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The arrival of the cherry blossom in Japan has been an integral part of Japanese culture for thousands of years. Signalling the end of winter people would gather to welcome spring. But the annual blossom is also a great addition to any photography. Here is our guide on how best to photograph it.

Meguro River (目黒川) – Tokyo

With nearly 1,000 Sakura trees lining the banks of the Meguro river it looks amazing any time of day but really comes alive at dusk when the lights come on and bath the cherry blossoms and river below in a wonderful pink hue.

The cherry blossom festival is held here so it does get very busy but with numerous bridges, it is easy to get yourself a great view down the river. Japanese culture is very polite and respectful so even if the spot you want is busy it won’t be long until someone moves aside and lets you take a turn. This is one of the best places to experience the cherry blossom in Japan.

Entrance fee: Free

Getting there: Head to Naka Meguro station on the Hibiya Line. As you exit the station cross over the road and head one block south to reach the river.

When to go: Its great to walk along the river early morning but it really comes to life at dusk when the lights come on.

Top photo tip: If you shoot at dusk/night be prepared to bump up the ISO. It gets very busy so tripods are not easy to position and will get knocked (accidentally).

meguro-river-tokyo-japan-cheery-blossom

Shinjuku Gyoen (新宿御苑) – Tokyo

Shinjuko Gyoen is a large national garden that features over a thousand variations of Sakura trees. The gardens are manicured beautiful and make for some beautiful images. You can combine the old and new with the Docomo tower reflecting in the western pond. Or you can capture the fallen petals on the lake in front of the stunning Kyu Goryotei pavilion.

Entrance fee: Free

Getting there: Head to Shinjuku-Gyoemmae Station on the Marunouchi Line. From here it’s just five-minute walk to the park.

When to go: The gardens open at 9 am but the queue builds up around 30 minutes before so get there by 8:30 pm if you want to be the first in. The park shuts at 4 pm so you won’t have the opportunity to capture the nice afternoon light unless you are visiting in Winter. The park is closed on Mondays.

Top photo tip: Be first in and head to the Kyu Goryotei pavilion to capture images with no one else in.

shinjuku-gyoen-tokyo-japan

Chidorigafuchi (千鳥ヶ淵) – Tokyo

The Imperial Palace is surrounded by the Chidorigafuchi walking path. The moat around the castle is stunning during cherry blossom season. Look out for the boats coming out on the moat. It adds that little bit of extra impact to your photos.

Entrance fee: Free

Getting there: Head to Kudanshita Station. From here head up to Kudanzaka Park to enjoy views of the moat lined by Sakura trees and leading to the Tokyo tower. The Tokyo tower has been slightly obstructed by a new building but won’t affect the quality of your images.

When to go: Arrive late in the afternoon when the light is soft and the moat if full of boats.

Top photo tip: This is a very popular Sakura viewing spot and space is limited so give yourself enough time to get your spot. Alternatively, rent a boat for a fresh perspective.

chidorigafuchi-tokyo-japan-cheery-blossom

Aoyama Cemetery (青山霊園) – Tokyo

Aoyama Cemetery is one of the largest cemeteries in Tokyo. There are over 300 Sakura trees perfectly placed along the promenade. It’s often very quiet and peaceful so which makes a nice change from other cherry blossom spots.

Entrance fee: Free

Getting there: Head to Nogizaka Station on the Chiyoda line. The cemetery is a is just a couple of blocks east of the station.

When to go: The mornings are lovely and peaceful and its open 24 hours a day. So you can arrive as early as you want.

Top photo tip: Arrive early and spend a little while wandering around. If you are lucky you will capture a priest or monk in the grounds perfectly framed by the cherry blossom.

aoyama-cemetery-tokyo-japan-cheery-blossom

Yoyogi Park (代々木公園) – Tokyo

Yoyogi park gets very busy during the cherry blossom season. This is due to its popularity as a location for a Sakura Party (Picnic) and a host of other events. I wouldn’t usually suggest such crowded locations. But the primary goal of coming to Yoyogi park is to capture the hustle and bustle and fun that comes with a Sakura Party.

