Private and Custom Tour of Japan | Kyoto

Aug 02 | Evan | No Comments |

Japan Photo Guide Kyoto 013
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!

Japan Photo Guide Kyoto 017

Japan Photo Guide Kyoto 019

Japan Photo Guide Kyoto 047

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.

Japan Photo Guide Kyoto 193

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!

Japan Photo Guide Kyoto 239

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!

Japan Photo Guide Kyoto 146

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

Why should I visit Japan with a guide or group tour?

May 13 | Evan | No Comments |

I get asked frequently why should I visit Japan with a group or a guide and there are many reasons why you should see the sights in Japan with a guide! There is nothing wrong with going sightseeing in Japan by yourself and Japan is safe enough (actually, crime wise, Japan is probably just about the safest country there is) where you really don’t have to worry about most issues you have when traveling to other countries. Like most things in life, there are some advantages to touring Japan with a guide and some benefits to enjoy your holiday in Japan by yourself!

First, let’s explore the benefits of traveling to Japan by yourself…



Of course visiting Japan by yourself gives you the ultimate flexibility because you can visit sights in Japan you want to see and eat the foods in Japan you want to eat and so on… I spent about 4 years off an on traveling by myself around Japan and it was filled with wonderful experiences and my favorite foods!

Less of an investment

This, along with all reasons to visit Japan by yourself, kind of goes along with flexibility as you can stay and eat where you want to in Japan and save money how you want to. Not to mention you don’t have the added expense of a guide.

Public transportation in Japan is awesome

I don’t think it is possible to find as efficient, safe and clean public transportation anywhere else in the world, Japan’s public transportation is top-notch and can get you most popular places. Not only in Tokyo, Kyoto and other popular places, but even in the countryside there is at least some network of trains and buses that are usually still on time. Also, there are great apps and websites like hyperdia that will give you the best way to get from one station to another including details of transfer times, cost, total time and more.

Japanese people usually want to help foreigners

No sweeping statement is always true, but especially in areas where non-Japanese are more common, locals are usually really happy to help us clueless foreigners!


Japan is safe and Japanese people are usually trustworthy

Again, no sweeping statement is always true and yes, you should always use common sense when traveling, but compared to most countries, Japan is about as safe as they come and Japanese people tend to be very honest and trustworthy. You really don’t have to worry about being “taken for” since you are not a local.

Here are the reasons why it is great to have a guide when visiting Japan…


Guides will save you time

Time efficiency means more vacation time in Japan and less planning time before you visit Japan, especially if you are on a private tour.  Time is one of the few things in life you can never get more of and by definition of taking a holiday in Japan, you will have a very limited time in Japan.  My services will not only save you time in the planning process of your trip to Japan, but also when in Japan guides will make your time more efficient.  Getting from your hotel or sightseeing spot A to sightseeing spot B will be much easier with a guide. Yes, Japan has great public transportation but one look at the Tokyo Metro Map (only the subway not including the trains even) might make your head explode! Then once you get to your station, addresses in Japan aren’t straightforward as they are in other countries, and good luck finding street signs in Japanese let alone English.   If you don’t have a portable wifi device or roaming service to use your navigation app on your phone, you are in even worse trouble for finding places efficiently. A4-英-1212

Speaking Japanese in Japan is better than speaking English

Yes, you can visit Japan by yourself, even if you don’t speak Japanese, but traveling with somebody that speaks Japanese makes many situations much easier and again, will save you lot’s of time and even some frustration!   In Tokyo and other very popular tourist areas you will find English signs, but not always and finding English speakers, even in Tokyo isn’t always easy.  If you have dietary restrictions, it could be very difficult explaining what you can and cannot eat in English.  Once you leave Tokyo, English will become even less common…

Knowledge and personal experiences

Guides probably know more than you do about Japan!  Big surprise I know, but it is true!  Through my time living and traveling to Japan, I’ve learned quite a bit about Japan and can help you decide how to best spend your time depending on your interests and needs.  Again, you only have a limited time in Japan, so you will not be able to visit all the sightseeing spots and ramen restaurants, but I can tell you which ones might be best for you. Of course I don’t know everything about Japan and always try to get feedback and ask questions to what interests you have in Japan to make your time in Japan more meaningful.

Special experiences in Japan can’t always be booked by yourself

133_8636efWant to knock something off the bucket list?  Not only will guides know more than you, guides will have better connections than you!  Want to do something unique and special in Japan?   Like many places in the world, it is just as much about who you know!  With my local connections, I can arrange some special experiences that you can’t on your own or sometimes without me being there.  There are even some cases where something could be “sold out” for you, but not for me or even one step further, it could still be for me, but not for my connections in Japan.

Less stress in planning and getting around Japan

Whether it is a group tour of Japan you are interested in, or a private tour with your family to Japan, your guide can handle most things that will cause you stress so that you can enjoy your vacation!   Making the schedule fit is not only time-consuming, but it can be very stressful. Again, while in Japan, having a guide escort you around to make sure transfers between cities or just sightseeing spots go smoothly will certainly reduce your stress and let you focus on enjoying your vacation or creating your art in Japan.

Final note about my tours in Japan

Japan Photo Guide offers both custom tours for families and friends as well as group tours for photographers, photography hobbyists and their friends and family. Private escorted tours to Japan are catered to each group and even with the group tours to Japan, I always customize parts of the tour according to the participants to try and make the most out everyone’s holiday in Japan. If you are interesting in a group tour, like my 2014 Fall Japan Tour, or just have some questions, contact me today!

2014 Summer and Fall Tours of Japan

May 09 | Evan | No Comments |

Kyoto-36-japanphotoguideJapan Photo Guide is excited to announce 2 opportunities to experience Japan in 2014! In June and July of 2014 there is limited availability of short day tours or photography/portrait sessions in Japan. Whether in Tokyo, Kyoto, Hokkaido, Miyajima or someplace else, please contact me about what you want to do in Japan this summer!
The next option is a small group tour to Japan in Autumn of 2014! This will be an small group (maximum of 9 plus me) tour of Japan including Tokyo, Miyajima, Takeda Castle Ruins and Kyoto and the surrounding areas like Nara and Arashiyama. The tour will have a photography focus, but there will also be plenty of cultural and other experiences that you don’t have to be a photographer to enjoy, so partners/friends are welcome (and will get to sleep in while we up early for good light)! Even though it is a group tour, the trip to Japan will still be customized for participants to get the most out of it! Hope to see you in Japan!
Japan Photo Guide Fall-024

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!

Tokyo and Kyoto-15-japanphotoguide

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.

Ninja Experience-10-japanphotoguide

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!

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