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Welcome to the Instagram blog! See how Instagrammers are capturing and sharing the world's moments through photo and video features, user spotlights, tips and news from Instagram HQ.

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Photography, events, Japan, fireworks, fire festival 2014, Location Feature, current event, Instagram,

Igniting Handheld Fireworks at Summer Festivals in Japan

For more photos and videos of the handheld fireworks, browse the 手筒花火 hashtag.

Brave men of central Japan ignite handheld fireworks, bringing exciting showers of flames to local summer fire festivals. These cylindrical, handheld pyrotechnics called tezutsu-hanabi (手筒花火) originated in Toyohashi during the Edo Period (1603-1868) and continue in modern-day Japan with events such as the 19th annual Fire Festival (炎の祭典) this Saturday. To make these fireworks, craftsmen stuff black powder into bamboo trunks casted with thick ropes. Once lit, the cylinders spray sparks of fire until the explosives finish with a loud blast.

Shinto festivals traditionally used fireworks to protect people from evil spirits and bad fortune, and they now make up an essential summertime activity in Japan. The handheld fireworks are still crafted to present as offerings to local shrines until they are fired on festival day. Only a handful of summer events in central Japan feature this type of firework, and the thrilling displays of men inside downpours of sparks offer local and visiting Instagrammers a chance to capture some of the most spectacular moments of the summer.

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Photography, travel, fashion, Japan, hairdresser, hair cut, backpacking, User Feature, Instagram,

Exploring the World One Haircut at a Time with @juuuuuuuun

For more photos and videos from Jun Kuwabara’s journey across the world, follow @juuuuuuuun on Instagram.

Taking only a backpack, his guitar and his hairdressing tools, Jun Kuwabara (@juuuuuuuun) of Yamanashi, Japan set out on an around-the-world trip this April. “I wanted to engage in something significant while I traveled,” says Jun, “and the only thing I can do is cut hair—so I thought I’d work on an idea of cutting hair for 1,000 people.”

Jun is now traveling through Southeast Asia, volunteering to cut hair for locals, orphans, fellow travelers and Japanese expats who find him through his blog or Instagram account. “I start out by asking around for places where I can perform hair cuts or places where people gather,” he says. The places Jun ends up can be in the most unusual locations for haircuts, such as sidewalks, parks, storefronts and even beaches. “I sometimes put up a sign for people to notice, but once I start cutting for one person, onlookers will usually ask for a haircut, too,” Jun explains. While communication is not easy in these foreign countries, Jun says that for the most part, his customers are happy with their new look.

Although there is no concrete travel plan in his trip, Jun hopes to visit India, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and South America in the coming months.

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Architecture, design, Tokyo, Japan, photography, User Feature, Instagram,

Appreciating Architecture with @yukomouton

For more of Yuko’s collection of architecture, follow @yukomouton on Instagram.

“I can’t quite describe my fascination with architecture in words, but I think I am intrigued by the idea of creating space,” says Tokyo Instagrammer Yuko Kawauchi (@yukomouton). While architectural photography is mainly a personal interest for Yuko, it also becomes a source of inspiration for her work as a fashion designer. “Geometric shapes found in buildings,” she explains, “do shine through in my pattern sketches and cuttings.”

Yuko’s initial appreciation for architecture developed after she went to an old building to take photos for Instagram. “I had thought that architecture and fashion were two completely different fields until then, but they actually do share certain terminologies and that got me further interested.”

Now, Yuko’s Instagram photos have become a collection of uniquely shaped structures found all over Tokyo—as well as from other cities around the world—including museums, churches, libraries and apartment buildings. “I don’t consider my photos to be a work of art,” she says. “I share these photos hoping to inform people about these locations and spark their curiosity about visiting them.”

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art, aquarium, Art Thursday, Japan, Instagram, goldfish, photography, edo period, hidetomo kimura, Tokyo,

Tradition Meets Technology at the 2014 Eco Edo Nihonbashi Art Aquarium

For more photos and videos from the exhibition, explore the COREDO室町 (Coredo Muromachi) and アートアクアリウム2014 (Art Aquarium 2014) location pages and browse the #アートアクアリウム (art aquarium) hashtag.

The Eco Edo Nihonbashi Art Aquarium 2014 opened last Friday at the Nihonbashi Mitsui Hall in Tokyo, Japan. This exhibition features 17 fish tank installations designed by “art aquarist” Hidetomo Kimura, whose work brings more than 5,000 goldfish on display in 70 aquariums.

These extraordinary aquatic installations are decked with LED lights, projection mapping, music and even scents. While the technology involved is quite advanced, the aquarium designs are inspired by Japan’s Edo Period (1603–1868) and incorporate traditional motifs such as classic glass fish bowls, folding screens and lanterns.

Hidetomo’s works will be on view at the Nihonbashi Mitsui Hall until September 23, 2014.

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Architecture, Japan, user feature, Instagram,

Centering in on Architecture with @_f7

To see more photos and videos from Yoshito, follow @_f7 on Instagram.

