If you want to see the best plum blossom spot in Tokyo, you're in a race against a virus, and that means you need to cross the finishing line before the end of March.
To quote The Japan News: "The plum pox virus, or PPV, which causes fruit deformities and other issues in ume plum trees, has spread to 10 prefectures nationwide, with some famous ume blossom spots undergoing drastic measures to halt the disease."
"Drastic measures" = cutting down and burning all trees over a large area, including Okutama.
I visited top spot Yoshino Baigō twice this year: about three weeks ago and again ten days ago. Both times, true to my floating-on-cloud-eleven nature, I was unaware of the looming disaster. My conclusion is that my guardian angels, who usually protect me against my own obliviousness, were working overtime to ensure that I saw this garden in the snow and again during full bloom.
I finally realized what was going on when a kind blog reader, karellenn, left a comment.
If you want to read more about it, here you go:
The Japan News (English)
Announcement by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (Japanese)
PDF maps of affected areas (Japanese)
I described the garden and how to get there in this post. This time I'll restrict myself to photos. The first photo of yours truly was taken just after I had slid halfway down that hillside on my bum after consuming half a bottle of umeshu. Concerned passersby asked walking companion and photographer Cecilia whether I needed help, because I was doing something very dangerous in safety-obsessed Japan. "Oh, don't worry," Cecilia said, "she'll be OK. She's from Africa."