Welcome aboard the Pretti5 Express!
Today, we’re exploring the Japanese prefecture of Wakayama, where the plum blossom (prunus mume) extract in our Hydro-Power Brightening Cleanser is harvested. Our tour will start with an overview of Wakayama Prefecture and what it has to offer, then we’ll get up close and personal with the local celebrities: the plum blossoms!
Fun fact: it plays an essential role in combating glycation with our products!
Where in the world is Wakayama?
Wakayama Prefecture (和歌山県, wa·ka·yama·ken) is located in the southern-central Kansai region. While it may not be as tourist-driven as its neighbors Osaka or Kyoto, this gorgeous area has plenty to offer travellers in the way of history, culture and natural beauty.
A capital of spirituality
Throughout history, Wakayama has been viewed as a sacred site. Imperial courtesans, lords and commoners alike would embark on a 40-day journey from the ancient capital, Kyoto, to the Kumano mountains in search of purity and enlightenment. Their paths, collectively known as the Kumano Kodo (熊野古道, kuma·no·ko·do) , are listed as one of only two UNESCO pilgrimage routes in the world!
The Kumano faith, which combines Shintoism and Buddhism, believes that deities are present in all parts of nature. The Kumano Kodo, with its picturesque natural beauty, is a spiritual journey in itself across the prefectures of Mie, Nara and Wakayama.
In the late Heian period, the Koyasan monastery complex, which is located between Wakayama and Nara Prefecture to the north, was founded alongside Shingon Buddhism, one of Japan’s major Buddhist schools.
Be inspired by nature
Even today, travellers are drawn to the region’s natural beauty. Along Wakayama’s coastline are azure waters, awe-inspiring rock formations and mossy islets, where millennia of Japanese folk mythology sprung from. An ancient military fort on the Tomogashima Islands, just 20 minutes from Wakayama City, is said to have inspired the appearance of the floating castle in the Ghibli film Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986).
Underwater, Wakayama yields spectacular treasures, too. Colorful coral reefs, dolphins and whales dot the coastal waters, making it an ideal spot for snorkelling, scuba diving and whale-watching. Don’t want to get your feet wet? A glass-bottom boat trip may be just the thing for you; or, recline and relax on the pristine white beaches.
Further inland, traditional log rafting provides hands-on insight into the centuries-old practice of transporting lumber down the Kitayama River. Log rafting isn’t for the faint of heart, though. The scenic, tree-lined views are interspersed with exhilarating sections of choppy whitewater—and the entire trip is made standing, with no more than a rail to cling onto.
Drop into a local restaurant for a taste of Wakayama ramen! Typically served with a soup base of pork bone (豚骨, ton·kotsu) and soy sauce, Wakayama ramen noodles are round and thin for the perfect slurp.
You can order additional ingredients in your ramen or some tasty side dishes for a splash of flavor: the most classic Wakayama ramen bowls come with an extra serving of pork ribs, runny-yolk eggs and sushi on the side.
The stars of the show: plum blossoms
Japan is probably best known for its ephemeral cherry blossoms, which begin to unfurl in April. If you’re in Japan a few months earlier, though, you’ll be just in time to catch Wakayama’s plum blossoms (梅花, bai·ka) in full bloom in February!
Dubbed the “Kingdom of Fruit'' in Japan, Wakayama Prefecture is well-known throughout the nation for its production of high-quality fruit, from strawberries and persimmons to peaches and Japanese apricots—and ume plums, of course! Regional farmer expertise stretches as far back as the late 1100s, and their produce was prized by the upper echelons of Japanese society: local government officials, nobility and even the emperor.
What might be surprising is that these plum trees aren’t actually native to Japan! Plum blossoms originate along the southern banks of the Yangtze River in China, some 2,000 kilometers from Wakayama.
They were introduced to Japan in the late Tang dynasty (923-937), when Sino-Japanese trade began to flourish and the imperial courts exchanged prized gifts like porcelain and paintings—and plum blossom trees. To this day, plum blossoms are the national flowers of China. They’re known as one of the “Four Gentlemen” in Chinese culture, along with the orchid, chrysanthemum and bamboo plants.
While the Japanese blossom-viewing festival (花見, hana·mi) is associated with cherry blossoms today, this tradition actually began with the plum blossom. Coming into full bloom at the end of a long, frigid winter, the plum blossom symbolizes hope, vitality through hardship and the arrival of spring.
Plum blossoms are rich in vitamin C and antioxidants known as phytochemicals, which combat wrinkles, fine lines and dull skin caused by oxygen radicals. In other words, the plum blossom extract in your Hydro-Power Brightening Cleanser is a natural anti-aging ingredient that also happens to symbolize renewal and revitalization.
Coincidence? We think not.
Written by Fion Tse