2014 Cherry Blossom Tour of Japan | Tokyo and Kyoto

Apr 16 | Evan | No Comments |

I love visiting and sharing Japan during anytime of the year, but there is nothing like Japan during cherry blossom season!   What started out as me helping the family plan by consulting on their trip, turned into a 8 day tour with them in Tokyo and Kyoto during cherry blossom season.  We were perhaps a few days early for the sakura to be in full bloom, but towards the middle and end of the trip, we got to see some beautiful cherry blossom trees.  Besides the cherry blossoms, we had plenty to do!

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This tour of Japan was one of my hybrid general + photo tours where the father had a strong passion for photography and while the rest of the family enjoys taking photos, the tour couldn’t be just a photography tour.   There were still some early morning photography sessions just the rest of the family was sleeping in and eating breakfast while we were out taking photos.  The father’s main focus is actually wildlife photography but aside from crows in Tokyo, there really aren’t any wildlife photography opportunities in Tokyo!  Instead, we were mainly focusing on cityscape and HDR images in Tokyo.  I also arranged a portrait session in Tokyo.  In Kyoto, I arranged two portrait sessions with a real maiko (Geiko in training, Geiko is what Geisha are called in Kyoto) and of course some of the amazing temples and shrines were our focus, along with the ever popular bamboo groves in Arashiyama.

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Like I said though, this wasn’t just a photography tour of Japan!  There was lot’s of sightseeing and experiences for the rest of the family as well!  Of course we went to the usual suspects in Tokyo and Kyoto, like in Tokyo, Shibuya, Harajuku, Shinjuku, Asakusa, Ueno, Akihabara and in Kyoto, Golden Pavilion, Ryoanji, Path of Philosophy, Kiyomizudera and so on… but also, were able to arrange some very special experiences as well.  Some of those experiences were a private demonstration with a Japanese sword smith, tea ceremony, already mentioned the maiko portrait session, private meeting with a monk for learning about Buddhism and to take some photos, a ninja experience and more!   Check out a few of my favorite photos of the family and cherry blossoms from the trip.  More photos from our tour of Japan coming soon!

Photo Tour of Japan | Fushimi Inari Shrine

Apr 16 | Evan | No Comments |

Fushimi Inari Shrine is one of my favorite places in Kyoto.  It’s a little out of the way in Southeastern Kyoto, but certainly worth the extra effort to get there!  There are thousands of torii gates lined up next to each other of various sizes.  All of the gates have the names of individuals or companies that have made donations to have their gate placed there.  So one side is just red and the other side has characters on the torii gate.  While most places in Kyoto do not open early, Fushimi Inari never closes, so you can come visit as early as you want.  Like with the bamboo groves of Arashiyama, I recommend going as early as possible to avoid crowds, but really, it doesn’t get as crowded here as other popular tourist places in Kyoto like Kiyomizudera or Golden Pavilion.

More from this photo tour of Japan is coming soon!  Here is the list of the places we visited and photographed in Japan.

Interested in your own custom photo tour and experiences in Japan?  Contact Japan Photo Guide today to start your adventure!

Photo Tour of Japan | Bamboo Grove in Arashiyama

Apr 15 | Evan | No Comments |

Arashiyama is on the outskirts of Western Kyoto and a beautiful place to visit.  I talked about Arashiyama already in my post in Kokedera (Moss Garden) and another popular place to visit, walk through and take photos is the bamboo grove.  I recommend going as early as possible, even arriving just before sunrise.  I recommend visiting the bamboo forest early not only for the beautiful light, but also to avoid the crowds.  If you are visiting just to see the bamboo in Arashiyama, then perhaps you don’t need to go as early, but for photos, getting there early makes a huge difference!  We arrived in Arashiyama about 20 minutes before sunrise and besides the occasional local on a walk or run, we were free to take photos without hoards of tourists!

More from this photo tour of Japan is coming soon!  Here is the list of the places we visited and photographed in Japan.

Interested in your own custom photo tour and experiences in Japan?  Contact Japan Photo Guide today to start your adventure!

Photo Tour of Japan | Golden Pavilion

Apr 10 | Evan | No Comments |

In the Northwest of Kyoto you can find quite a few interesting temples and shrines, including a few that are designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites like Ryoanji, Ninnanji and this one Kinkakuji.   Or in English, The Golden Pavilion.  Perhaps one of the most iconic symbols of Kyoto, and maybe Japan, The Golden Pavilion is beautiful and certainly worth visiting.  I’ve always found the light a little better in the morning and the pond always seems to be stiller as we well in the morning hours.  That being said, you cannot enter the grounds until 9am, so depending on the time of year you are in Kyoto, it already may be too late for nice light.  I’ve also found that if you go right when it opens, there will usually be a school tour bus or two waiting there with you.  Once they leave you could have some time to yourself, but depending on the time of year, it could be nonstop crowds.  The Golden Pavilion does have a non tripod policy and is very strict about it.  When you see the crowds, you will understand why!

More from this photo tour of Japan is coming soon!  Here is the list of the places we visited and photographed in Japan.

Interested in your own custom photo tour and experiences in Japan?  Contact Japan Photo Guide today to start your adventure!

Photo Tour of Japan | Kokedera, The Moss Garden Temple in Kyoto

Mar 16 | Evan | No Comments |

Kokedera is one of my favorite places in Kyoto.  The Moss Garden Temple, aka Kokedera or Saiho-ji, is on the outskirts of Kyoto and you not only do you have to make reservation far in advance by mail, the entry fee is 3,000 yen per person.  Even though you do need a reservation for the Moss Garden Temple and that the entrance fee isn’t cheap, I can highly recommend Kokedera, especially during when the leaves are changing colors!  To make a reservation, you need to send a special kind of postcard available in Japan called “ofuku hagaki” and include how many are in your group, preferred date(s) of visiting as well as a self addressed and stamped return postcard.  You must make a reservation for Kokedera at least 7 days in advance but I recommend a month or more if you are going during peak season.  Saiho-ji starts to accept reservations two months before your intended date of visiting the temple.  If you want, I do provide the reservation service for Kokedera for $15 USD, please contact me for details.

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Accessing Kokedera is not as easy as other sites in Kyoto, but again, it is worth making the extra effort to get there!  I recommend combining it with Arashiyama in the morning and having a early lunch at one of the many places close to Togetsukyo Bridge area before taking a short taxi ride to Kokedera.  The Moss Garden Temple only opens to the public once per day, so your session will start at 1pm but you should be there at least 15 minutes early.  When you arrive, you are invited to take place in a short service and sutra writing/chanting.  For non Japanese, a paper is offered with the characters on them already so you can trace the sutra.   You can do as much (or little as you like) of the writing, and after the service are free to explore the beautiful temple grounds.   Even though tripods are not allowed and the lighting during the middle of the day isn’t the best, you can still make some beautiful photos at Saiho-ji.  Below are a few more photos or you can also take a look here for more Kokedera Photos.

More from this photo tour of Japan is coming soon!  Here is the list of the places we visited and photographed in Japan.

Interested in your own custom photo tour and experiences in Japan?  Contact Japan Photo Guide today to start your adventure!

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