Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Ume

Salty, Sweet and Sour

I had a full house at my English lesson today with my Japanese grandmothers. One of them went to Hakone last weekend and brought us back plum candies. Not to be overshadowed by the Sakura, Ume (Plum Blossoms) are beautiful in the spring. The candies are made from the fruit. From my understanding, the plums are pitted and then pickled with a mixture of salt, sugar, and vinegar. The result, is a gummy, salty, sweet, and sour (tangy) piece of candy. Here is the package. According to Google Translate, it says “Han Hwa” – clearly, no help. 


The plum candy is pictured below. Notice it has a slightly moist texture. To understand the texture, imagine a moist, dried apricot. 

A picture for perspective. They were small, approximately an inch in circumference. They tasted very differently from candy I prefer to purchase (not chocolate). However, in a strange way, they reminded me of natural sour patch kids. 

My grandmothers asked me to describe the taste to them in English. I said, “sweet, salty, and tangy”. They didn’t understand tangy. Tangy to me means my geographic tongue will hurt. That obviously would be lost in translation without me sticking out my tongue. And that would be so weird. Could you imagine? So, to save us all the pain of translating, I went with sour. 

As you can see, I have five remaining. Who would like a sample!?! Tempting, I know! 

Japanese Hotel

Thursday evening, Dave spontaneously suggested we take time to sightsee in Tokyo for the long weekend. The New Sanno was booked, of course, so I made us reservations for a room at the APA Hotel in Asakusa. Asakusa is on the east side of Tokyo. We have not really explored this area yet. We are the blue dot in the photo. 


I used several of the local Facebook pages to select the hotel. It came with good recommendations and the suggestion to bring your own pillows. Haha. Seriously, I wish we would have listened! They are flat! We were provided robes set with crane origami. 


The room is tiny and a great deal. About $85 a night! Besides a bed, window and full bath, it has two pairs of slippers for each of us, a fridge, a place to hang stuff, steam pot, humidifier and a TV. 

Check out all 118 square feet. 

Perfect fit!?! 


The only place for our carry on sized suitcase was in front of the door. Putting the suitcase in front of the door is a bit of a hazard. We therefore had a serious conversation about egress. Dave promised to get us both out in the event of an emergency. Safety is paramount. 

A place to hang stuff. 

Bed. Window. TV. 


The bathroom is adorable. The sink and shower faucet are controlled by the same spot! 


The toiletries were fully stocked. 


Ironically, the only oversized item is the soap, conditioner and shampoo! 


Honestly, it’s part of the Japanese experience. And it’s only for two nights. Tomorrow, I plan on taking Dave to at least seven temples (another Seven Lucky Gods pilgrimage) and possibly another two to see Ume Blossoms. In the afternoon, perhaps we can make it to the Tokyo Skytree. My tourist list is long as always! 

Ume or Sakura

This time of year is very special in Japan. It is the beginning of Ume and Sakura season. Ume is the Japanese word for Plum Blossoms. Sakura is the Japanese word for Cherry Blossoms. 

As to be expected, there are Ume and Sakura forecast for the different regions in Japan. The Ume trees bloom a little earlier than the Sakura. Right now, the Sakura is expected to be in full bloom in the Tokyo area towards the end of March. Perfect time to plan a visit!! 

My struggle was identifying the difference. Yesterday when we were at the Seto Shrine with Miki, I asked her to help me identify the differences between the Ume and the Sakura. First rule, do not judge by color! 

Here is an Ume blossom. The first thing to notice is the petals are rounded. Also, the flowers occur individually. 


Here is a broader picture. Notice the blossoms are attached to the tree. 


Comparatively, let’s look at the Sakura blossoms. The Sakura petals are not quite as rounded and the blossoms occur in clusters. 


Also, the blossoms are attached to the tree by a short stem. 


The trunk of the tree is also a good indicator. A Sakura tree will have “cracks” in the trunk. 


Armed with this knowledge, you should be able to identify whether the blossoms pictured are Ume or Sakura. Test yourself. The answers are at the end of the post. 

A.

B.

C.

D.

E.


F.


G.

H.


Hopefully, the variety of these blossoms help you to understand why color can’t be used as a determining factor. Here are the answers. 

A. Ume

B. Ume

C. Sakura

D. Ume 

E. Ume

F. Sakura 

G. Sakura

H. Ume

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