Spring in Otawara and Cherry Blossom….. or is it Plum?


Spring is in the air and Japan is turning slowly pink.  In just a week, the change has been dramatic.

But as I wandered around Otawara this weekend I realized that despite visiting Japan for 12 years and living here for over 3 years I actually didn’t know the difference between Cherry Blossom and Plum Blossom, except for a general understanding that early blooms are usually plum – no basis in fact, just everyone keeps telling me my early photos are plum.  See my confusion, and why does it matter?

Apparently it does.. April, the Sakura season symbolizes many things to people  – new beginnings, renewal, school year, graduates start jobs, fallen Samurai and many more but the particular love for Cherry Blossom is also related to its transience.  It has a short but amazing blooming season and then the petals fall like pink snow and its gone..

So it is symbolic of life, and valued because of that very brief moment of absolute beauty.

Every year there is a map for viewing, its published and updated so you can plan to catch the beauty of it somewhere in Japan….

So I investigated, there are hundreds of sites with details and at least 8 major differences, but the main ones are:

Petals: They are both similar in shape, BUT importantly, and easy to recognize, Cherry blossoms have a small split at the end of each petal – not so for plum.  Both can be pink or white, but Cherry can also be a yellowy colour.

Buds:  Cherry buds are oval, and there are numerous blossoms coming out of each bud.
Plum buds are round, and have only one blossom.

Shape:  Plum trees are a round or oval shape, Cherry is more umbrella shaped.

Bark:  Cherry blossoms have light grey bark with horizontal lines on it, Plum doesn’t. (who notices the bark :-))

Also this is a great Japanese site sent to me by a friend that includes this great image-

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