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Feb. 22, Sun.*This program was first broadcast on Mar. 7, 2013

Ume Plums

The flowers of the ume plum are a harbinger of spring. While the winter chill still lingers in Japan, the blossoming of the ume plum is a sign that spring is on the way. At this time of year, famous plum-viewing spots around Japan attract lots of visitors. The ume plum originally comes from China. It is said to have been brought to Japan about 2,000 years ago, along with rice agriculture. The fruit of the ume plum has long been used as food, flavoring, and medicine. And its charming flowers are so loved in Japan that they have been widely employed as a motif in confections, kimono, and crafts. Recently, a number of new businesses based on ume have also blossomed.

On this edition of BEGIN Japanology, our theme is ume plums. We will explore the charms of a tree that has figured prominently in Japanese culture for countless generations.