Hanami is a celebration of the short and beautiful life of sakura (cherry tree). The blossoms bloom in early spring and only last a week or two. During this brief period, Japanese people celebrate sakura with outdoor parties underneath the trees, all day and night. This tradition goes back thousands of years and is rooted in the idea of humans interacting organically with the natural world. The custom shows people’s appreciation for the fleeting nature of the experience of beauty and the acceptance of the transience of all life. I have been documenting this aspect of Japanese culture for the last several years, focusing on Yozakura (Hanami at night). Moonlight and the nocturnal atmosphere emphasize the beauty of sakura blossoms. This series of photographs was taken in the city of Fukuoka on Kyushu Island, where I was born and raised.
Japanese-born Lieh Sugai is a New York-based portrait and documentary photographer who explores cultural traditions around the world. She studied Graphic Design at Pratt Institute, where photography quickly became her prevailing passion—a way to enter inside different cultures, tell stories and push the boundaries of her creativity.