Vacation & Street Photography during the Japanese Cherry Blossom, also known as Sakura

Vacation & Street Photography during the Japanese Cherry Blossom, also known as Sakura

Last year, in January, my wife and I have moved in Japan after living for five years in South Korea, a place that has grown on us and had become something we proudly have called Home. Slowly but surely, our time spent in Tokyo and Yokohama has made the Land of the Rising Sun feels like home too.

Today I’m going to write about my experience as a street photographer, living aside stories about shooting families or pets. I know this is a long debated subject, but I will focus on my photos and experience in this amazing country.

Park Picnic in Tokyo during Sakura Season
Park Picnic in Tokyo during Sakura Season

Seeing couples enjoying outdoor scenery is very common and especially during Sakura Season. People around the Globe are having planned the vacations to Nihon land to see and enjoy the Cherry Blossom. For many people the Land of the Rising Sun is also synonym with Sakura and planning the vacation during the photogenic Cherry blossom peak comes without much thinking. 

Sakura Season it’s the best time to schedule a vacation photography session in Tokyo 

Hanami (花見, “flower viewing”) is the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the transient beauty of flowers” according to Wikipedia and indeed I can tell you that hanami is a custom very popular among both local Japanese people and also tourists. Locals take it even a step further and share the joy of viewing the Cherry Blossoms with the entire families, friends, kids and pets (yes, taking your favorite pet for a walk under Sakura petals is quite nice) with whom they toast a glass of champagne (pets don’t react well after champagne 😉 ). Möet is a real thing during Sakura on Nippon land.

Sakura/Cherry Flowers in Tachikawa, 2014th, Tokyo
Sakura/Cherry Flowers in Tachikawa, 2014th, Tokyo

During Sakura, the amount of crowds are something I have never seen before, tourists and locals are pouring on the streets and alleys where Cherry Trees are. People are photographing every side of every tree hoping they’ll get the best shot ever, or at least the best memory. Not to mention the photography aficionados, be it hobbyists of professional photographers with the latest trends in camera gear, tripods, lenses and huge backpacks to accommodate all of the above spend hours creating millions of photographs that will probably will never be consumed. Couples and families hire photographers to provide them great memories for the loved ones or just to capture beautiful moments for years to come. Photography is indeed one of the best solutions to “Frame Our Life Stories” as I like to say. As a tourist on the Nippon land during Sakura (and not only) you can book a photography session with me (Cristian Bucur Photography) and even rent out a Kimono to complete the Japanese experience from Yae in Asakusa

Friends wearing Komonos in Asakusa, near by Sensoji Temple, Tokyo

Couple photo shoot in Tokyo

As a photographer, my Sakura adventure started in the first year living in here at Nakameguro canal. Trust me, this is the Cherry Blossom Wonderland, the most accessible place if you are in downtown Tokyo. On the sides of the canal you can experience street food, the aforementioned champagne, coffee shops and more. Couples and families arrange photo shoots during walks under the Cherry Blossom which will become memory treasures for years to come. After all, this is the Land of the Rising Sun, with the most relaxed and easy going people.

Sakura/Cherry Blossoms in Shinjuku Gyoen National Park
Sakura/Cherry Blossoms in Shinjuku Gyoen National Park

Cherry trees were one more beautiful than the last one. Birds were chirping and people enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere. Occasionally I would stop so I can take more photos or steal portraits of people enjoying their time in the park. Some of the more talented people were painting and drawing the beautiful trees in full blossom, with patience and dedication. Blending in as a tourist helped me as a street photographer to create beautiful photographs to remind me of the first Sakura Season as a “local”.

Man painting Cherry Trees during full blossom in Shinjuku Gyoen National Park
Man painting Cherry Trees during full blossom in Shinjuku Gyoen National Park

I couldn’t stop telling to myself what a dream I live to be a photographer located in Tokyo 23 wards; this city has so much to offer, any time of the year. It feeds my photographic appetite any time of the day, be it with street photography or photo shoots with beautiful big families of four or more members. You can actually read here my latest post I have wrote about the experience I had during a family photoshoot in Roppongi Hills.

