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.

Portrait Photoshoot in Asakusa, Tokyo

Portrait Photoshoot in Asakusa, Tokyo

A while back I heard from Jay who is from Singapore, that he wants to have some outdoor portraits done. Please allow me get this straight from the beginning, Jay is a dream client for any photographer in Tokyo or beyond. 

Photograph taken in Asakusa, Tokyo

My first thought went to what location to go to, because Tokyo Metropolitan Area has so many places to choose from, that sometimes is hard to make up my mind. Long story short, the decision was made for Asakusa Area, including the Sensoji Temple. This area is so beautiful and charismatic that can fit any photographic purposes, from families with many children to single travelers who wants their memories captured by a local photographer. (yes me, you got that right 😉 )

Got asked by these two girls to snap a photo of them on their phone and I also took one on my camera; I’m still waiting for an e-mail from them to send over this shot….

Because I don’t live in downtown Tokyo and I have to travel by subway from Yokohama, I still feel like I am a tourist when I go in the city center, which is a great deal as I get to enjoy extra my time during photo sessions.  Getting to Asakusa is pretty easy and Google Maps is of a great help. Well, except when it doesn’t work due to poor coverage; in case you wonder what that suppose to mean, well, because of so many users aka smartphones per square meter, the signal and data are very poor and sometimes it’s hard to load anything.

Now, if you go to Asakusa by subway you might be lucky enough to exit via this beautiful entrance/exit which you can see down bellow. I wish a lot more subway entrances would look this good, almost like a statement for this beautiful traditional architecture. 

After getting there, I made sure I have time enough to have a coffee and just enjoy the street show filled up with tourists and locals alike. Asakusa district has a very special feel and atmosphere. The main attraction for tourists is the the Buddhist Temple Sensoji. Asakusa area has been largely affected by the Second World War and the formerly entertaining parts of it like red light district, theaters, had never been rebuilt. Nowadays Asakusa has regained its tourists also because near by has set foot Tokyo Skytree, which is only a twenty minutes walk over one of the bridges across Sumida River.

Jay in front of a place that does palm readings, a custom that holds the name “palmistry”, and you know, is characterized mostly by foretelling the future.

Right after I finished enjoying my coffee, Jay had arrived and we started walking around the crowded streets of Asakusa that surrounds the famous Sensoji Temple. Because casual was the dominant word for our photoshoot, we decided to walk around and stop whenever we want to take a photograph that looked interesting both due to local architecture details, or simply because we liked the light or other elements present there. That way we managed to cover quite a few streets including the five storied Sensoji Pagoda inside  the temple premises.

Not many people know, but in Asakusa is a government owned building which has free entry that has a great view over Asakusa, including the Nakamise shopping street and the Sensoji Buddhist Temple.

For the closing portrait shots, we decided to head to the Sumida Riverside and take a few more portraits having Tokyo Skytree in the background. 

I had an amazing time photographing Jay and I’m already looking forward to be again his portrait photographer anywhere in Tokyo or beyond. 

For any inquiries please hit the contact button below and let me know what are your plans for your incoming trip in Japan and where you’d like to schedule a photography session with me, Cristian Bucur, so you can Frame Your Life Stories. Keep an eye on my website as very soon I will start writing about my experiences  throughout Japan.







Vacation Photographer Based in Tokyo

It seems like a coincidence and a repetitive action, but as a vacation photographer I got yet another opportunity to photograph another Italian in downtown Tokyo. As you probably remember, first Italian I had “shot” was Marco Ferri, an amazing artist.

Her name is Camilla,  and she is an Italian woman who has lived abroad for almost 15 years between London,  Barcelona and now Tokyo since 2017th. Camilla was supposed to stay here 1 year but apparently,  she enjoys her life in Japan so much that she has not  left and is not planning to do so in the near future. 

She loves traveling,  getting to know new cultures and languages. As you probably have guessed already, Japanese culture is very addictive and people fall in love with it. After all, there is no other country where people are so so very polite that even the most polite westerner by comparison will look like he’s missed a few years in school, at least not another country that I know of.
After getting in contact with Camilla and find out what she wanted from her photoshoot with me as a private vacation photographer, we decided to start the session at Hie Shrine, and take a few shots with the very well known iconically Red Torii Gates that typically marks the entrance.

The truth is people visit Japan for this kind of unique places and of course capture forever such amazing memories.

The torii gates tunnel are starting at the bottom of the stairs and go up the hill where the beautiful and famous Hie Shrine is situated.

The “competition” of these torii gates are those that are found in Kyoto at Fushimi Inari Shrine (for which I’ll have to visit Kyoto for the second time), but that means an over 2 hour ride with Shinkansen thus a notable extra expense. This makes for a very compelling place to go without having to go outside the metropolis.

Going back to the photoshoot, I started taking photos of Camila from the bottom of the stairs and made our way up, taking turns with the myriad of visitors that day who were “selfieing” unlimited shots. 🙂  A good tip here is to get to Hie Shrine as early as possible if you intend of taking lots of photos that will not look crowded with tourists. Once we got up on top of the hill, there were a couple of photoshoots for weddings happening so we had to wait “our turn”  for the good spots.

Now, there is a certain etiquette for worshiping at temples throughout Japan (for which I personally don’t excel in applying especially if I’m there to work as a personal travel and vacation photographer) and consists of a 3 main steps if I don’t count that one has to throw money as well- this can be as little as ¥1.
First of all, one needs to bow twice, followed by a second step consisting of a soft clap of the hands- also done twice. The 3rd step is the closing one making slowly a deep bow. Doing these steps may seem meaningless for westerners, but think of it like going to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome (Vatican City) and make a cross, something very natural; in any case, experimenting these simple 3 steps will actually give you a nice feeling. 

Another custom step is to wash your hands before visiting the main shrine (as seen bellow) which has the meaning of cleaning both the body and mind and a great opportunity for me to make yet another great photo to document you trip.

After taking the shots needed around His Shrine, we decided to walk instead of taking a subway to Zojoji Temple and Shiba Park which are near by the Radio Tower. (The bad news is in Shiba Park, as well as in other parks, I’m not allowed to use lights unless I have a special permit to do so.)

The way from one place to another lasted for a little longer than 20 minutes, but a coffee to go might have intervened to rise up the blood sugar and caffeine intake. 🙂
Shiba Park is perfect place to get very good portraits with a special background, The Tokyo Tower. The place has an amazing vibe, filled up with people enjoying the great weather and/or having a picnic. Don’t get me wrong, it’s worth going to visit The Tower, after all, it’s one of the most known sites to visit in this big metropolis, but from up close it won’t fit in one photo as the background in your shot, nor it will look professional, trust me on this.

Since I got your attention, it would make me very happy if you hit the contact button down bellow and book me as your vacation photographer in Tokyo or beyond, throughout Japan.