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. 

Make sure you visit my Instagram profile and support me by hitting that follow button.

Family Portrait Photographer in Tokyo

Family Portrait Photographer in Tokyo

November was a busy yet a beautiful month for me as a photographer based in Tokyo Metropolitan area. Beautiful weather and great temperatures only helped me and the clients I had to spend a great time outdoors. My clients are ranging from professional models, individuals, pets, families, Goldsmith and Jewelry maker (@diaroxx) and even a bodybuilder who won 1st place in Amateur Olympia 2019 in Japan.

Perfect image to illustrate how dynamic these brothers are

Some of you may know that in January this year my wife and I have moved in Japan after living 5 full years in Seoul, South Korea. Things are quietly falling into place and day after day life becomes easier and more beautiful. Technically we are living in Yokohama,  45 minutes away from the overcrowded Shibuya crossing, which by the end of the day is only a good thing. We live in a stand alone house, have a garden and our area is regarded as a family area, so a quiet and quite serene place, where people say hello to each other and kids play on the street. Here and there an earthquake shakes my computer, one even recently while writing another blog post.

At the beginning of November, Brinley had contacted me to be her family’s photographer. Her e-mail started like this:

“Hi Cristian,

We are the Bradley family. We are from Utah. We lived in Tokyo from 2013-2014 and then moved back to the U.S. In 2019 we moved back to Tokyo, but now with 3 children, ages 5, 4, and 1. We love to travel together. We also love hiking and exploring the mountains.

We have been to Canada, Mexico, France, England, Hawaii, and Japan. Next year we are hoping to visit Thailand or Bali. I work as a nurse, and Kolby works in sales for a tech company.

Could you take our family portraits around Roppongi Area?

Thank you,
Brinley Bradley”

Even when posing, the kids are on the move

I was very glad reading all her e-mail filled up with so much information. Let me tell you, families with many members are a bless to work with. Do you think this statement sounds confusing because in fact that means more challenging work for a family photographer? Well, large families do have a very distinctive dynamic and usually members (read “the children”) are more willing to show off their playing skills in a more competitive way. 

Please allow me to explain this for you: my work as a photographer gets actually much easier, although I have to physically run many times during the outdoor photography session. In the same time, I don’t have to ask the kids to do anything  for me, which automatically translates into natural and genuine reactions beautifully captured into amazing photographs. They will just do it, and I, as a professional photographer I will be ready to capture the essence of each one.

If you tend to think that photographing a toddler is hard, or, on the contrary, it’s easy… well, let me tell you that being a kids photographer is not really a rocket science; you only need to love kids and know when to stop, yes, stop. I always concentrate on discovering the personality of who the little man or the young lady is. I approach any child smiling and trying to be as friendly as possible, but with the same work ethic and  seriousness as I would during a corporate head shoot. And that translates into great photographs where the mother’s will wow like Brinley did after seeing her daughter’s portrait:

“Oh my gosh. That is PERFECT. That is my favorite photo of her I’ve ever seen!”

“Oh my gosh. That is PERFECT. That is my favorite photo of her I’ve ever seen!”

Of course, having a very fit and great looking family in front of my camera, is from the start a very good recipe for making great family portraits and the Bradleys are just that: a very beautiful family, with a smile cut from tooth paste commercials. Yup, I just said it 🙂

Now let me properly introduce you the Bradleys, the way I got to know them at Roppongi Hills in Tokyo. I will start with the mother, Brinley,  which is a very dynamic and strong woman who manage raising while keeping safe her three beautiful children, two boys and one girl. She is smiling all the time and during the photoshoot I never heard her complaining about anything. That’s a skill a need to learn myself 🙂 

The family’s oldest child is a boy, who’s name is Kai. As you can see bellow, he is already a model. His smile says it all: I’m smart, I’m beautiful, I am conquering everyone and everything. It was and absolute bless to make his perfect smiling portraits.

Look at that perfect smile!

Presley is the only daughter of the family, and she is a climber. She would climb anything if she could, while having a giant victorious smile on her face. Even if I see a lot of active children during the family photoshoots or kids parties I photograph, Presley managed to raise my heart bit while climbing after a flyer that was a little (maybe more than a little) bit too high for her height. That’s a good attitude to have: nothing is too hard to reach at any point in life. Parenting success one to one here.

Yup, climbing all the time 🙂

Ledger, is the youngest man of the family, who expresses himself more through cries than words, but that’s what means to be a one year old toddler. He manages to get whatever he wants an he doesn’t stop until everyone around complies. So… he may be the next CEO or a great entrepreneur. I think we need more entrepreneurs than CEOs, but that’s for him to decide, and he has at least 17 years  to take that decision 🙂

You’re guessing right if you think he was looking for his mother.

Last but not the least, Kolby is the husband and the father of the family. I personally believe that he is one of the most involved man in both the photoshoot and being a father for his children.  Usually the fathers gladly takes a place on the side but he was actively involved all the time. Ohh, I appreciate men who aren’t afraid in front of the camera; that’s yet material for another post about about a robot engineer and her girlfriend. He was so scared!
Going back to Kolby, he’s a great person and we connected and start to communicate from the first second we met. This is the best ingredient for a perfect portrait.

Roppongi Hills is a very touristic place, both because of the two observatories  which gives amazing indoor views of the city at 250 meters above sea level or the Sky Deck outdoor at 270 meters above sea level and the exclusivist shopping available in the area.

For me as a photographer, taking family portraits around Roppongi Hills is a great opportunity as I like a lot the ever changing light around the immense glass tower where I can get both park looking photos or city like portraits against the skyline or Tokyo Tower.

Most probably this is the longest blog post I ever made, but hey, great time and memories deserve to be shared. You can guess I love my work and I put a lot of passion into it. I consider photography as great tool to preserve memories but also food for soul, that’s why if you need a portrait photographer in Tokyo or anywhere in Japan  to frame you life stories, please feel free to write me  an e-mail by hitting the contact button bellow.

Instagram @cristiancbucur and Facebook are also just a click away if you want to get in contact with me.