Entrance fee: Free

Getting there: Head to Harajuku Station on the JR line. The station runs parallel with the park so its not hard to find.

When to go: The park starts to get busy from late morning. But late afternoon as always produces the best light.

Top photo tip: Walk around and immerse yourself in the activities and don’t be afraid to approach people and get involved with the festivities. Japanese people are friendly and welcoming.

yoyogi-park-tokyo-japan-cheery-blossom

Sumida Park (隅田公園) – Tokyo

Sumida Park is a great place to enjoy the cherry blossom and some of Tokyo’s most impressive landmarks. The Skytree in the background and Sumida River in the foreground reflect the 100’s of Sakura trees that line the banks of the river perfectly.

Entrance fee: Free unless you take a river cruise.

Getting there: Take the train to Asakusa Station. From there head north up the river a couple of blocks and the park is located on the opposite side of the river. To get to the park cross the bridge right outside the station and head north to get to the park.

When to go: Both sunrise and sunset are great times to capture the views across the river.

Top photo tip: Look to frame the Skytree with cherry blossom

sumida-park-tokyo-japan-cheery-blossom

Chureito Pagoda (忠霊塔)- Mount Fuji

Chureito Pagoda is one of the most popular spots for photographers in the country. With its perfect composition of Mount Fuji in the background and Sakura trees to the left, it’s obvious why. Built in 1963, the Pagoda is still new so doesn’t attract much attention from locals. It’s almost only for tourists.

It wasn’t long ago that this spot was unknown and all you had to worry about was the hundreds of steps up to the pagoda. Now there is a queue to the viewing platform that only allows you 5 minutes and no tripods. This isn’t a huge problem for photographers though as its quite at sunrise and sunset when the light is at its best. At that time the guards either haven’t started or already finished for the day.

Entrance fee: Free

Getting there: You need to catch a train from Kawaguchiko to Shimoyoshida before making the short walk under the road. Don’t forget the 396 steps to the Pagodas base. Unfortunately, the trains don’t run before sunrise during cherry blossom season so your only option is a taxi or bike.

When to go: Sunrise, Sunset and blue hour are all great times to shoot this iconic scene.

Top photo tip: Look to arrive up to an hour before sunrise to get yourself a good spot.

chureito-pagoda-mount-fuji-japan

Kawaguchiko (河口湖駅) – Mount Fuji

The North bank of Lake Kawaguchiko is the location I found best to photograph Mount Fuji. Jump back on the bank on the opposite side of the road and you can capture Fuji reflecting in the lake and framed by cherry blossom.

Entrance fee: Free

Getting there: Catch the red bus and get off at stop 12 and head towards stop 13. Somewhere between these two stops you should be able to find the perfect spot.

When to go: Sunrise. Catch it right and the sky lights up just perfect.

Top photo tip: Don’t just shoot the cherry blossom, head down to the lake shore.

kawaguchiko-mount-fuji

Philosophers Path (哲学の道 ) – Kyoto

The Philosopher’s Path is a pedestrian path that follows a cherry-tree-lined canal in northeast Kyoto. It’s between Ginkaku-ji and Nanzen-ji. It’s very similar to the Meguro river in Tokyo but a little quainter. It is also often filled with girls dressed in traditional attire which can make for some great photos.

Entrance fee: Free

Getting there: Head to Keage on the Tozai line. The Philosopher’s path is just a short walk north. Don’t forget to stop at the Kage incline on the way. An unused rail track lined with Sakura trees.

When to go: Late afternoon is a great time to meander through the path.

Top Photo tip: Don’t be shy. Ask the girls/women in traditional dress to pose for photos. They are very happy to do so but make sure to offer to send them the photo when you get home.

philosophers-path-japan-cheery-blossom

This is a country where culture, tradition and beauty all intertwine to offer endless photo opportunities. At no time is this more impressive than the annual cherry blossom in Japan.


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