Spring marks hanami 花見, or cherry blossom flower season in Japan. Typically throughout the final weeks of March and early April, the tiny pink flower blooms as crowds of picnickers gather in parks. While residents tend to be shy and reserved in Japan, the festive season feels different. Comradery and openness permeate the air, and people are eager to share in the merry-making.

Unfortunately, this year's timing remains precarious as COVID-19 again threatens to dull—if not ruin—the party when cooped up residents are in dire need of unwinding. Vaccinations have yet to become widely distributed leading many to urge “cautious appreciation” this year. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen whether people will take this advice.

Capturing the sakura season

Indeed, it’s hard not to get a little excited each sakura season, even if a pandemic threatens to ruin things. At grape Japan, we’ve kept ourselves busy covering how hanami-viewers are booking sakura trees to enjoy a safe and socially-distanced good time. Naturally, we've wet our beaks with the inevitable seasonal products such as Starbucks cherry blossom Frappucino.

We were also struck by the fantastic photography the blooming bud has inspired. The Sakura Drone Project captured striking aerial photos and provided free computer wallpapers to interested admirers.

Naturally, several photographers have caught stunning images of the season. Yet, perhaps none are as striking—or at least as unique—as those posted by Twitter user Hiroki.Nose (@hirokingraphy). The artist aimed his lens at cherry blossom trees in Saitama, weighed down by the lingering winter snow, a situation known colloquially as sakura kakushi 桜隠し, or hidden cherry blossoms. See for yourself:

Reproduced with permission from Hiroki.Nose (@hirokingraphy)

Indeed, it's another side of the occasion captured much less often. The soft combination of the light pink petals and white snow is soothing:

Reproduced with permission from Hiroki.Nose (@hirokingraphy)

While it may be difficult to imagine holding a picnic in such a venue, the tranquility of the lustrous sky and snow-covered sakura trees is very calming. When residents feel wary of gathering in groups, perhaps the solitude of these "hidden cherry blossoms" is a noteworthy alternative this year.

Followers enjoyed the posts. They responded:

  • “The combination of snow and sakura is just too beautiful.”
  • “We can only see such a view when it snows during spring. What a miracle.”
  • “Amazing. Thank you for the real ‘hidden sakura.’”

Other inspiring images of Japan

Looking through Hiroki.Nose’s Twitter page, its quick to see that the artist has an exceptional eye. He has photographed many scenes that are iconically Japanese. Here are some of good ones:

Nara during the fall with an obligatory deer in each shot. You can feel the end of the season in the lighting and the rustic coloring.

More iconic Japan.

This breathtaking image was shortlisted for the 2021 Sony World Photography Awards. Naturally, the artist was inundated with congratulations.

If you like these posts, you can find more like them on Hiroki.Nose’s Twitter page, Instagram, and website. Enjoy!

By - Luke Mahoney.