3rd place winner, Kseniya Shakhova: During spring break of my senior year, as a graduation present, I had once in a lifetime opportunity to travel to the “Land of the Rising Sun.” Luckily, it was during the full bloom of sakuras, cherry blossom trees, which took over the entire land of Japan. The beauty of these soft-pink flowers was indescribable and something that has to be seen rather than described. This picture has been taken on April 8th in Kyoto, Japan, which also happens to be the day of Buddha’s Birthday, or what is known in Japan as “Hana Matsuri” or the Flower Festival. The usually crowded streets of Japan were even more so alive. Karaoke bars were all full of people, lanterns were hanging at every tree, people were strolling around, tents of food were set up left and right, and many girls were wearing traditional kimonos. The kimonos were brightly colored with a feminine pattern. The women carried colorful parasols, wore thong-like shoes with white mitten looking socks, and painted their faces white, their lips bright red and either wore a headdress with flowers on top or wind their hair up with a fancy comb. Those who went to the shrines brought an offering of fresh flowers, in which most cases happened to be sakuras.