"My job is to create things, which is probably why I find manmade objects more interesting than things in nature," says Kanagawa Instagrammer Yoshito Hasaka (@_f7). Working as an application designer in a Tokyo-based company, Yoshito is constantly inspired by the cityscape and the constructions of various shapes and sizes that fill the city. On Instagram, he likes to challenge himself to fit as many details from a building as he can into one small square photo. “I am not a professional in architecture or photography, but when I put myself in the shoes of the people who created the space, I can make my own interpretation of where the most appealing point of the scene is intended to be.”

Yoshito likes to keep the building front and center when shooting architecture. He finds a point that cuts straight through a given space and aims to bring the vanishing point to the center while capturing the entire scene. “I naturally find myself shooting from the front of things,” explains Yoshito. “I want to preserve that towering, enclosing impression of buildings, and I think I can best express that by looking at them straight from the front.”

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art, japan, user feature, Instagram,

Creating “Nezo Art” (#寝相アート) with @erichedelic

To see more photos of “nezo art,” browse the #寝相アート hashtag and follow @erichedelic on Instagram.

"The way my baby daughter slept was so funny, and I had some time to spare while she was asleep," explains Fukuoka Instagrammer Eriko Ohga (@erichedelic). In Japan, a growing trend called “nezo art” (寝相アート) has been inspiring mothers like Eriko to take creative photos of their babies while they sleep. Literally meaning “sleep-posture art” in Japanese, this new style of documenting baby years allows moms to have some fun during their few hours of peace while the little one sleeps.

The “nezo art” that creative moms like Eriko share are especially elaborate, using costumes and household props like laundry to shape scenes that tell stories. “I try to form a rough idea of the scene I want to create and prepare the area where my daughter would lay down before she falls asleep,” reveals Eriko. She then places her daughter in the designated setup, and, once the baby is asleep, the rest of the parts are put together in stealthy movements. Eriko also shares her tips for shooting the finished image: “I climb up on a chair to capture the entire scene from above. I’m also extra careful not to wake the baby up with the sound of the iPhone camera.”

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Location Feature, Japan,

Exploring Tomioka Silk Mill (富岡製糸場) in Gunma, Japan

For more photos and videos from the silk mill, browse the #富岡製糸場 hashtag and explore the 富岡製糸場 location page.

Located in Tomioka City, 110km (68 miles) northwest of Tokyo, the Tomioka Silk Mill (富岡製糸場) is one of Japan’s oldest industrial facilities. Since its founding in 1872, the mill produced some of the finest silks in the world for over a century until it ceased its operation in 1987. The mill is a government-appointed historical site open to the public, and was nominated to become a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in April.

The silk mill was once a major modernizing force as Japan began trade with the Western countries. The Japanese government commissioned French designers, engineers and instructors to staff the mill, and the facility was filled with equipment from France as well. Women across Japan were also recruited to work at the mill under fixed working hours with food and medical benefits—a highly advanced labor environment for the time.

Even after 140 years, the entire facility including the silk reeling factory, cocoon warehouses and workers’ dormitories are well preserved, adding a historical and aesthetic value to the site that attracts both local and visiting Instagrammers alike.

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User Feature, Japan,

Finding Patterns with @hagi_hara

To see more photos of patterns found in everyday life, follow @hagi_hara.

Osaka Instagrammer @hagi_hara began using Instagram nearly three years ago to shoot things in everyday life that caught his attention. He soon noticed that his photos had a similar aesthetic, capturing designs and patterns that came out of negligible places, such as a cover on a street gutter, a cross section of a cabbage and creases on a folded umbrella. “Even before I started Instagram, I originally had an interest in different types of patterns like repetition, symmetry and contrast,” he says. “I love browsing the #texture and #pattern hashtags, and I also started using them on my own photos.”

When @hagi_hara searches for designs, he looks for the smallest things that amuse him in the most mundane of places. “When I discover an interesting pattern, it makes me so happy that I want to share it with everyone,” he explains. One of his favorite types of patterns is repetition, which he captures from things like a stack of chopsticks, a bird’s feathers and a cover on a skylight. The images captured through @hagi_hara's phone can become confusingly beautiful. He adds, “When it is hard to figure out what the image is about, I like to write in a small hint of what it is in the caption.”

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cherry blossom, japan,

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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Location Feature, sand dunes, Japan,

Exploring Japan’s Biggest Sand Dunes

To view more photos and videos from the dunes, explore the Tottori Sand Dunes location page.

Huge sand hills, strong winds and camelback rides—these aren’t exactly the scenes you’d expect to find in Japan. Yet at the Tottori Sand Dunes in Tottori, Japan, that’s exactly what you can expect to find. Located in the southwestern region of Honshū Island and neighboring the Sea of Japan, these sand dunes are the only of their kind in the country. Covering an area of 30 square kilometers (7,413 acres), the dunes developed over thousands of years as volcanic sediments from nearby mountains were carried out into the Sea of Japan through the Sendai River. Strong ocean winds brought the sand back ashore to create the dunes. The desert-like environment, along with a herd of imported camels, provide an extraordinary view for locals and visiting Instagrammers alike.