CHERRY BLOSSOM & HOT SPRING
Organized group Photo Tour to Tohoku, Japan (6 people)
9 days tour – April/May 2018
In the past month of April, our photo tour to Tohoku, “Cherry Blossom & Hot Springs 2018” took place. We organized a photo tour for a small group of 6 participants from different countries: Spain, Israel and The United States, and different ages from 29 to 82 years old! We are very happy to say that the tour was very successful in spite of the multiple languages and age difference. We believe all participants had a great time!
Our main goal was to photograph cherry blossom trees in different locations throughout the northern part of Japan, a region known as Tohoku. We basically started from Yamagata city and from there we drove all the way up to Aomori, the northernmost prefecture in the main island of Japan, during the 9 days of the photo tour. Here is a small photo-diary of our adventure!!
DAY 1 ~ ZAO
Even if the weather were against us, we believe that it is always possible to take advantage of the situation. No matter what, there is always a way to take interesting photographs. And often, pictures come out more interesting than perfect postcard picture weather. And this was the case. Without rain nor fog we wouldn’t have got this nostalgic cherry blossom picture!
Once in Zao we walked around the small village with its little hot spring wooden houses here and there, and all the steam coming from pipes everywhere. At dusk, with the rain and the fog, pictures turned out mysterious, as if it were a movie set! In our tours we always try to take pictures of the amazing blue hour at least once or twice!
DAY 2 ~ YAMADERA
The next day we visited Yamadera temple, an amazing Buddhist temple located on a hill. The stone path of more than 1.000 steps that leads to the top is as beautiful as the amazing view of the valley that you can enjoy from the top. This place is definitely a must in Yamagata prefecture!
DAY 3 ~ KAKUNODATE
Another hot spot for cherry blossom viewing is the samurai town of Kakunodate. Along the river there is a long row of huge cherry blossom trees, a perfect scenery to practice our skills with landscape and nature photography.
After our visit to Kakunodate we headed towards our third ryokan, lost in a deep valley in the mountains. Even though the hotel wasn’t far away from Kakunodate town, while we drove up to Nyuto Onsen Village, and as we were approaching to our final destination, snow started appearing beside the road.
DAY 4 ~ LAKE TAZAWA
The Lake Tazawa is a caldera lake and the deepest lake in Japan at 423 meters. We stopped there to photograph the transparent crystal water and Shinto shrine on the lake.
On the way to the next ryokan we made different stops to photograph cherry blossom and the beauty of the Japanese landscape here and there. One of the best things of our tours is that whenever we find anything worth shooting, we can just stop the mini van and take the picture.
There are many aspects that make our photo tours to Japan special, but definitely one of them is food. Japan is probably one of the best countries in the world to enjoy raw fish as well as wild vegetables cooked in a million different ways. And it is not only about the food or how it is cooked, but also how it is displayed to the guests. It is art in Japan. So, we take food very seriously!
DAY 5 ~ HIROSAKI
Next day was the climax of cherry blossom photo session! Hirosaki castle and park are one of the most famous spots all over Japan to view and photograph cherry blossom trees. This year we were lucky enough to get there at the best time of the whole two weeks that this natural phenomenon takes place! Outside the castle sakura petals were already falling, covering the inner moat of the castle with a pink carpet. Inside, sakura were at its full bloom!
DAY 6 ~ Mt. HAKKODA
After such an intense day full of Sakura, cherry blossom, we headed towards Hakkoda mountain, still covered with snow. We decided to go back to shoot nature, rivers and naked trees. Take a look at the following pictures, taken the next day, and not too far from the city! Japan is just amazing, you can enjoy “hanami” (cherry blossom viewing) at the same time that you can go skiing, all within 50km!
DAY 7 ~ TOWADA CITY & OIRASE RIVER
After so much nature we dedicated a couple of hour to culture, stopping by Towada city to visit Towada Art Center. This museum has the peculiarity of allowing visitors to take pictures in most of its gallery space, which turned out to be a lot of fun.
Oirase river was our next destination, again a must for nature lovers and photographers in general. In the river we practiced slow shutter speed photography with filters to capture the flowing water.
After Oirase River, we arrive at a ryokan lost in the valley without electricity. But nothing impede us from taking pictures!!
When the sun goes down, the only light this ryokan has are oil lanterns and the moon … a very special experience!!
DAY 8 ~ Mt. OSORE
Finally, we arrived at our final destination, Osorezan, Mt. Osore, one of the three most spiritual mountains in Japan. We find this place so special, peaceful and somehow out of the world.
To make our last night really special, we actually slept in the temple, had vegetarian dinner like the Buddhist monks and woke up at 6:00am for prayer. It took a long time to reach to this isolated temple, but it was definitely worth it!!
This is a little summary about our photo tour to Tohoku this past spring. If you want to have such an experience just sign up for next year’s tour!!!