The Pho­tog­ra­pher’s Story: cast off win­ter chills and revel in the cherry blossoms in Ja­pan’s cities

Lonely Planet (UK) - - In This Issue... - WILL EL­SOM is a travel pho­tog­ra­pher based in Ox­ford. See more of his work at @wil­lel­som or wil­lel­

Ev­ery spring in Ja­pan, sakura (cherry blos­som) fore­casts are played on the ra­dio and TV, just like the weather. The ar­rival of the blossoms her­alds a na­tion­wide fes­ti­val to cel­e­brate the pas­sage of the sea­sons, the start of spring, and the fleet­ing beauty of the flow­ers. Hanami is the main for­mat for cel­e­bra­tions, in­volv­ing pic­nics and par­ties be­neath the cherry trees. In pop­u­lar spots, peo­ple book time off work and camp out to stake claim to the sought-af­ter sakura. It’s a land grab! Other ar­eas are qui­eter, though. The fes­ti­val at­tracts peo­ple of dif­fer­ent ages, pro­fes­sions and sen­si­bil­i­ties: there’s a col­lec­tive in­ter­est in the blossoms, and it’s a na­tional spec­ta­cle. I love na­ture, so I found it in­ter­est­ing and pro­found to see a mass of peo­ple pay­ing such re­spect to the sea­sonal cy­cle in the ur­ban en­vi­ron­ments of Tokyo and Ky­oto, which I vis­ited for this pro­ject. Join­ing in this cen­turies-old tra­di­tion made me feel a part of some­thing pre­cious. I es­pe­cially liked the no­tion of wabi-sabi that un­der­pins the fes­ti­val: it is the phi­los­o­phy of ap­pre­ci­at­ing some­thing in all its forms, and see­ing beauty in im­per­fec­tion.

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