I’ve shared many photos here before from cherry blossom season in Japan, but many of these photos come from Tokyo. Tokyo is, of course, a lovely city with some great sakura viewing spots, but having lived in several different places in Japan, I know that the feel of the season in the city and the feel in a smaller town is quite different. So this year, I made it a goal to find a great place outside of the city to enjoy the sights. After a good bit of searching, I zeroed in on the town of Satte in Saitama Prefecture. There’s really not all that much to the town itself – located in the countryside well outside of Tokyo, it’s mostly filled with farm land and the like. But during the Spring, Satte’s Gongendo Park transforms into one of Japan’s most wonderful Cherry Blossom spots. Not only is the park home to hundreds of cherry blossom trees, but it also has several fields full of yellow rapeseed blossoms. The yellow of these flowers, mixed with the pinkish white of the blossoms (and the blue of the sky if you’re lucky) makes for a magical scene.
During this season thousands of people come to enjoy the atmosphere and festivities of Gongendo park. Now, what I just said is true – there are thousands of people who come – but the great thing about this park is that it’s large and in comparison to the crowds of Tokyo, the population density is noticeably less. It’s easier to stroll around and enjoy the sights without worrying about being in someone’s way, which is good for anyone. As a photographer it’s especially nice, and allows me to get candid shots more freely and less intrusively. As I’ve said before here, cherry blossom season isn’t just about the trees and flowers – it’s about the people and the cultural intricacies that can only be enjoyed during this special time.
Of course, the star of the show is still the sakura themselves, and as you would expect they are spectacular. Far away or close up, the beauty is stunning. It’s easy to see why people come to Japan from all over the world to enjoy this season.
As evening falls, far from being over, the festival takes on a new feel. Lanterns lining the main path light up, and while the trees are still enjoyed, the food stalls start to gain focus. There are all types of foods at these festivals, including Western foods like hotdogs and cotton candy, as well as more traditional Japanese food such as yakisoba and okonomiyaki. The rythmic call of “irashaimase!” (which basically means “please come try our store”) beckons customers to fill their empty stomachs with the delicious festival food. Though I’m not sure how much these stalls make per festival, I’m sure it has to be a sizable amount.
As many photos as I’ve shared here, I’ve really only just scratched the surface of what it’s like to enjoy the Satte sakura matsuri. Although I don’t do a lot of video work, I thought this place merited some video shots as well as stills, so I took quite a bit of video and have put together a short, fun compilation from that. I hope you enjoyed the photos and will enjoy the video as well, and as always thanks for stopping by!