Private and Custom Tour of Japan | Kyoto

Aug 02 | Evan | No Comments |

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After meeting in Tokyo and spending a few days in Kanazawa our private tour of Japan headed to my favorite city in Japan, Kyoto! With it’s mix of modern and tradition, along with what seems like an endless supply of beautiful gardens, shrines and temples, Kyoto is a photographer’s dream. Kyoto is also great for a foodie tour, which this guided tour of Japan was kind of turning into along with the photography aspect!

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During the tour of Kyoto we visited as far west as Arashiyama for the bamboo grove and Moss Garden Temple (Kokedera), as far north west as Kamigamo Jinja and north east as Sanzenin and as far south as Fushi Inari Shrine. Of course we visited lots of other places in the center of Kyoto and east side of Kyoto as well! Eating lot’s of delicious food along the way and with a few special experiences arranged for the tour of Kyoto.

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Japan Photo Guide Kyoto 225

Meeting and making Japanese friends is part of my tours that I always try and encourage. After all, the people of Japan are certainly part of what makes Japan such a great place to visit! I arranged for a ikebana (flower arrangement) demonstration, calligraphy lesson, tea ceremony with an English speaking maiko and also a portrait session with a maiko in Kyoto. More on the portrait session with a maiko in Kyoto coming later as that will get it’s own blog post!

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Japan Photo Guide Kyoto 246

As with most of my trips to Kyoto, visiting Fushimi Inari Shrine and the bamboo groves of Arashiyama early in the morning provide the best chance of great photographic opportunity. Not only because of the obvious better light earlier in the morning but also because these places just get too crowded during the day, or really even from 8am or perhaps a little earlier!

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Japan Photo Guide Kyoto 143

Instead of sharing more of my photos, I wanted to share more of Isabelle’s awesome photos from our time touring and exploring Kyoto!  All the photos below were created by and courtesy of Isabelle Nazha Photography.  Also, be sure to check out her detailed report of our trip to Kyoto from her blog!

Created by and Courtesy of Isabelle Nazha Photography

Created by and Courtesy of Isabelle Nazha Photography

Created by and Courtesy of Isabelle Nazha Photography

Created by and Courtesy of Isabelle Nazha Photography

Created by and Courtesy of Isabelle Nazha Photography

Created by and Courtesy of Isabelle Nazha Photography

Created by and Courtesy of Isabelle Nazha Photography

Created by and Courtesy of Isabelle Nazha Photography

Created by and Courtesy of Isabelle Nazha Photography

Created by and Courtesy of Isabelle Nazha Photography

2015 Fall Photo Tour of Japan | Kokedera Saihoji

Feb 20 | Evan | No Comments |

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It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Kokedera, The Moss Garden Temple also called Saihoji.  Kokedera, which is located west of Kyoto in the Arashiyama area, does require advance reservations (I’d recommend at least a few weeks or a month and give multiple dates if you can) and an entrance fee of 3000 yen per person but is 100% worth visiting, especially in the Fall with Autumn’s leaves!  Quick note for photographer’s tripods are not allowed.

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When you visit Kokedera, first you will attend a short service and have the chance to practice your Japanese calligraphy by writing a sutra.   Don’t worry though, you won’t get graded and the Japanese characters are lightly printed so you are basically tracing the sutra at Kokedera.  Most of the seating will be on the floor though there are some tables outside the main hall with chairs.  You should arrive 15 minutes ahead of your reservation time at Kokedea, especially if you or somebody in your group will want a chair.  When you are finished with the sutra, you will be free to explore the beautiful temple grounds, the main garden of which is almost completely covered by moss.  For more information about how to make a reservation at Kokedera, take a look at Japan-Guide’s website.

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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!

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.



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!