After walking almost all of the Nakameguro canal, I decided to head off to the Imperial Palace which is located in the center of the city, only a very short walk from the beautiful Tokyo Station. Here I have spent quite a bit of time admiring the palace’s architecture and the beautiful Japanese gardens that amazed everyone around me, from local to tourists alike. Having my heart and soul filled up with great memories and my memory cards with amazing photos, I went for a late lunch to have Japanese noodles, known also as ramen (wheat noodles). Of course, there are a lot of other kinds of noodles, but you know, we humans have only one stomach and to be faire I kinda looked for menus in English. 🙂

Entrance to Imperial Palace Tokyo
Entrance to Imperial Palace Tokyo

Said and done, I left the restaurant and decided to go visit Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. On my way there, I kinda got lost in another park…. Even to this day I can’t figure out where that was. It might have been the park around the Akasaka Imperial Property, or Meiji Jingu Gaien Nikoniko Park. I have no idea. Down bellow is one table that has a similar concept (to me) with The Table of Silence carved by Constantin Brancuși. Interesting, isn’t it?

Here more about it.

Round stone table with round chairs in Tokyo
Round stone table with round chairs in Tokyo

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is a large park where one can stay for hours to enjoy the tranquil scenery for only 500 Yen. No wonder why this park has a paid entry, because it’s both huge and has a great landscaping maintained all year round. The park is somewhat divided in smaller units, some that look more like Japanese traditional gardens while other have more of a Western look. The bad news is… or was… I haven’t checked the opening hours of the park. Mondays (or following day if Monday is a national holiday) are the days when the park is closed, probably for maintenance. So…. No Sakura photos in Shinjuku Gyoen National Park that day. Because I’m a relentless photographer, days later after my first attempt to photograph this park from Flowery Kingdom, I came back to the park fully geared up with my camera, lenses and tripod. I have even did some long exposures using neutral density filters.
It is worth mentioning especially for people who what shoots in parks in Tokyo, that in most of the parks commercial photo shoots require a permit after paying a fee, information available from the local ward if I understand right.

Sakura long exposure photograph taken in Shinjuku Gyoen National Park, Tokyo (around 30 seconds was the exposure if I remember well).
Sakura long exposure photograph taken in Shinjuku Gyoen National Park, Tokyo (around 30 seconds was the exposure if I remember well).

Don’t think I have kept myself in a continuous photo shoot all over the places, but here and there I stopped when I considered a good spot would help me get a good photograph. In the following days I have continued with my adventure for vacation/travel photos, visiting parts of Tokyo and Yokohama.

Landmark Tower in Minato Mirai makes for such great views over Yokohama and if there is a clear day, even Fuji is visible.

Yokohama Bay panoramic view from the top of the Landmark Tower.
Yokohama Bay panoramic view from the top of the Landmark Tower.

To be precise, you can drink a coffee with spectacular views of Mount Fuji. Red Brick Warehouses, Ohsanbashi Pier and Yokohama Chinatown are also some of the top picks with my favorite place being the Chinatown. I just can’t have enough of it.

View over Yokohama; amazing how many constructions are, right? And all of them perfectly aligned.
View over Yokohama; amazing how many constructions are, right? And all of them perfectly aligned.

Since you red all of my words until here, keep an eye on my blog as I am always trying to write about my experiences as a photographer living in The Great Nihon. This is the first blog post I write about my other photography experiences here and where I show you places and people through my city/landscape and street photography. I have a lot more photographs published on my Instagram Travel Profile which is accessible directly from here or simply type @crisphototravels in Instagram Search.

Are you looking to hire a professional photographer in Japan? Make sure you click the contact button down below and book your photography session with me anywhere in Tokyo or Yokohama and allow me to tell your story through my vision.  Are you going to fly in Osaka and have time to visit only Kyoto? No worries, I can travel there too and show you around. 

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Couple photography session in Roppongi Hills, Tokyo

Couple photography session in Roppongi Hills, Tokyo

Now I finally get to blog about my favorite couple photoshoot in Tokyo. Well, to be more precise, it did happen in Roppongi Hills, a place that gives me as a photographer a lot of options to play with the light and shadows, different backgrounds, like Tokyo Tower or just a plain park scene. Roppongi Hills really is a versatile place, visited by many tourists every single day with plenty attractive things to do and see. Did I mention high-end shopping stores? 🙂

Couple photo, Roppongi Hills

At the right time, the couple have arrived at the meeting point near by the giant spider structure that dominates both the square and the tourists’ photos and selfies. Since e-mails and text messages don’t have accents, I was “ambushed” by the lovely couple with a nice, subtle and delicate French accent,  which obviously made me think of Bordo and Edith Piaf: “Non, je no regrette rien”, one of the songs I absolutely love listening to. While I was in school although I hated learning French, I have always loved the way it sounds… “de la musique”. 

