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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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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.

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User Feature, Japan,

Capturing the Beauty of Wagasas with @atsuko12

For more photos and videos from Atsuko, follow @atsuko12 on Instagram.

"My first encounter with wagasas (Japanese umbrellas) was when I started working at a shop that sells them,” says Kyoto Instagrammer Atsuko (@atsuko12). “When I first held it in my hand, I was immediately drawn to the beauty of the traditional craftsmanship that shines through them.” For Atsuko, this was not only the beginning of a job, but the start of a mission to spread her passion for the umbrellas with their hand-carved handles and oil-paper tops.

Through her work, Atsuko came to discover the decline in the overall traditional craftwork industry and felt alarmed by it. “Currently, the number of artisans who produce the wagasas are decreasing, and they are aging with very few successors. There are only four stores left in Japan that specializes in selling them, of which three are in Kyoto. As much as we want to preserve these traditional crafts, it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so.”

Atsuko decided to start a series on Instagram to express the elegance of wagasas and send this message to the world. “I want people in and outside of Japan to understand the beauty of the traditional umbrellas and familiarize them in people’s lives. That’s why in the photos of wagasas I share on Instagram, I like to intentionally go outside of the classic Japanese settings and arrange them in artistic or everyday scenes.”

Atsuko takes the wagasas to the historical and modernized districts of Kyoto, where she captures them in the seasonal landscape of the city or blending in with the surrounding architecture. “Most of the portraits with the red umbrellas are self portraits, but I also have friends and other Instagrammers who shoot me and model for me,” she says. The figures with the wagasas are often dressed in western clothing, fusing modern and traditional cultures. “When I shoot the wagasas, I always keep in mind to tell at least one interesting thing about it in each of the photos I take.”

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local lens, User Feature, Japan,

Local Lens: Finding Peace in Tokyo with @hirozzzz

In this series, local Instagrammers show you their favorite places to shoot around where they live. To explore more of Tokyo, follow @hirozzzz on Instagram.

Tokyo Instagrammer Hiroaki Fukuda (@hirozzzz) is one of the many who have fallen in love with the dense crowds that populate the Tokyo cityscape. From the industrial areas of the Tokyo Bay to Tokyo Tower standing in the heart of the city, Tokyo’s dynamic scenery is one-of-a-kind. For Hiroaki, the beautiful constructions found all over the city fuel his creativity on Instagram.

Hiroaki likes to capture places like the tranquil Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden and the scenic route of the Yurikamome train line that rides along the Tokyo bay. “I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of what Tokyo would feel like if it was emptier,” he says. “Whether it is an empty train, a passageway, an empty bench in a park or a street in a busy district, I feel like I’m always striving to create a sense of calm in what I know to be one of the most densely populated regions in the world.”

Other locations Hiroaki enjoys shooting are the narrow alleys found in the vibrant districts of Shibuya and Shinjuku, the architecture in Omotesando and Ginza and the chaos of the Tsukiji Fish Market. Even among the hustle and bustle of these places, Hiroaki finds and captures a moment of peace.

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Location Feature, Japan, meoto iwa, wedded rocks, 夫婦岩, landscape, shinto,

The Romance of Meoto Iwa (夫婦岩), the Wedded Rocks

For more photos and videos from the wedded rocks, explore the 夫婦岩 / The Wedded Rocks location page.

Off the coast of Futami in Japan’s Mie prefecture, two large rocks jutting from the sea are tied in eternal embrace. Known as meoto iwa (夫婦岩), the “wedded rocks” comprise a shinto site symbolizing the union of Izanagi and Izanami, the divine couple that gave birth to the Japanese islands and the kami (spirits) that inhabit them. The rice-straw ceremonial rope, or shimenawa (注連縄), that binds the rocks weighs over a ton and must be replaced multiple times a year as it deteriorates in the wet sea air.

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hashtag highlight, user feature, Japan,

Joining “The Wall Club” (#ザ壁部) with @ka_nai

To see more photos from “The Wall Club,” browse the #ザ壁部 hashtag and follow @ka_nai on Instagram.

