On a chilly March day I head to Mt. Ayabe’s plum tree forest in search of spring. On the way I stop to take in a rape blossom field spreading out at the foot of the mountain.
Clouds pass in front of the sun and I almost forget about the plum trees while watching the rape blossoms glisten in gold… Got to get on, I still have a long way to go.
The plum tree forest on Mt. Ayabe in Banshu (the old name for the Hyogo area) is one of the largest in west Japan. Though Wakayama prefecture is probably more famous for its plum blossoms, the special point of Mt. Ayabe is that you can also see the sea. Additionally, the area is dotted with ancient burial mounds that are thought to have been constructed in the 5th and 6th centuries AD. It is said that the plum forest started to be set up in 1967, and that blossom viewing began in the mid-1970s.
Delighting fans of both red and white blossoms, twenty thousand trees (10 different varieties) make up the vast Mt. Ayabe plum forest over 24 hectares.
Looking at the walking trail guide, it seems that two spots in particular offer exceptional views. However, even without relying on the guide map, if you follow the photographers setting up their tripods, you are sure to find your way to the best views.
Capturing both the slope of pale plum blossoms as well as the Seto Inland Sea, one of the most picturesque views is the one below.
No matter where you look, it’s all plums, plums, plums, which must be the reason the forest is praised as a ” Glimpse of 20 Thousand Plum Trees”. The Ieshima Islands are visible beyond the hazy horizon on this early spring day.
It’s also good to get away from the crowds and take your time enjoying the view. Blue skies, the rape blossom field mentioned earlier spreading out at the foot of the mountain, and a Japanese nightingale’s song matches perfectly with this spring view of the layered slope, colored by pale white plum blossoms. I wonder if the bird flew here tempted by the sweet scent.
There’s also a shop with a view of the sea where you can get sweet sake (amazake) or plum juice in exchange for the ticket you’re given with your entrance ticket. The walk to the shop warms me up, so I chose the plum juice. Ah, it’s spring time!
Here and there under the plum trees you can see beehives, and you can also purchase the harvested honey. Walking along searching for souvenirs such as steamed plum salt buns, plum kashiwamochi (plum flavored glutinous rice cakes wrapped in oak leaves), plum liqueur, and plum flavored sardines reminds me of the fun of browsing the food stalls you often find along the routes that lead to shrines.
Next time you’re missing spring, take a quick trip to Mt. Ayabe!
Mt. Ayabe plum forest
Official website: http://www.ayabeyama.jp/ (Japanese)
Location: 1492 Kurosaki, Mitsu-cho, Tatsuno city, Hyogo prefecture
Plum viewing season: The best time for plum viewing is usually from late February to early March
Admission: High school students & older JPY500, Elementary & Middle school students JPY400, infants free of charge
Access: During the plum viewing season, a special bus runs from JR Aboshi station & Sanyo Aboshi station
Parking: Regular passenger vehicles JPY500, large vehicles JPY1500
Setouchi Finder Photo-writer: Madoka Hori
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Madoka Hori / Photo-writer Entrepreneurial translator/writer living in Hyogo. As a licensed English tour guide, she occasionally takes tourists to beautiful destinations such as Kobe, Himeji, Okayama, Kyoto, and Osaka and her clients have never got lost so far. On Setouchi Finder, as one of the original team members, she enjoys taking photos and sharing her favorite hidden gems. Private Photo Blog http://riderv328.tumblr.com Twitter https://twitter.com/Riderv328
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