Absolutely stunning song.

These are Ambre and Romain. I hope I got the spelling right, because apparently autocorrect spells Amber and Romaine, the later meaning salad…. and for an almost rocket scientist wouldn’t sound quite right. Romain is an engineer who designs robots that go into space to detect, learn and…. lets get back to me being English speaking photographer in Tokyo, shall we? 😉

Ambre and Romain, great looking couple with an inspiring love story

After I only took a few shots, I realized two things: a stunning connection between the two and an engineer frozen in front of my lens. It absolutely amazed me the way they look into each other’s eyes. The problem was… and I quote “you can imagine, SHE dragged me into this”! I totally get it man, I myself, I would rather shoot than be shoot at too, but hey, that’s why I am a photographer doing couple portraits in Tokyo. 

Now, my brain was at full speed, using all of it’s “ram memory”: how do I distract Romain’s thoughts from thinking he’s in front of a camera? Well, I had started to talk about my own fear related to the camera, hoping that this will help relaxing Romain because the photoshoot session was still at the beginning. Indeed, talking about me and refocusing the “target” took off some of the pressure Romain was experiencing, so much by the end of the photoshoot he has forgotten why he was frozen. Not to mention he did it in the name of love, isn’t that beautiful?

That’s how love looks like

As you have guessed already, Ambre and Romain are both from France.  Ambre is from Paris suburb and Romain is from the southern part of France. They have met in engineering school in the west of France when Romain was already in the 2nd year and she was just a freshman.

They both have dreamed of studying abroad but as Romain was one year ahead and he has had already entered the process of coming to Japan for a double degree in a Japanese famous university at the time they have become a couple.

Roppongi Hills gives many opportunities to make couple photos.

Amber is remembering: “for my part, I didn’t have any plan to live in Japan someday, I had thought about going in English speaking countries but not Japan as I didn’t speak Japanese. But I had to decide whether or not following Romain to Japan, which meant whether or not I wanted the relationship to continue because we were young and very long distance relationship are very difficult. But I was in love and after all, why not? Living in Japan for a few years was not in my plan and it was sure a challenge but I loved the culture and I wouldn’t be completely alone so I did everything I could to learn Japanese, be accepted to the double degree and work a lot to get there.

After 3 years including one whole year of long distance relationship between France and Japan, we are living together in Kawasaki, both successful in our study/career paths, still thirsty of adventure in this beautiful country and happy as hell.”

Who would’ve thought that on a beautiful sunny day of November I would get to find out such a great love story during a couple photography session in Roppongi Hills? Well, over the time I have learnt to assume nothing and wait to discover the facts at the right time.

It is such a bless to be photographing so many people and find out their beautiful stories through my lenses. I get to learn, meet and discovered new people on a daily basis. More often than not, people open up and I have the chance to learn their life stories. Even though one hour photography session doesn’t sounds much, it actually is enough to gather precious information. 

What a smile?

Being the man behind the camera I get to see that micro face expression that tells me so much, that sparkle in the eye, that doesn’t need words nor it can be properly express through words. This fills up my soul and motivates me to pursue my passion and live for the rest of my life as a photographer, be it in Japan or elsewhere on our beautiful planet. I know it sounds like a cliche and I have already said it in other blog post about a family photoshoot I did in Tokyo, I do Frame Your Life Stories through my photography and I truly believe my photographs will virtually last for forever and make everyone happy for years to come.

Keep an eye close to my blog as I have in plan to bring up more touching and true love stories like Ambre and Romain’s and also write about my experience as a photographer. 

Great looking couple.

Click the contact button below and book your photography session with me anywhere in Tokyo or Yokohama and allow me to tell your story through my vision.  If you are like me and like to travel, that would only be perfect, you can book me too for your vacation photoshoot in Kyoto, or for that matter, anywhere in Japan. Shinkansen trains are insanely fast and Kyoto is only two hours away from a great photoshoot.