Japan is renowned for its cherry blossom - beautiful blooms that surge forth and cloak the trees in an exquisite marshmallow pink come spring.
Cherry blossom season is a huge tourist draw, and it gets underway as early as mid-January in some parts, running until early May. The exact dates are meticulously calculated each year by experts, who forecast when and where the cherry blossom, known as sakura, will arrive.
The season broadly moves south to north; for example, Okinawa Island to the south of the mainland gets blossom in full bloom around mid-February, while Sapporo to the north expects sakura to blossom in early May.
This year, travel photographer Kristina Makeeva took a trip to Japan during the cherry blossom season – and captured some of the most beautiful pictures ever taken of the spectacle.
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Makeeva, 29, hails from Moscow but has travelled the globe in search of the best shots. Her images of Japan are among her most stunning – one image she took of a field swathed in blue flowers with a girl walking through holding a parasol garnered over 23,000 likes when she posted it to Instagram.
Makeeva’s beautiful imagery has earned her quite a following – to date she has more than 225,000 followers on the image-sharing social media platform.
“I started shooting about 14 years ago,” she tells The Independent. “Once I picked up a camera, I couldn’t put it down again.”
She travelled to Japan in early April. “That’s the best time to see the cherry blossom,” says Makeeva. Taking in Nara, Kyoto, Osaka, Tokyo, Himeji and Kanazawa on a whirlwind trip, she says that she found the sakura wherever she went. Although it’s tempting to put down the lushness of her pictures to filters and PhotoShop, Makeeva insists her inspirational subject was to thank for the end result. “Sakura in reality is more beautiful than in pictures,” she says.
Makeeva adds: “I’ve dreamed of going to Japan for so long. My favourite moment was seeing the cherry blossom floating down a river – it was just magical.”
If you’ve been inspired to catch Japan’s cherry blossom season, you may have missed the blooms this year, but it’s never too early to start planning your next trip.
When and where to see sakura at its best:
Okinawa: Second week of February
Kagoshima: Mid April (9 to 17 April)
Nagasaki: Early April (4 to 11 April)
Fukouka: Early April (2 to 10 April)
Matsuyama: Early April (3 to 11 April)
Hiroshima: Early April (5 to 13 April)
Kyoto: Early April (7 to 16 April)
Osaka: Early April (7 to 15 April)
Shizuoka: Early April (2 to 10 April)
Nagoya: Early April (5 to 13 April)
Yokohama: Early April (2 to 10 April)
Kanazawa: Mid April (9 to 17 April)
Tokyo: Late March (30 March to 7 April)
Nara: Early April (8 to 16 April)
Matsumoto: Mid April (13 to 21 April)
Niigata: Mid April (17 to 23 April)
Nagano: Mid April (21 to 28 April)
Takayama: Mid April (20 to 28 April)
Fuji Five Lake Areas: Mid April (19 to 27 April)
Fukushima: Mid April (12 to 20 April)
Sendai: Mid April (13 to 21 April)
Aomori: Late April (28 April to 6 May)
Akita: Late April (27 April to 6 May)
Iwate: Late April (23 to 30 April)
Matsumae: Early May (3 to 10 May)
Hakodate: Early May (3 to 10 May)
Sapporo: Early May (3 to 10 May)