5 Things about “Hanami” (Cherry Blossom Viewing)

Welcome to Spring. Japanese people go crazy over cherry blossom viewing, I guess because it’s the first sign that the winter cold is breaking, and warmer days are clearly ahead. However, the plum flowers are already blooming, and have been for most species for about a month, but the cherry blossoms (or “sakura”) bloom for a week before the Spring breezes blows the petals away. Also, even though there are hundreds of thousands of these trees across the country in various species and varieties, most of these bear no edible fruit.

A young Japanese lady admiring the cherry blossoms. For this model released photo, and others like it, see my PhotoShelter Seasons gallery.

 

1. Weather and when

The cherry trees blossoming is triggered by warmer weather, beginning in Okinawa in the south in February, to central Japan where they typically blossom in the second week of April, to Hokkaido in June (I think). The trees typically remain in bloom for seven or eight days. If there’s heavy rain, the petals are out for a very short time, but if the weather remains mild, the cherry blossom parties, or “Hanami Matsuri” can go on for nearly two weeks. Japanese Meteorological Agency used to provide blooming forecasts for nearly fifty years, but a few years ago they ended this service. Too many tour companies have tried to sue the JMA for inaccurate forecasting, costing the tour companies lots of money because of their own inflexibility and understanding of weather and nature. Now there are websites that make their own predictions that you can use like JNTO.


For this cherry blossom (sakura) photo, and others like it, see my PhotoShelter Cherry Blossoms gallery.

 

2. Language point

The following contains both Roman, Chinese and Hiragana characters. “Hanami” (花見、はなみ), literally means ‘flower viewing’ (Wikipedia), but what Japanese people really mean is just hanging out and enjoying cherry blossom trees. “Sakura” (桜、さくら) means ‘cherry trees’ and ‘cherry blossoms’, and “ume” (梅、うめ) means ‘plum’, ‘plum tree’, and ‘plum flowers’.

Flowers on a Japanese plum tree. For this photo, and others like it, see my PhotoShelter Cherry Blossoms gallery.

 

3. How it’s celebrated

Usually cherry blossom parties are held by groups of people. Usually work colleagues, community groups (typically neighbourhood groups), university clubs, groups of friends, and some times families get together for this. For evening parties, one or two poor sods have to get a tarp and some basic supplies and stake out a good spot until the evening when the others arrive. Usually its the young office staff or secretaries job to do this. Otherwise, most folks have their party in the day time. I think it’s still quite uncomfortably cool even in the day time, so day time parties are more common. They usually have a small bar-be-cue, have sake and beer, and relax and enjoy themselves without any loud frivolities.

For this Hanami (cherry blossom party) photo, and others like it, see my PhotoShelter Cherry Blossoms gallery.

 

2. Why cherry blossoms and not plum flowers?

Good question. The plum flowers are out much longer, they start earlier, and some species are out in the warmer part of spring, too. Also, plum flowers are usually much nicer or prettier. In fact, in the Nara period (710-794AD), it was the plum flowers that were revered, and to some extent the cherry blossoms and wisteria. Later, because of famous literary works focusing on cherry blossoms, the other options fell to the wayside (Wikipedia/Hanami History). Cherry blossoms are out for only a week typically at the start of April in central Japan. This timing, and brevity, seems to act as a convenient demarcation in time for Japanese people. School and university calendars start in April, companies have their new recruits start in April, companies transfer their staff to start in April, so March-April is also the moving season. The end of March marks the end of storage and tax-thingamy time, so major electronics stores have sales before new models are shipped and put on display. It seems the start of April is the time when Japan hits the reset button and lots of things starts fresh.

For this cherry blossom school sports photo, and others like it, see my PhotoShelter Cherry Blossoms gallery.

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1. Legend

Continuing on from point 2 above, it is said by Japanese people that the life of a samurai is short lived, with the sudden start and end as the cherry blossoms themselves. A good for a samurai is to have a quick sudden end, rather than a gradual fade to nothing, much like the sudden fall of petals from a cherry tree.

Nagoya castle in the Spring. For this photo, and others like it, see my PhotoShelter Cherry Blossoms gallery.

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#BREAKING Kakuryu wins the Emperor’s Cup

Twenty-eight year old Mongolian Kakuryu (born Mangaljalav Anand; Wikipedia) becomes the fourth Mongolian to win the Emperor’s Cup, after Asashoryu, Hakuho, and Harumafuji. It was also announced that he is to be promoted to be one of three top-ranked wrestlers called “Yokuzuna”. This photo is currently available for immediate purchase or licensing from my Sumo Gallery. It has been an exciting tournament, the two current top-ranked wrestlers, Hakuho and Harumafuji have struggled a little of late, Kotooshu crashed out and retired, and then this upset. It’s been great.

Kakuryu (left) faces Takayasu (unseen) in the Osaka Spring Grand Sumo Tournament in the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium.

