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Capturing the Cherry Blossom Season in Japan

To view more photos and videos of cherry blossoms and hanami parties throughout Japan, browse the #, #花見 and #お花見 hashtags on Instagram.

In Japan, sakura (桜), or cherry blossoms, stand as the symbolic flower of spring and start appearing all over the country as the seasons change. During this season, rows of cherry trees with their pastel-pink crowns transform the country and shower the streets in falling petals. People go out to gardens, streets and parks for hanami (花見), or flower viewing, to appreciate the beauty of the cherry blossoms and the mild weather after the long, cold winter. Often, hanami involves picnicking in the best sakura locations and enjoying food and drinks with friends under cherry trees. The blooming of sakura begins from the south around late March and spreads northward through the beginning of May.

Want to see more photos and videos from some of the most famous sakura locations in Japan? Explore the location pages below:

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Inside the Bento Box: Exploring the Art of Charaben (#キャラ弁)

To see more photos of beautifully decorated bentos, browse the #キャラ弁 hashtag.

For many Japanese people, having home cooked bentos, or boxed meals, for lunch is a part of everyday life. Often parents will wake up early in the morning to prepare and pack the lunches into individual bento boxes for the whole family before they go to school or work. In recent years, the daily endeavor to prepare a balanced and appetizing meal has evolved into an artistic talent. These have taken the form of “charabens" (キャラ弁), short for "character bentos."

Charabens are bentos that are arranged to resemble famous characters, animals or other cute icons using the ingredients of the meal. Charaben making originally started as a way to encourage fussy kids to eat everything in the bento, including vegetables. Nowadays, with more cooking ideas and specialized tools at hand, this elaborate style of bento creation has become a hobby for many mothers. The bentos are increasingly sophisticated with rice balls shaped into rabbits, eggs baked to form stars and seaweed carved out into kids’ favorite manga characters. Skilled charaben are also beginning to gain recognition for their craft as many mothers have taken to writing blogs and cookbooks about their work, producing new cooking utensils or even entering charaben cooking contests.

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Exploring Cafés in Japan with @tukanana

To see more photos of Japanese coffee shops and beautiful latte art, follow @tukanana on Instagram. You can also find more photos and stories of his experiences on his blog.

Over the past few years, cafés have become a place of craftsmanship and artistry in Japan. New coffee shops that roast their own beans and serve them in their own brewing styles are emerging across the country. Many locals have embraced the coffee culture, including Tokyo Instagrammer @tukanana. A fan of Japanese cafés for nearly ten years, he goes to as many as four coffee shops daily to enjoy various types of coffee and the different atmosphere of the shops.

"Japanese cafés are great because each of the shops has their own personality which reflects the seasons as well as the area of their location," he says. "Also, there is a good selection of cafés to choose from to find the one that best matches your taste."

@tukanana makes his selection of cafés based on a holistic evaluation of location, appearance, interior and menu. While many of his photos focus on just the coffee, he always likes to share at least one photo that captures the total atmosphere of the shop. “I look at many magazines and works of other good photographers, which makes it easier for me to picture the kind of shot I want,” he says.

To see more photos and videos from coffee shops in Japan, explore the following location pages: