If you’re a fan of Japan and its culture, you probably know what ume is. Ume, also called Chinese plum or Japanese apricot, is highly regarded for its look and multiple uses in the land of the rising sun. The ume marks the arrival of the spring season and, with its pink and sometimes white blossoms, is not dissimilar to sakura blossoms as both are celebrated, albeit differently.
The Japanese tradition has perfectly preserved the ways of celebrating the ume. One of the most popular ways to enjoy its fruit is by fermenting it as pickled plum, or umeboshi, as what locals call it. There are actually many more ways to enjoy ume, and here some of them.
The umeboshi, or pickled plum, is one of the most popular gifts to bring back from Japan. It is sour and salty and perfect for meals. In traditional Japanese breakfasts, umeboshi is usually paired with simple foods such as white rice, miso soup, grilled fish, and eggs.
This sour fruit has been a staple in Japan for centuries, and while it gives the food its distinct taste, it actually has good health benefits. The tartness of umeboshi comes from the fruit’s citric acid, which helps strengthen the immune system, fights ulcer, prevents stomach cancer, and boosts energy by breaking down lactic acid.
Umeboshi is quickly gaining popularity around the world and is slated to become the next superfood in the next few years. So if you’re looking for something to give your foodie but health-conscious friends, this is a perfect item to hand them.
If you’re worried about your not-so-gastronomically-adventurous friends, Japan is known for its love of unique flavors. You can always bring quirky-flavored snacks and candies. If you happen to visit during spring, then you’re bound to find foods that are ume-flavored. If you want to vary the goodies you want to give away as gifts, check out this Japanese snacks and candies guide to help you out.
Ume Emblem, Art, and Pressed Blossoms
Its existence for hundreds of years makes the ume such a popular and enduring symbol, which is why family emblems and various art pieces are adorned with its flowers. If you want a custom gift for an ume lover, consider compiling art pieces, emblems, and even pressed flowers in a special board book. This way, everything stays together and looks more cohesive. You can customize it however you want, adding more pictures, drawings, and even a dedication page.
Alcoholic Plum Wine
Known as umeshu in Japan, this type of drink is also popular in China. Ume is combined with alcohol and sugar to make umeshu. The taste is sweet along with a subtle sour plum flavor, and this wine can be drunk easily because of its low alcohol content. This is a great gift for friends who love exotic wine and for those who can’t tolerate strong liquor.
Umeshu can easily be made at home, and while it is made with plums, which is a fruit, it isn’t technically a fruit wine because there is no fermentation or distillation involved. Many Japanese enjoy drinking umeshu, and they often make their own brew at home. If you’re interested in the process, check out this tutorial on how to make your own umeshu, and check out the many ways you can drink it as well.
The country is known for its love of the seasons, and when spring comes, there are a lot of themed items that come out along with this time of the year. Both ume- and sakura-themed things are popular during this time.
The kimono is the traditional clothing of Japan, and the Japanese love sharing their culture to foreigners. They highly encourage others to try it out and wear it. There are seasonal kimono in silk you can buy as gifts, but they can be expensive.
If you want to bring back a full-set kimono as a gift for a special person, you can buy from specialty stores. Ume prints are popular during spring, so take advantage of that fact if you ever find yourself in Japan during this season.
One of the more cheaper alternatives is to get a yukata. This is a form of kimono, but the garment is thinner as it is usually used for summer. You can get a yukata with ume patterns, and you can buy these from cheap retail stores like Don Quijote.
Seasonal Kawaii Stuff
Japan’s love for seasonal stuff cannot be emphasized enough. Apart from having a distinct culture, they have a lot to offer in the kawaii, or cute, department as well. A lot of kawaii things come in the form of merchandise based on characters, and they’re even more popular when they’re limited, which makes them sell out easily. Consider getting a subscription box from Japan because you’ll get your fix of cute stuff right at your doorstep.
You can either get a monthly box yourself or give it as a gift to someone. With this, you don’t have to scurry for limited popular items because they will come straight to you. These will come from some of the most popular kawaii brands, including Gudetama, Rilakkuma, Hello Kitty, Little Twin Stars, Pokemon, and more!
There are a lot more ume-themed things that were not mentioned in the list, like ume-blossom viewing. Just like they do with sakura, the Japanese also hold events for watching plum blossoms, and there are many parks where you can watch them. If you’re visiting in the spring, don’t forget to check out the local parks for this unique experience.
Are you an ume lover, and do you love Japanese culture? Feel free to share what you love about the country in the comment section.