The Famous Plum Trees of Kairakuen Garden
Kairakuen Garden in Mito City, Ibaraki Prefecture, is one of the most famous places in Japan to see plum trees. Approximately 3,000 plum trees of 100 different varieties bloom in the garden at the end of every winter, creating a majestic scene for visitors to enjoy.
Tokugawa Nariaki, the ninth feudal lord of the Mito clan, ordered the establishment of Kairakuen Garden in 1842. Nariaki was the father of Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the last shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate. From the beginning, Nariaki did not keep the garden for himself, but opened it to the local people.
There were not very many plum trees in Mito at that time, but Nariaki had many different varieties of plum tree sent from Edo (present-day Tokyo) for planting. Consequently, there are now 3,000 plum trees of approximately 100 varieties flourishing in the garden. Plum trees that bloom at different times have been planted, including the early flowering types that bloom between mid-January and mid-February, the medium-late flowering types that bloom between mid-February and mid-March, and the late flowering types that bloom between early March and early April, so visitors to Kairakuen can enjoy plum blossoms for a long period every year. In 1934, the Six Fine Trees of Mito were selected from Kairakuen’s plum trees for their flowers’ excellent shapes, scents and colors. Among the six varieties are those with flowers of attractive appearance and scent, including Rekkobai, which has large, light red flowers and was named after Nariaki’s posthumous name, Rekko; and Tsukikage (meaning moonlight), which has pure white flowers and a strong scent. In addition to these six varieties, there are many other plum trees with flowers of different colors and shapes, so visitors never get bored of viewing them during the plum blossoming season.
During the peak bloom, the view from Kobuntei, a three-storied villa built in the garden, is exquisite. The view from the third floor is exceptionally beautiful.
Recently, a project to develop Kairakuen Garden and its surrounding area into Kairakuen Park has begun with the goal of creating a welcoming place of rest. A new chapter in Kairakuen’s history—now as an urban park—is beginning.