- 1 Seasonal Use, Exceptions & Pairings
- 2 Motif Examples
- 3 Motif in Literature & Other Usage
- 4 Article Notes
|Season||Late winter. early spring|
|Seasonal Exceptions||All season, auspicious|
Ume refers to the blossoms of the Japanese plum tree (Prunus mume). Ume range in color from white to deep pink according to varietal and have five petals. Ume is a deciduous tree and like many fruit trees the blossoms appear before the leaves, making it a striking sight. Ume have a pleasant fragance which is relatively strong.
Ume originated in southern China and were introduced into Japan in the Yayoi period along with rice cultivation. The fruit is commonly pickled to make umeboshi (梅干) or soaked in liquor to make umeshu (梅酒), both of which were considered medicinal foods.
Seasonal Use, Exceptions & Pairings
Ume bloom from January to February in Japan. 
Motif Connotations & Symbolism
Ume bloom in late winter and as such have become a symbol of resilience and overcoming hardship. Their brief bloom and appealing scent also associates ume with the Japanese concept of ideal womanhood.
Common Motif Pairings
- Sho-chiku-bai when paired with take and matsu
- Shikunshi, the "four gentlemen," - kiku, ume, take, and ran
- Arranged over cracked ice
Identification & Style Variations
There are three main styles of rendering ume: the stylized rounded petal umebachi (梅鉢), the twisted nejiri-ume (ねじり梅, twisted ume), and the more realistic korin ume (洸琳梅), named for Ogata Kōrin who popularized it in the mid-Edo period.
It can be told apart from the similar sakura by the following cues:
- ume petals are drawn round, sakura petals will have a notch at the outer edge.
- ume often has knobbly branches, whereas sakura branches, if ever shown, tend to be slender weeping ones
- ume flowers have no stem; if a flower has a stem it is sakura, not ume.
Detail of modern yukata with ume from the collection of Moonblossom
Detail of stylized ume on a houmongi from the collection of Tsubame
Pewter realistic ume obidome from the collection of Ainokimono
Stylized ume obidome from the collection of Ainokimono
Motif in Literature & Other Usage
Sugawara Michizane's most famous waka on ume on the occasion of his exile from Kyoto to Daizafu (901 CE):
|東風吹かば||kochi fukaba||When the east wind blows|
|にほひをこせよ||nioi okose yo||Flourish in full bloom|
|梅花||ume no hana||Oh plum blossoms!|
|主なしとて||aruji nashi tote||Although your master is gone|
|春を忘るな||haru o wasuru na||Do not forget the spring.|
Relevant Threads / Discussions
- Plum blossom... or apricot blossom? Aren't they the same?
- Woah, woah, What? Unlined Ume?
- Sakura and Ume Blossoms
- Wikipedia article on Prunus mume. Accessed November 22, 2013.
- Allen, Jeanne. Designer's Guide to Japanese Patterns. Kawade Shobo Shinsha Publishing. 1984. p.37.
- Baird, Merrily. Symbols of Japan: Thematic Motifs in Art and Design. Rizzoli Press. 2001. p.64
- Wikipedia article on Sugawara no Michizane. Accessed November 13, 2013.
- Transcription of Borgen, Robert. Sugawara no Michizane and the Early Heian Court. University of Hawaii Press. 1994. Accessed November 13, 2013.
Authors & Contributors
Author/s: tzippurah (IG Username)