History of Ume flower
Since Ume-tree is the first to blossom (i.e. the tree starts to blossom in the coldest time of the winter), Ume has been appreciated by people in China for many years. As Ume flower blooms in the midst of the cold winter, people see the flower as a human being who tries to work hard under a severe condition, which is believed to be an ideal way of how we live. The Ume flower came to Japan in the 8th century and was loved by the aristocracy who evaluated the flower as an aspect of exoticism.
In these days, Yushima Tenjin shirine (Tokyo), Kitano Tenmangu shrine (Kyoto), Dazaifu Tenmangu shrine (Fukuoka), etc. use Ume flower as their shrine emblem, which has roots in Fujiwara no Michizane, Japanese political figure and scholar of 9th century, who loved Ume flower.
Symbol of Ume flower
As the time goes by, Ume flower has become a pattern widely used on clothes, potteries, and architectures, etc. Since Ube flower starts to bloom the earliest among other flowers in the year, it is believed that the flower represents a good luck, meaning Ume flower can bring you a success earlier than anyone else in your life. Sometimes people curve out vegetables (e.g. carrots) into an Ume flower shape and use them in Japanese dish. If you find something with an Ume flower shape in Japan, please remember that it has a good meaning to it!