2016 Classic Japan Cherry Blossom Tour Report
Days 1-3: Tokyo (東京)
Our cherry blossom tour started off with 3 days in Japan’s capital city, Tokyo (東京). The first day saw everyone arrive in Tokyo, with the early birds taking advantage of the time before our welcome dinner to explore this megacity a bit on their own. We were based in Ginza, a world-famous shopping area home to high-end fashion brands amongst stunning architecture. We enjoyed a delicious tempura dinner and I outlined our travel and shooting plans for the tour.
Day 2 was an early start for both Tim and Emma as they took the option to see the Tsukiji Market tuna auction. We arrived at 3am to secure our spots for this ever-popular activity. After a 2.5hr wait, we were ushered into the auction and saw hundreds of tuna on the auction floor, with buyers carefully assessing the fish, and felt the frenetic pace of the auction. We visited Tsukiji Market again later in the morning with the rest of the group to explore both the inner and outer markets, still busy with activity until the late morning.
After lunch, we were off to Harajuku’s famous Takeshita Street, a bustling hub for Tokyo’s youth and home to some of the craziest fashion you’ll ever see. We completed a loop of the Harajuku area, making sure to stop by Meijijingu Shrine and Yoyogi Park along the way.
We finished off Day 2 with a visit to Shibuya, home of the famous scramble crossing which sees thousands of pedestrians cross the intersection at the same time.
Chidorigafuchi Moat (千鳥ヶ淵)
Weeping cherry tree (枝垂桜) at Rikugien Garden (六義園)
Day 4: Shinkansen (新幹線)
Day 4 saw us finish our time in Tokyo with a morning visit to Ueno Park. The famous cherry blossom tunnel here was in full bloom and our group took advantage of the free time to wander around the park area.
After leaving Tokyo, we made our way down to Yoshiwara in Shizuoka Prefecture for a special activity – train spotting! You’ve all probably seen the iconic shots of Japan’s bullet train, the shinkansen, whizzing past Mount Fuji and this is where you can see them both. Mount Fuji was a bit shy today though despite weather reports indicating otherwise!
Our team was new to train spotting but quickly got hooked into trying to capture the shinkansen as they zoomed past at 270km/h! A local Japanese man even stopped his car next to us to have a chat – as he too, was a keen train spotter!
Day 5: Himeji Castle (姫路城) and Ritsurin Garden (栗林公園)
Day 5 was spent visiting Himeji Castle and Ritsurin Garden. At Himeji Castle, the sakura were mostly in full bloom inside the castle grounds and we were able to capture some shots with both sakura and castle together. Despite the rainy weather, there were still many tourists visiting Japan’s most celebrated castle.
After Himeji Castle, we took a long train ride to Takamatsu City on Shikoku, one of the four main islands of Japan. Getting to Shikoku by train requires crossing the Great Seto Bridge from Honshu island and this happens to be the longest two-tier bridge system in the world.
At Ritsurin Garden, we enjoyed a leisurely two-hour stroll, taking in the incredible features of the garden along with the “borrowed scenery” of Mt Shiun in the background. We were fortunate enough to see two couples having their engagement/wedding photos taken around the garden. I personally consider Ritsurin to be one of the most picturesque wedding photography locations I’ve seen in the world.