Cherry Blossoms of Japan

Photography Tour to Japan

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Tourism surges in Japan during the spring, but your overseas adventures don’t have to be wasteful. Separate your recyclables from trash wherever you are, and be sure to take your own bag with you for shopping. Find a pair of reusable chopsticks and take them with you wherever you go, that way you can limit your trash and come home with a wonderful little souvenir.

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Sojourn – Gain a better understanding of the community you’re visiting. Learn about different religions or spiritual practices. How do these impact the communities? How does religion or spirituality influence local traditions?

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Savor – Will you choose sweet or savory? Take the time to visit local markets and discover unique local ingredients. Learn how to prepare traditional meals & local favorites.

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Tip of the Tongue – Each morning, take the time to learn a few basic greetings and phrases in the local language. Learn how to write greetings & your name in the local script.

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A Wrinkle in Time – History influences our present. Discover the history of the country you visit. Hear the stories of your guides & their family history. Where do they come from?

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Journal Journeys – Take some time to reflect on the day’s events and document your journey. Spend a moment journaling about the day had & day ahead. These are memories for a lifetime!

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Culture – From local dances, festivals, or simple gestures to communicate – all of these make up a country’s culture. Learn and practice cultural norms & how to show respect in the culture you visit.

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Itinerary

Once you’ve arrived, and completely settled down, you’ll head out to the Chidorigafuchi Moat to kick off your Cherry Blossom Festival experience. This 700-meter long walkway was constructed along the Imperial Palace and is lined with full and blooming cherry trees that stretch down towards the flowing water. Their colors range from bright pink to snow-white during the spring, and the entire path is beautifully lit at night for an even dreamier walk. You can rent a small paddle boat for an even better viewing experience, although picnics are strictly forbidden in this area.

During the evening, you’ll head into the city to dine on any of Tokyo’s delightful dishes from ramen or tempura to nigiri sushi or an okonomiyaki pancake. It’s here that you can start to learn some basic Japanese words and phrases to help you get around. Afterward, feel free to take in everything else that Tokyo’s nightlife has to offer such as live shows, nightclubs, shops, and plenty of themed bars and cafes.

You’ll have plenty to do when you visit Ueno Park on your second day in Japan. Ueno Park is one of the country’s first public parks, and you’ll find various temples and shrines alongside the hundreds of cherry trees, including the Bentendo Temple and the Edo-Era Toshogu Shrine. This park is also the site of several museums, such as the National Science Museum and Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. You’ll also be delighted to see all the street food vendors that the park has to offer, just be sure to dispose of everything properly.

Your last big stop in Tokyo will be along the Meguro River, which is especially spectacular during this time of year. The cherry trees that line the waterway stretch over and form an incredible canopy of blossoms and branches. And the way it’s lit up during the evening, thanks to bright pink lanterns, completely transports you into a dream-like, fairy tale setting that even a camera can’t fully capture.

After breakfast, it’s time to take the bullet train to Nagoya to continue the Cherry Blossom Festival. Once you’ve settled down, you’ll walk down the Yamazakigawa Riverside for some truly breathtaking springtime views. With 500 cherry trees along 2.5 kilometers, this area manages to stay just as beautiful all year round. Walk underneath their branches, cross the wooden bridges, or sit for a while on the petal-strewn steps as to admire the Yamazaki River. No matter what, you’ll have a gorgeous view of this popular springtime attraction. Please remember, however, that picnics are not allowed.

You’ll add even more rich history into your trip with a visit to Nagoya Castle. First constructed during the Edo Period, it was the target of air raids during World War II and was mostly destroyed in 1945. A successful rebuild was completed fourteen years later, and its cherry trees now provide a vibrant welcome for all visitors.

Step into one of the local cafes for a Nagoya-style breakfast before you visit Togokusan Fruits Park. It was first established in 1980 to serve as both a center for outdoor education and an orchard for over a dozen different fruits. You’ll find over 1,000 weeping cherry trees throughout the park, including the area surrounding its greenhouse. You’re also welcome to pick seasonal fruits for the best kind of on-the-go snack.

Dine on some of the city’s incredible local dishes, including miso katsu or misonikomi. The nightlife is known to be just as vibrant in Nagoya as it is in Tokyo, so be sure to take advantage while you’re still here.

It’s only a 35-minute train ride to Kyoto, so you’ll have plenty of time to take in the blossoms along the Philosopher’s Path. This peaceful stone path was once a frequent meditation spot for Nishida Kitaro, one of Japan’s most well-known philosophers. It follows along a canal that’s lined with hundreds of cherry trees, making it equally as beautiful in both Spring and Autumn. Use this time to stop by the nearby shops and cafes, and pay a visit to Honen-in Temple only a short walk away.

As evening approaches, you’ll hop on the bus and head down to Maruyama Park for spectacular nighttime viewing. Yasaka Shrine serves as the main entrance to this park, with Buddhist temples further north. Your big highlight will be the park’s large weeping cherry tree, or shidarezakura, which is lit up during the night.

Spend the day in the stunning Arashiyama district on the western outskirts, which dates back to Japan’s Heian Period. Rent a bike as soon as you arrive and take in the peaceful bamboo groves as you ride around. Beautiful temples and residences also dot the area, and the Saga-Toriimoto Preserved Street makes for an excellent pit-stop. The Togetsukyo Bridge takes you towards dozens of blossoming cherry trees and offers incredible views of the forest-covered mountainsides that give the area its name. There’s even a monkey park south of the bridge where over a hundred Japanese macaque monkeys are free to roam around.

After less than an hour of travel, you’ll find yourself in Osaka for your last stop. You will then head over to Osaka Castle, one of Japan’s most well-known landmarks dating back to 1583. It was built by the head of the Toyotomi clan with the intention of unifying Japan under his rule, and has been destroyed and rebuilt several times due to war and natural disasters with the latest rebuild completed in 1997. Aside from its incredible cherry trees, you’ll also find an arena, sports facilities, and a small shrine dedicated to Toyotomi Hideyori and his mother.

After a traditional Japanese breakfast, end your time with the Cherry Blossom Festival by visiting gorgeous Kema Sakuranomiya Park. Your final, lasting memory of this trip will be a peaceful one as you walk along both the petal-strewn pathways and across the bridges, admiring the blossoms from all angles.

Finally, it’s time to grab your belongings and head to the airport, where you’ll depart back home with more stunning images than you’ll know what to do with.

From its association with Buddhism to its motivational purposes during World War II, the cherry blossom, or sakura, has been an enduring symbol in Japan for centuries. Between late March to mid-April, most of the country celebrates the arrival of spring with cherry blossom viewings known as Hanami. Not only is this the perfect opportunity to take in this country’s incredible culture, but it’s also an ideal time for photographers to capture some truly breathtaking images during their overseas adventures. This week-long tour is sure to give you plenty of peaceful springtime memories that you won’t soon forget.

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