"One of my followers once told me that all the photos I take on Instagram are of walls, so I decided to create a hashtag for it." This is how Tokyo Instagrammer Hisayuki Kanai (@ka_nai) came up with the idea for a unique hashtag to chronicle his wall photos: #ザ壁部, literally meaning “The Wall Club” in Japanese (the English equivalent of the hashtag is #straightfacades). Until very recently, the hashtag project became the center of his life as he searched for good walls to shoot whenever he went out.

"For me, taking wall photos is not meant to be ‘photography.’ I capture walls because it is something I can find anywhere to design a square frame in interesting ways," explains Hisayuki. "The trick to shooting wall photos is to just shoot straight!" he adds. "It takes a lot of patience aligning the camera in perfect parallel with the wall."

Hisayuki’s work quickly caught the imagination of other community members and the hashtag is now widely used by many Instagrammers across the world. “I’ve actually been thanked by other strange people like me who like to take photos of walls but didn’t know what to make of it,” he says.

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local lens, user feature, Japan,

Local Lens: An Authentic View of Tokyo with @airnude

In this series, local Instagrammers show you their favorite places to shoot around where they live. To explore more of Tokyo, follow @airnude on Instagram.

"Being born and raised in Tokyo, there is no other charm about this place than all the stories I can find in it," says Tokyo Instagrammer Suguru Azuma (@airnude). For Suguru, these stories are mostly about his memories. “I like to shoot all over Itabashi Ward and Ikebukuro District. I haven’t really thought about why, but, come to think of it, these are areas around my hometown that I was able to explore by foot when I was in elementary school.”

Suguru finds inspiration in things that remind him of his childhood days. He often captures honest, everyday scenes which to others may seem trivial. Sculptures peeking out of a neighbor’s house that terrified him as a child, a wall of an elementary school that his friend used to attend, a parking lot where a friend’s house used to stand—these are some of the nostalgic locations that Suguru likes to shoot in old suburban areas of Tokyo.

Suguru also likes to discover simple, unembellished sceneries in huge entertainment districts like Shinjuku-Kabukicho, Shibuya, Harajuku and Ueno. “In these places, there is a high chance you will run into something unexpected. Tokyo has the modern, cosmopolitan areas as well as the old, traditional places like my hometown. I like to keep a mix of photos from both sides of the city,” he says.

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current event, Sapporo Snow Festival, Japan,

The 2014 Sapporo Snow Festival Begins in Sapporo, Japan

To see more photos and videos of this year’s snow festival, explore the さっぽろ雪まつり SAPPORO SNOW FESTIVAL, 大通公園 (Odori Park), つどーむ and すすきの (Susukino) location pages.

The 65th Sapporo Snow Festival (さっぽろ雪まつり) began yesterday in the northern city of Sapporo, Japan. The week-long festival is one of the biggest winter events in the country, displaying hundreds of snow statues and ice sculptures in three venues across the city. Millions of visitors from around the world gather to marvel at the towering snow art and the elegantly shaped figures made of ice.

The Japan Self-Defense Forces, local construction companies, guest teams from abroad and local volunteers spend up to one month completing their projects. In addition to featuring trends and icons from the previous year, this year’s snow sculptures also showcase famous architectural structures such as the tomb of Itimad-ud-Daula in India and Malaysia’s Sultan Abdul Samad building.

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location feature, cats, Cat Island, Japan, 田代島, Tashirojima,

A Visit to Japan’s Cat Island: Tashirojima (田代島)

For more photos and videos of Tashirojima’s cats, explore the 田代島 location page.

Off the Oshika Peninsula on the eastern shore of Japan sits Tashirojima (田代島), a small island that is home to about 100 people and hundreds of cats. “Cat Island,” as Tashiorjima is commonly called, was once home to a fishing industry and about 1,000 people, but the population has steadily declined and aged since its peak in the 1950s.

The island’s cats—believed to bring good fortune by locals—are Tashirojima’s biggest draw these days. Feline fanatics that are lucky enough to make the journey can also explore the island’s many cat shrines and cat-shaped stone monuments.

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hashtag highlight, charaben, Japan,

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.