Kakuryu (left) faces Takayasu (unseen) in the Osaka Spring Grand Sumo Tournament in the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium. Photo taken on Monday 17th March.

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#BREAKING: Bulgarian sumo wrestler Kotooshu may be retiring

First tweets from a Japanese sports journalist, @kaznagatsuka, says Kotooshu may be quiting this tournament.

UPDATE (7.30pm 20thMar): Kotooshu’s last bout was on Tuesday against Hakuho.

Below, Kotooshu ahead of his bout where he was defeated by Harumafuji just this Monday.

Bulgarian Kotooshu in his final tournament in the Osaka Spring Tournament.

Bulgarian Kotooshu in his final tournament in the Osaka Spring Tournament.

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Out of form Kotooshu in his last tournament?

I don’t like to focus on the negative. I usually post stuff on the sumo because it’s just so fascinating. The Bulgarian Kotooshu (born Kaloyan Stefanov Mahlyanov, Wikipedia) was still the new kid on the block and a rising star when I first arrived in Japan. He was great to watch, though he made mistakes, he still had energy and enthusiasm so that he could win, and it seemed he was growing into the role of the top ranked wrestler, a yokozuna. However, he never got past Ozeki, the second highest rank and was demoted to Sekiwaki at the end of 2013. He won one tournament and the Emperor’s Cup in 2008 (Wikipedia), and he was the darling of the media, and was on all the Bulgarian Yoghurt advertisements. Throughout his sumo career he’s been plagued by various injuries to his knees and arms. This tournament is the worst I’ve seen of him perform. In fact, every time I’ve seen him live, he’s lost, and Monday was no different. However, one win for nine losses is a record that would mean he’d have to be further demoted or retire.

Below, is an in-form and on-fire Harumafuji (right) displaying his strength, whilst a very out-of-form (and possibly very deflated and demotivated) Kotooshu watches on.

In form Mongolian Harumafuji wins easily against a struggling Bulgarian Kotooshu in the Osaka Spring Tournament.

In form Mongolian Harumafuji wins easily against a struggling Bulgarian Kotooshu in the Osaka Spring Tournament.

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Famous photography quotes

A little inspiration for the photographers who keep up with this blog. I’ve decided to do the Photo of the Week once a month… err… at least for a while, but I might release these photography quotes on Sundays perhaps fortnightly. In other words, I’m still experimenting and having fun blogging. In any case, there’ll be more to come in the coming months.

 

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5 Unique things from JPA

I don’t normally blow my own trumpet or show off, but sometimes you have to sing your own praises. However, how else can credit go where credit is due in this dynamic, short-term memory age of the internet. JPA has done some things that were not previously seen on the internet before. However, I’m not claiming to be the first, but these ideas were independently thought of by me (without having seen others do it first), or revived by me. So, what is there to be so proud about?

 

5. Camera-back photos / preview & announcements

As at time of writing (mid-January, 2014), this photo of the Tado Horse festival is 624 days old. I think it is probably also the first time anyone has photographed the back of their camera and posted an update to a social network. This was posted via iPhone to Twitpic, to Twitter. Luckily, I’ve worked out how to make these camera-back photos look more interesting (recent example). Here’s the rest of my Twitpic portfolio for social networking.

#Tado #Horse #Festival The horse got over the barrier. We&#03... on Twitpic

 

4. Referencing Information

I didn’t invent referencing. The Harvard, Oxford, and APA referencing styles for academic writing has been around for much longer than I’ve been alive. However, I am one of the very few bloggers who provide links to my information sources. So if I write about the Naked Man Festival, News events, the Tado Horse Festival, the Tenjin Festival, whatever, I provide a little bit of starting information to help put my photos in context for journalists and sources to get them going.

The start of the Tenjin Festival (Tenjin Matsuri) at Tenjin Shrine, Osaka.

The start of the Tenjin Festival (Tenjin Matsuri) at Tenjin Shrine, Osaka. Photo available via my agent’s website.

 

3. Demonstrating promo photos

Surprisingly, I haven’t seen this catching on, yet. What better way to self-promote, and show how your own photos can be used? For these photos, and others like them, see my PhotoShelter Models gallery.

A young lady appearing as though she's holding a promo card.

A young lady appearing as though she’s holding a promo card.

Young lady looking as though she's holding the Twitter account holders name.

Young lady looking as though she’s holding the Twitter account holders name.

 

2. Double exposure photography

This is my favourite kind of photography, using good old fashioned film, with all it’s charisma, and lots of experimentation. Before publishing Poem of a Cacophonous City, I’ve not seen any double exposure photography on social networking sites nor photographer websites (I was never really a Flickr user at that time), except when you look up Pablo Picasso’s own work from decades before. It would seem that since publishing this set of photos, people have also rediscovered it, or are now sharing it beyond Flickr. For this photo, and others like it, see my PhotoShelter Art gallery.

