Suzuka Forest Garden, a magnificent world-class view in Mie

Suzuka Forest Garden, a magnificent world-class view in Mie

The magnificent views of the cherry blossom petals blowing in the spring breeze is what people will think of in Japan’s spring season. But in Mie Prefecture, there is a different herald of the arrival of spring. The beautiful blooming of plum flowers around Mie is world-class, and I was lucky to be able to visit one such site with magnificent scenery -- Suzuka no Mori Teien (Suzuka Forest Garden).

Written by John Ng

Suzuka Forest Garden is located in the northernpart of Mie Prefecture and at the foot of the Suzuka Mountain Range. The gardenis open to the public only from mid-February to late March, when the plumblossoms are in full bloom. This year, 2022, it opened its doors on February 19and was open daily until March 25. Except for this time of year, the garden isnot open to the public as its main purpose is to preserve the traditionalpruning craft and to research these wonderful plum trees.

When purchasing my ticket, I was greeted by the wonderful smile of the lady at the gate, and as I passed through I smelled the sweet scents of the plum flowers and beheld the breathtaking view.
* Entrance fees may change depending on the condition of the flowers.

Within the garden there are many types of plum tree, and the flowers bloom in a variety of colors, including white, pink, and red. Plum trees are normally small in size, but the trees here are big, with many of them reaching five meters or more. “Shidare Ume” (weeping plum-tree) is the most spectacular of plum trees, with its dangling branches covered with blossoms. To present the best view of the plum trees, intensive training is needed to prune them. One of the main reasons this garden was established is to pass on to the next generation the skills of the professionals who train the Shidare Ume trees and preserve the precious trees themselves. This garden is maintained by the Akatsuka Shokubutsuen and they are trying their best to nurture the next generation of skillful professionals and to carry out further research about the trees. There are about 200 plum trees of various types and sizes.

The most representative plum trees of this garden are the “Kureha Shidare.” These trees have pink flowers and they make for a stunningly gorgeous view. Among the trees in the garden, “Ten no Ryu” (the dragon in the sky) and “Chi no Ryu” (the dragon on the land) are the most outstanding. Both are more than 100 years old, and they are said to be the oldest trees of this variety in Japan. This year, the cold winter weather delayed blooming. When I visited, the trees were just one step from full bloom.

Despite its short opening period of only one month, this 20,000-square-meter garden attracts about 77,000 visitors a year. The main purpose of this garden is for blossom viewing, so they do not hold other events as some gardens do. They want people to have a leisurely walk around the garden, enjoy the flowers, breathe in the sweet smell of the plum trees and, most of all, forget the stresses of the daily life by just enjoying their time here. There are benches around the garden to let you rest and enjoy the view.

I was surprised to learn that every branch that separates represents one year of growth for the Shidare Ume tree, and most of the branches grow toward the sunlight, which in this situation is the south side, thus making the balance of the tree one-sided. The skill of pruning the tree is to let people enjoy the beauty of the tree from every direction. Unwanted shoots are cut off in order to keep branches from growing there. In order to make the tree look perfect, about 11 months in a year are needed to perfect its proportions. After learning this, I took a close look at every tree around the garden. All trees were near to perfection from every direction.

During my visit, I noticed some nice flowers at the foot of the plum trees. The flower’s name is Christmas rose. This flower has a special color, different from the normal Christmas roses I had seen before. I asked a worker there and was told it is an original species cultivated by Akatsuka Shokubutsuen. For Christmas rose lovers, it might be a good choice to buy one. There is a small store there selling all kinds of plants and flowers from Akatsuka Shokubutsuen.

I stayed until the evening to catch sight of the golden illuminations. There is a spot with higher ground where you can take a photo of the plum trees with the Suzuka mountains in the background. Known as “shakkei” (borrowing landscape), you can have a spring view at the front and some snowy mountains as a backdrop for your photos. I waited patiently for the night illumination of the garden at 6 p.m. As I expected, the garden was transformed. The view was transfixing, and many people were taking pictures of the dragon trees “Ten no Ryu” and “Chi no Ryu.” Note that there are some areas of the garden where tripods are not allowed.

During the nighttime illumination period, the garden is open from 9 a.m. till 8:30 p.m., and last entry is at 8 p.m. I would strongly suggest visiting on weekdays, as weekends can get rather crowded. Free parking is available at the garden, but spaces are limited, so I also recommend weekdays or early weekends to minimize parking wait times.
* The garden is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. when there are no illuminations, and the last admission is at 3 p.m.

Tourist attractions covered by this article