Hanami – Cherry Blossoms at Kyoto

Cherry Blossoms Trip Part I

Hanami (花見, literally “flower viewing”) is the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the beauty of flowers. We travelled to the Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe district in Japan to view the impressive sight of sakura flowers during Easter. We have never been to this area of Japan and we had high expectations from our five-day trip. Indeed it was a rewarding experience and this post marks the beginning of a series on our little adventure in Japan.


Our first stop is Kiyomizu-dera (“Clear Water Temple”), a Buddhist temple which is a historic monument of ancient Kyoto. There is a walk up the hills where the temple is located. This part of Eastern Kyoto was immersed in a festive atmosphere as visitors from every part of Japan and around the globe flock to the city’s most symbolic places for hanami.



There are many ancient temples in Kyoto, for many years the imperial capital of Japan. The temple buildings were built in the 17th century, and consist of the main hall and the pagoda.


We arrived at the Temple, and the sakura served as the backdrop of the grand hall and the pagoda. What an amazing sight! We climbed up the stairs and enjoyed the breathtaking view on the temple.


We had a fair amount of luck in viewing the famous sakura – because of the great weather and timing. The cherry blossoms last only about one week and the best viewing period is usually just the few days when the flowers are in full bloom. The rightmost picture below is one of my favorite picture in the series because it captures three elements – the crowd, the temple and the flowers extending from above against a bright blue sky.


Flowers say more than words. Black Bear is happy to introduce a new lens, the Tamron 60mm Macro in A-mount, bought secondhand at an attractive price. The macro shots taken with this lens are amazing – the amount of detail and sharpness and the creamy bokeh are just beyond words can describe. I have never owned a macro lens before and  this surely lives up to its name of a fine modern macro lens.


It is my first experience with a macro lens and to nail focus at 1:1 magnification is difficult without a tripod. Also, my good old NEX-3 does not come with an electronic viewfinder, which makes it even harder to see the LCD screen in the bright sunlight. Nevertheless, I did try my best :D.


The white flowers are everywhere… We never caught sight of the pink sakuras, which would come up in the later part of our trip.


The temple complex also contains other interesting sites, including three streams converging to form a pond, and many different shrines. We proceeded to our journey downhill and took more photos of the full bloom.


Time is never enough during our trip. We did not want to miss a beautiful shot but we need to travel to many places within a short time. It is mission impossible indeed. I would like to end this post with a Chinese character roughly translated into “serendipity”, on the lower right picture below. We were almost unwilling to leave the Temple since we were so absorbed…


Continue to Part 2, or click to view the full gallery below: