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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2015 Fall Photography Tour of Japan | Kanazawa and Kenrokuen

Jan 22 | Evan | No Comments |

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The 2015 Fall Photography Tour of Japan started off with a short stay in Tokyo and then on to include Kanazawa, Okayama, Miyajima, Kyoto and then returning to Tokyo.  The first evening started off with a rainy day in Tokyo and by the time we reached the city from the airport, it was dinner time.  So on a rainy Tokyo evening, we head out to meet a group of Japanese friends for a welcome dinner at an izakaya (think Japanese tapas bar).  After breakfast the next morning we headed north west along the new Japan Rail Hokuriku Shinkansen which extended all the way to Kanazawa in the Spring of 2015.  This makes reaching Kanazawa much easier and quicker from Tokyo than in the past!  So what’s to see in Kanazawa?  Too much for our 3 days we would spend in the capital of Ishikawa Prefecture, but the most famous attraction is Kenrokuen, Japan’s most famous garden.

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Our timing for the leaves was good as we could see some trees in the peak and others in the midst of changing, offering a variety of greens, yellows, oranges and reds, very nice!  The weather could have been a little better though as we had fairly dreary days.  Though with my recent luck with the weather, not having rain, or a typhoon, was certainly a plus!  Back to Kanazawa and Kenrokuen though!  It’s a beautifully landscaped garden that is big enough that you could spend all day walking around and finding interesting things to make photos of.  The stone lantern in the first two photos is Kenrokuen’s iconic view and what you will see if you google Kenrokuen, but plenty of other great photography spots to be found!

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There is small entrance fee to access the garden, but what’s great for photographers is that early in the morning, before sunrise you can enter for free until the normal access hours.  The fact that Kenrokuen opens before sunrise is wonderful as that happening for gardens is very rare in Japan.  These next few photos were taken early in the morning during the blue hour.Kenrokuen Japan Photo Guide 008

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As you could guess, along with the benefit of having great light in the early morning, as Kenrokuen is the most famous garden in Japan, going early means you beat the mass crowds of tourists to come later in the day.  Besides the iconic lantern in the first few images, Kenrokuen is famous for how they protect their trees from the heavy snow Kanazawa gets during the Winter called yukitsuri. During our time there, most of the ropes were setup already but we did get to see one being setup by a team in the garden.  You can see the ropes in a cone shape on some of the trees below and then at the bottom some night time photos as during the fall leaves season, Kenrokuen lights up some of the trees.

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The next three works of art were created by and courtesy of Charles Bowers, check out his site for more fantastic art from his international travels and information about upcoming shows!

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The 2015 Fall Photography Tour of Japan included Tokyo, Kanazawa, Shirakawago, Okayama, Hiroshima, Miyajima and Kyoto!  Interesting in joining your own escorted tour of Japan with Japan Photo Guide?  Contact us to get the planning of your trip to Japan started or join one of the group tours of Japan!