Under the cherry blossom

Under the cherry blossom

In Japan, the fleeting beauty of the springtime cherry blossom is rich in cultural significance and highly anticipated every year. Detailed forecasts from the Japanese Meteorological Agency track the northward progress of the cherry blossom front, or sakura zensen, as it spreads a blanket of delicate pink flowers over the country.

Since the flowers only stay on the trees for a week, they are revered not only for their beauty, but also for their poignant transiency -- a reminder of the ephemeral nature of life. The centuries-old practice of picnicking under the bloom of the cherry blossom has evolved into today's Hanami festivals, which see the population gathering together at parks and public spaces to enjoy the spectacle.

ARC System, a prominent Japanese lighting equipment rental company, has an annual tradition of illuminating cherry trees along the Nogawa River in Chõfu, west Tokyo, for just one night of the blossom. The tradition started when the company up-lit a single tree for the benefit of its employees, but has grown into a major seasonal event, attended by thousands of local residents and widely covered in the media.

For the 2014 event, 93 cherry trees along 650 meters of walkway beside the river were up-lit with 151 lampheads. ARRI daylight fixtures were selected for their powerful, high-quality light output, reliability and uniform color performance. They included X12, X40/25 and X60 units from the ARRI X range, which utilizes a unique reflector system to produce beautifully soft light with a wide 130° beam. An ARRISUN 40 was also used, as well as 1.2 kW, 2.5 kW and 4 kW ARRI Compact lampheads.

The stars of the show were M18 and M40 lights from ARRI's M-Series, a line of state-of-the-art daylight lampheads featuring the patented MAX reflector. Combining the best elements of PAR and Fresnel fixtures, M-Series units incorporating MAX Technology® are open-face and thus very bright. They are focusable over a wide range of beam angles, producing a clear, crisp shadow.

Drawing 450 kW from five power supply vehicles, the 151 lights necessitated 250 cables, totaling five kilometers in length and weighing four tons. The exact arrival time of the cherry blossom varies each year according to climatic conditions, so the schedule for the one-night installation could only be fixed immediately before the event itself, giving ARC System employees just one day to set up all of the lampheads, stands and cables. Their hard work was worth it, though, because it gave the company a chance to connect with local society and to showcase the benefits of ARRI lights by accentuating the beauty of a Japanese tradition.