UME, Japanese plum blossom is the sign of Spring
February is the coldest season in Japan, and yes it sometimes snows.
This year, we had unexpectedly large amount of snow fall in many parts of Japan.
However, law of nature is ...working, we have pretty Japanese plum blossoms blooming here and there from late February to late March. (depend of the type of tree!)
Today, many people typically imagine that cherry blossom (SAKURA) as the symbolic flower of Japan. For us, it has very special feeling of "impermanence"... (well, it is a very deep and profound topic related to ZEN, Bushido,Buddhism, etc.etc. used in many forms of traditional arts )
However, in ancient time, when Asuka and Nara were the capital city, plum blossoms (UME) were more popularly used in poetry to represent spring.
Interestingly, Sakura and Ume have very different feature.
・Ume start blooming when it is still relatively cold.
・Stay blooming for quite long time.
・We can harvest big fruits = UME（梅） =Japanese apricot.
・UME is well known for its strong medicinal power, and used in many forms.
Most famous and popular one is "Umeboshi"(dried and salted Ume) , maybe notorious for foreign tourists for their first encounter. .. as it is super sour!! You will find it inside of rice balls (Onigiri), or on breakfast table.
I think popularity of UME in Japan in the early time is related to Taoism (道教）, and the political power balance between Japan and China & Korea. .
Anyhow, UME is the sign that spring is just around the corner!