Chasing the Essence of Cherry Blossoms, you first have to understand that Cherry Blossom Photo Tours are different every year. You have to watch the weather charts closely the Japanese sakura or cherry blossoms flourish at different times depending on which region of Japan you are visiting because Japan is latitudinally long at over 3,000 kilometers and has 6,852 islands, and each island and specific location has individual characteristics that occur only in that region, so photo tours become a bit of a game as you are chasing cherry blossoms of different varieties cross-country.
Weather is key to the timing of cherry blossoms you will see. An unseasonable weather front bringing unusually warm temperatures can start a cascade reaction and convince the blushing cherry blossoms to open and begin the hanami (cherry blossom) viewing season. Moreover, several international photographers who visit Japan think that visiting only one location that is reported to have the best cherry blossoms is all that’s needed to get the quintessential cherry blossom photo.
I have been chasing Cherry Blossoms for over twenty years in Japan professionally as an educator of the visual arts, for magazines, books, billboards and as a photo workshop leader, I know that cherry blossoms present unique photo ops depending on where you are in Japan, and that same experience comes into play when planning out the perfect cherry blossom photo workshop/tour. Also, having the zen beginner’s mindset means approaching a similar subject free of expectation prepared to make the experience of photography at the moment the focus, not anything, or any photo that a photographer has captured before. Japanese dogma has made “Zen,” a household word know around the world; Japan’s aesthetics are drawn inspirationally from elements of nature and Buddhist philosophies. The art of traditional Japanese architecture and gardens with their aesthetically pleasing elegant simplicity has inspired and fascinated generations of artisans. The spiritual master Shunryu Suzuki who was born a short drive from my photography studio in Kanagawa, once said, “Whatever you do is Zen. That is why I like Zen. In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities, but in the experts,’ there are few.” The “beginner's mindset” in Zen Buddhism we call this ‘Shoshin,' having an attitude of openness and lack of preconceptions when approaching any study, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would. For as long as I can remember, I have striven to keep the beginner's mindset. Sacred Mt. Fuji I have visited hundreds of times with camera in hand, and every time I return I am happy, eager with enthusiasm and curiosity to experiencing the new perspective
Many prefectures across Japan have their own amazing or highly recommended area, and each part of the location plays a key role in appreciating the ephemeral cherry blossoms' simplicity and beauty of Japan’s national flower. (Some people say the unofficial national flower of Japan is the chrysanthemum, which has long been a symbol of the Japanese Imperial Family. However, most believe that the sakura is the national flower because most of the world loves the image to hanami and those lucky enough to celebrate these flowers in the spring return time and time again. In Aichi Prefecture, you can photograph the spectacular blossoms along the Gojo River, and perhaps you may view the perfect cherry blossom snow as in the last samurai so artfully. In Niigata prefecture, Myoko and region are home to the prefecture’s most beautiful display of cherry blossoms. Niigata has many Samurai Castles and Buddhist sanctuaries without having to fight the crowds, as one will have to in Kyoto and Tokyo, and other major hubs on the beaten path. Visiting Japan and joining one of my photo workshops, you will have photographic evidence of your time spent in Japan, chasing the perfect cherry blossom, and you will be able to create the ideal gallery theme with only sakura as the subject.
Of course, Tokyo also holds many of what are considered to be the best spots in Japan for enjoying hanami’, (this is due to them being easily accessible), as well as taking photographs of a few open spaces that a few park offers. This is definitely an on the beaten path location, but it has its value for the sheer volume of glorious blossoms and the opportunities to partake in a sampling of modern Japanese culture while on your Cherry Blossom photo tour. If, however, you would like to see a little less foot traffic and experience authentic untold stories of Japan on your spring photo tour, my and my team's years of experience in Japan will benefit you. There are a few lesser known spots that yield beauty of an entirely different variety.
Of course, Tokyo also holds many of what are considered to be top spots in Japan for enjoying hanami of the Sakura’, (they are top in due to them being easily accessible), but many spots in the Capital City of Japan are artfully planted, and in the blue hour the lighting is artfully displayed. This is definitely an on the beaten path experience, but it has its value and the opportunities to partake in a sampling of modern Japanese culture while on your Cherry Blossom photo tour. If, however, you would like to see a little less foot traffic and experience authentic untold stories of Japan on your spring photo tour, my and my team's years of experience in Japan will benefit you. There is a handful of lesser-known spots that yield beauty of an entirely different variety in the Captial and beyond.