. In celebration of joy amidst food and good company.

Hopefully one day, I will get to sit under them, Cherry Blossoms and savor it’s beauty up close and personal. Aren’t the pink blossoms in the wine really pretty?

Rosé Sakura SAM_3154

And this is my memories and introduction to the two Festivals.

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