 

1. Photo-videos

I don’t think I’ve the first to do this, but I’ve not seen anyone else do this one, yet. It’s simple, and I think it’s a great way to show case my work. It’s simple, choose a theme and a set of photos, or just lump all your favourite photos together, add cool music or recorded sound, and press ‘Export’, and it’s done. Here’s my YouTube Channel, and an Intro photo-video:

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And the Camera Pixo Editor’s Choice Award goes to…

Wow! It’s me! And what makes it even more sweet is that it is for one of my favourite photos, Poem of a Cacophonous City: Go City, Go. This series of photos was taken on black and white film with an old style magical camera trick, invented long before the word “computer” was a thing. CameraPixo has just published their latest issue (No2), this time dedicated to my favourite kind of photography, black and white, titled The Moment. You’ll find this issue’s illustrious Five-Star Editor’s Choice award winner very humbly on page 54. On the way there (page 54) and past it, be sure to enjoy all the other great and wonderful images from around the world. It’s truly a great issue, and I’m so pleased to have one of my photos counted among a great set of photos from great international photographers. Finally, thanks to my Flattr microsponsors for your support, this is what it’s about.

ScreenShot Andrew's photo published in CameraPixo's The Moment issue No.2.

ScreenShot of Andrew’s photo published in CameraPixo’s The Moment issue No.2. http://issuu.com/camerapixo/docs/bw-camerapixo-02-online

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#POTW Nagoya Women’s Marathon 2014

The Nagoya Women’s Marathon will be on this Sunday, 9th March. At time of writing I don’t have any specific news about it, but I suspect that it will have all of Japan’s top women competing, and tens of thousands of women, and hundreds (or thousands) of men, too. In previous years it has been an Olympic qualifying event attracting various internarion runners (previous blog posts, 2012 and 2013, blog tag ‘marathon‘). For these photos see my PhotoShelter portfolio and my agent’s website. I will probably attend the event, so new photos may be added.

Good luck to the competitors, and best wishes to all the runners entering. For everyone else, on Sunday I’ll be on Twitter/JapanesePhotos.

 

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3 March Girls Day (Hina Matsuri)

Each year on the 3rd March is Girls Day in Japan. In Japanese it’s called Hina Matsuri, which means Dolls Festival. Usually, families set up a large display in late February, like the one below, and have their daughters pose next to it for photos. The dolls are based on the Heian court, and are arranged in descending order of rank across either a five or seven tiers. Each tier and doll has a specific meaning, but generally it was or is believed that the dolls take away evil spirits. The display is usually set up in the tatami room or guest room of the house. There are special foods and drinks that girls have on the day. Some communities might host some events just for girls, but other than that, not much else happens, however, the Nagoya Womens’ Marathon is next weekend. Also see the Japan Today Girls Day story, and Wikipedia/hinamatsuri.

For this photo, and others like it, see the Girls Day gallery.

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#tgif Snow Monkeys

Looking for something to do this or another weekend? The very well known Japanese snow monkeys are actually Japanese macaques, Lt. Macaca fuscata, are the northern most living primates, other than humans. These macaques were photographed Jigokudani Monkey Park hot springs, near Yudanaka, in Nagano prefecture. To do the trip, you can take a special JR express train to Nagano city, or a bullet train, where you’ll see lots of reminders that the city once hosted the Winter Olympics, last century. You could stay in a hotel there, or take a 44min train ride to Yudanaka and stay in a holiday resort hotel. All the details of how to get there and other local info is available at this website, http://nozawa-onsen.com/. However, you should be warned that there is nothing to do at Yudanaka in the evening, and it seemed that the restaurants take turns on being open in the weekday evenings. Also, here’s a link to a monkey-cam with on the hour updates (local time), http://www.jigokudani-yaenkoen.co.jp/livecam/monkey/index.htm.

For this photo, and others like it, see my Nature gallery on PhotoShelter website, and my agent’s.

Since Yudanaka had a daytime high of -6°C (about 30°F), you’ll definitely need hiking thermals (shirt and long underwear type, or long johns), two layers of socks (regular & thick was fine for me), a regular undershirt, shirt, jumper (or sweater), and the thickest winter jacket for outdoor camping you’ve got. Thermals are good because they’re quick dry, and I wore regular hiking trousers, as they’re also quick dry. Regular hiking boots are fine, and may be spikes, but I didn’t use mine. Of course, you’ll need gloves, scarf, and hat. I wore a hat with a visor to keep my jacket hood out of my eyes. You will need to walk for about 30mins from a car park, and you’ll probably want to stay there for about an hour. They tell you not to bring food near the macaques, but there are lockers near the entrance gate that you can use, right next to where you’ll pay the ¥500 entrance fee.

Expect to take lots of photos.

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