How to Choose the Best Sakura Spots for Photography
“Blown by spring breezes,
My heart hasn’t yet prepared,
For cherry blossoms
To fall, To fall
– taken from here
According to the Japan Tourism Marketing Co., in March 2015 more than one and a half million overseas tourists visited Japan. No coincidence, this is one of the most picturesque times of the country – the blossoming of the cherry trees, the famous sakura. The special beauty of the sakura season is its short length: trees bloom for a week or so depending on the weather, then the petals fall like snow and collect at the ground, and then vanish back into the earth. But of course, this fleeting beauty is captured forever with cameras of all kinds.
Me and my boyfriend are both passionate about photography. We both love the delicate grace and serenity of Japan’s sakura. So in case you are sharing these interests as well, let us share with you some ideas we have on the topic.
#1 Where do you start?
All of Japan has a sakura season, which arrives at different days or even months (on the Izu islands it starts in late February, while in Hokkaido sakura blooms in May). You might also want to have a mini-tour following sakura across the country or so. The country is pretty advanced in forecasting not only weather, but cherry blossoming season as well. Check this website (in Japanese) to help you decide where you plan to go shooting. Remember that popular sightseeing spots get very crowded when trees are in full bloom. Of course, if your goal is to shoot street photography focused on people, this is the best situation. Yet for a more time consuming close-ups of flowers crowds might be a problem. One solution might be to study the location and then decide what genre to apply there.
I personally like the pre-blooming time, when buds just start to appear and trees are slowing waking up from the winter.
#2 What kind of sakura do you want to shoot?
There are lots of different kinds of cherry trees of various colors and shapes. Do you prefer pale pink or may be more dark colors? If it’s your first time in Japan, perhaps you will want to see as many as you can.
As for scenes and backgrounds in your sakura photography, there are trees by the mountains, on the banks of the rivers, and in all kinds of locations.
One of my favorite spots in Tokyo is Inokashira park in Kichijoji with its gorgeous pond.
#3 When do you shoot?
In my experience, morning shots are the best in terms of light. So are the golden hour shots, but the amount of time to wait in line with other photographers can be a bit troublesome. One of my biggest personal challenges was the night sakura, which is quite mysterious.
After full bloom sakura petals slowly drifting from trees are magic as well. So if you arrive late in your travels to any sakura scene, many creative and beautiful photo opportunities will still surround you
One spring I was late for the full bloom, but was lucky to see the final accord of cherry paradise in Nara.
The lush petals were still drifting through the air and around my feet, so remember, sometimes the best shots come to you in an unexpected time or place.