I haven’t been updating my blog as often as I usually do, because I’ve been living my best life exploring Japan and chasing cherry blossoms as they bloom for the past six weeks, and I’ve had the time of my life! Expect to see my adventures from Kyoto, Osaka, more than a dozen neighborhoods in Tokyo, Nara, Himeji, Kurokawa Onsen, Hakone, Mt. Fuji, Nikko, Tokyo DisneySea, and a few other cities in the coming weeks as I show you some of the most breathtaking scenery and sites from Asia.
We woke up every day before the sun, and went to bed long after it had set exploring the best and most unbelievable places in Japan. We tried some of the best food the land of the rising sun has to offer, we climbed mountains, explored temples and shrines, soaked in hot spring caves, learned about Shintoism from a shrine maiden, walked more than 40,000 steps a day, climbed an average of 100 flights of stairs every day, met with geisha, learned how sake was made, basked in the beauty of cherry blossoms in more than a dozen cities, and that barely scratches the surface of what we did and learned in Japan.
I can’t wait to show you everything we’ve been up to, and all of the incredible adventures we are going on the rest of the year. Be sure to sign up for email notifications with each post, and stay tuned on how you can win flights and hotels to Japan to see it all for yourself! In the meantime, enjoy some of the incredible photos of cherry blossoms I captured around Japan! I still have roughly 15,000 images to go through, so expect to see many, many more photos of food, adventures, architecture, art, and fashion from one of my favorite places in the world.
How to Photograph Cherry Blossoms
I can’t stress the importance of investing in a quality camera if you are serious about photography. You can check out my About & FAQ section to read all about my recommendations for photography equipment and learn about the cameras I currently use. You will be so much happier with your pictures if you use a real camera instead of your phone’s camera, I promise.
Try to get to your location as early as possible, especially while the sun is still rising and the light is soft and warm. Another benefit of getting to your location early is that you’ll have fewer people to compete with, and feel less pressure to rush. In many places around Japan it is a crime to damage or pick cherry blossoms, but you can still get incredible shots with the blossoms on the trees, and the ones that fall to the ground.
Decide if you want to use a macro lens (great for close up shots and capturing details like the veins in the petals), a long range lens (which can be used like a macro lens from afar, with a bit less detail, but still incredible color), or a wide angle lens to capture wider scenes. If you have all 3 types of lenses, bring all three and capture a variety of shots.
Since cherry blossoms are semi-sheer flowers, you can play with the lighting you use, or pass colored lights from behind the blossoms to create unique colors effects. You don’t even necessarily need off camera flash or colored gels for this, you can simply use reflections from your surroundings, like orange painted temples, blue skies or water, or even other flowers nearby. This creates unique colors, unique shots, and unique compositions.
Varieties of Cherry Blossoms
Prior to arriving in Japan and seeing them for myself, I had no idea that there were so many varieties of cherry blossoms, that they could range from deep magenta to crisp white and every shade of pink in between. Some trees even have green tinted blossoms. Did you know there are more than 100 varieties of cherry blossoms that can be found in Japan? While I won’t go over each type in this post, I will tell you how you can figure out the identity of the blooms in front of you. There are two main types of trees cherry blossoms can be found on, the first is the most common, and they appear to be a typical tree, which is the main type of tree you’ll see in Japan. More rarely, you’ll find cherry blossoms trees that droop like willow trees, with sparser blossoms. These trees bloom longer and have more fragrant flowers.
Count the number of petals cherry blossoms have. Many varieties will only have 5 petals, while other less common varieties will have dozens, and look almost like small chrysanthemums. I found one example of this type, shown below.
If you like these, I’ll post a second part as well, with even more cherry blossoms. Below are some of my favorite cherry blossom shots, and where I found them, along with the type of blossom they are when applicable.
If you’d like to buy prints of any of the photos below, click here to be taken to my shoppable portfolio.
Best Spots to View Cherry Blossoms
Location: Near the Pagoda in Ueno Park, Tokyo | Cherry Blossoms over Tokyo Spring Festival Stand
Location: Nikko | Shidarezakura (Weeping Cherry) Cherry Blossoms Outside Tōshō-gū Shrine
Location: Osaka | Cherry Blossoms in Osaka Castle Gardens
Location: Hiroshima | Peace Offering
(These Afterglow Cherry Blossoms had fallen off the tree, and we picked them up off the ground, we did not pick from a tree)
Location: Gion | Cherry Blossoms Over the Water
Location: Kyoto | White Cherry Blossoms in Fushimi Inari Shrine
Location: Nara | Pink-White Cherry Blossoms in Nikko Deer Park, Nara, Japan
Location: Himeji | Pink Cherry Blossoms Over Himeji Castle at Sunset
Location: Kurakawa Onsen | Kanzakura Cherry Blossoms in Kurakawa Onsen (Mountainous Hot Spring Town)
Location: Shinjuku | Woman Painting Cherry blossoms in Shinjuku Park
Location: Hakone | Cherry Blossoms in Hakone, in the Shadow of Mt. Fuji
Location: Todaiji Temple | Cherry Blossoms Outside Todaiji Temple
Locations: Various Across Japan
Farewell, fellow adventurers!
Sheri Someday says
Beautiful post Annie. I visited Japan a few years ago during Sakura season. I wish I had written more blog posts on it as it was one of the most beautiful parts of my year long trip. Blogs really help you to remember your journey. I love your Gion shot. The Philosopher’s Path in Kyoto was one of my favorite spots as well as a few gardens there. It’s all so lovely!
Thank you so much, Sheri! Isn’t Japan incredible? I absolutely love it here, and I am really going to miss it when we go home. The people, the food, the culture, the atmosphere, the history, the cherry blossoms are all so spectacular, and I’m thankful I was able to experience it for myself, finally. Did you spend an entire year in Japan, or did you explorer other places too? Kyoto has so many beautiful places, I’m so excited to share everything I saw during my time there!
Christina H. says
Such beautiful flowers! I didn’t know they had deep magenta colored varieties either. I’ve only ever seen light pink to white in DC.
These are SO beautiful!
Isabella Marie Fanucci says
This has always been a dream of mine! If I make it I will definitely be using this guide