Private and Custom Tour of Japan | Flowers and Swords in Kyoto

Aug 19 | Evan | No Comments |

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The Japanese Summer was getting hotter and hotter but our custom tour of Japan would continue!  After spending a few days in Kanazawa and Shirakawago, we headed to Kyoto, my favorite city in Japan.  Part of the reason why I love Kyoto so much is all the wonderful experiences that can be had in the area!

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First we visited a Japanese sword smith that I had arranged for some private experiences in previous years.  It’s always fun to visit with and watch this master demonstrate his art.  Not to mention, we can create some really interesting photos with the sparks from his hard hitting efforts!

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Though even better than that, is the experience talking with such a master sword smith about his art.  It’s easy to see his passion through his kind and welcoming personality.  Guests traveling with me in Japan that are come here always tell me that visiting with the sword smith was one of the highlights.

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Having spent time learning about the sword making process, it was time for another great experience in Kyoto, Ikebana experience and course.  Ikebana is Japanese flower arrangement and is the form of art creating, yes you guessed it, arrangements of flowers!

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We first got a short introduction about different types of flower arrangements and the history of Ikebana and then had a hands lesson to create our own flower arrangement with fresh flowers from Kyoto.  The class is in an old style Japanese home, machiya, which really adds to the atmosphere of the ikebana experience and makes for great photos as well!

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Private and Custom Tour of Japan | Shirakawago and Kanazawa

Aug 17 | Evan | No Comments |

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After spending a great couple of days in Kamikochi, our private tour of Japan continued to Shirakawago and Kanazawa, by way of Takayama.  First up, we would stay the night in a gassho-zukuri which translates to built like praying hands for the triangle shaped roof that are suppose to look like a Buddhist monk’s hands as during prayer.

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There are a few of these small villages throughout Japan though the ones in this area are, largest to smallest, Shirakawago (Ogimachi), Gokayama (Ainokura) and Suganuma.  We spent time in all 3 and slept in one of these traditional grass huts in Ainokura.  As these villages have become world heritage sites, especially Shirakawago has become very popular and crowded during the day.  We were happy to stay in Gokayama which was much less crowded and allowed for better photography opportunities.   Of course like many places that get crowded, early in the morning is best to take photos if you can wake up!

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After a night in Gokayama, our tour of Japan continued to Kanazawa.  Since last Autumn, this was my third time visiting Kanazawa, going to Kanazawa with a private tour of Japan just a week or so earlier, and enjoying Fall leaves in Kanazawa in 2015.  Since the opening of the new Hokuriku Shinkansen in April of 2015, Kanazawa tourism has picked up quite a bit with easier access from Tokyo.

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Instead of staying in a hotel, we stayed 2 nights in Kanazawa in a machiya, a traditional style home.  If traveling with a small group or family, I think it’s a great experience a little what life is like in a traditional Japanese home.  In addition to checking out the DT Suzuki museum, 21st Century Art Museum and of course Kanazawa’s famous Kenrokuen, we spent some time with a Japanese certified guide that helped us plan a special and private meeting with one of the gardeners at Kenrokuen!  A trip to Kanazawa wouldn’t be complete without visiting the old samurai district, Nagamachi, and old geisha district, Higashi Chaya, so we made time to visit there as well!  Next up, a private experience with a Japanese sword smith and a flower arrangement class!

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Private and Custom Tour of Japan | Kamikochi

Aug 11 | Evan | No Comments |

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After short stay in Tokyo, the private (hiking) tour of Japan would continue onto one of my favorite places in Japan, Kamikochi.  Kamikochi is located in Nagano Prefecture and is only open from April through October and can only be accessed by bus or taxi, not private car.  It’s a great place to escape the crowds of Japan and get in touch with nature.  Though nature is about all that there is in Kamikochi and they intend to keep it that way with their five rules, or as I like to say, the Kamikochi Five (nice ring to it).

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Basically, you aren’t allowed to feed the wild animals, you cannot take anything away from or bring any foreign species into Kamikochi, you cannot litter and keep on the paths.  Speaking of the paths, they are mostly flat either raised wood, dirt or gravel.  Easy to walk for all ages.

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Kamikochi really is a photographer’s and perhaps hiker’s dream.  For this private tour of Japan, we stayed in Kamikochi for 2 nights, but easily could have stayed longer to take more photos of the mountains, lakes and streams as well as exploring by foot the natural surroundings.  While we stayed on the flat terrain, as that was enough hiking for us, there are more challenging paths up the mountains.

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And did I mention there are monkeys?  Monkeys always make for some interesting observing and photographic opportunities!  A few more monkey photos from our private tour in Kamikochi and then a gallery of more monkeys and a few photos of Kamikochi.

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Private and Custom Tour of Japan | Tokyo and Cooking Experience

Aug 10 | Evan | No Comments |

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If my previous private and custom tour of Japan was a photography and foodie tour of Japan, my next private tour of Japan was a photography and hiking tour of Japan!  I say hiking tour of Japan because we probably walked between 15km – 18km a day as it was Mike’s preference to walk whenever possible!  To be honest though, it’s not uncommon for us to walk around 10km per day in a normal tour, so we are always walking a lot in Japan, but we walked a little more in this photo tour of Japan!

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We started out with a short stay in Tokyo and explored a lot of the popular spots like Shibuya, Harajuku, Akihabara, Ueno and so on, but also I arranged for Mike to have a private cooking lesson with a chef in her home.  I strongly believe that trying the food of Japan and meeting locals are very important for experiencing Japan, so a cooking lesson with a Japanese chef in her home is a great cultural experience!

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Mike and Chef Yuca prepared about 5 different dishes representing a typical meal a family might have on any given night in Japan, including one of my favorites, gyoza, a Japanese version of a Chinese dumpling.  I’m always sad to leave Tokyo, but our hiking and photography tour of Japan would continue on to one of my favorite places in Japan, Kamikochi!

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