A Photographic Journey through Japan’s Landscapes and Culture

Nov 29 | Evan | Comments Off on A Photographic Journey through Japan’s Landscapes and Culture |

In the fall of 2022, I had the unique opportunity to lead a photography tour of Japan for a small group of passionate photographers. This was the first photography tour of Japan I was able to lead post COVID and I couldn’t have been more excited! Our journey took us to some of the most picturesque locations across Japan, from the bustling streets of Tokyo to the serene landscapes of Fuji Five Lakes to the cultural hub of Kyoto. As a photographer myself, I was thrilled to share my knowledge and experience with this talented group, and together we captured some unforgettable moments and memories.

Our first stop was Tokyo, a vibrant and energetic city that offers endless opportunities for street photography. Japan’s bustling metropolis, Tokyo, is a photographer’s paradise. From the serene Showa Memorial Park to the neon-lit skyscraper district of Shinjuku, the city offers a variety of stunning sights and experiences to capture. From the classic architecture of the Imperial Palace to the neon lights of Shinjuku, Tokyo never fails to inspire. We explored some of the city’s most iconic landmarks, visited a Japanese chef’s home for a private cooking lesson and meal. The first stop on our photography journey was the Showa Memorial Park. Located in the suburbs of Tokyo, the park is a peaceful and serene oasis amidst the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s a great spot for nature lovers who appreciate the beauty of autumn leaves and cherry blossoms in the spring. As we walked around the park, we captured some amazing moments of locals and tourists alike enjoying their day out. And the wide open spaces allowed me to experiment with different angles and perspectives to create some truly unique shots.

Next up was Fuji Five Lakes, a breathtaking mountainous region that boasts some of Japan’s most iconic landscapes. We had a chance to photograph the stunning Lake Saiko with its turquoise waters and rich foliage, as well as Lake Tanuki and its picturesque reflections of Mount Fuji. We also visited the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum, where we marveled at the intricate beauty of the kimono artistry.

After taking photos of Mt Fuji from the Fuji Five Lakes, we transferred to Hakone via Gotemba. Unfortunately, our photography tour was met with a lot of rain in Hakone but we at least had a nice sunrise while visiting Hakone Shrine.

Nagoya was our next stop, where we immersed ourselves in Japan’s rich cultural heritage. We visited the Nagoya Castle, a magnificent example of feudal architecture that has stood for over 400 years. We also toured the Korankei Valley, a magical forest that puts on a dazzling display of autumn leaves each year.

Our stay in Okayama was equally inspiring, as we explored the Okayama Castle and the tranquil gardens of Kurashiki. We also visited the Bitchu Matsuyama Castle, one of the few surviving mountain castles in Japan. In the autumn seasons is the best chance to photograph the sea of clouds along with the castle in Okayama prefecture. We went two mornings, the first morning we had too many clouds but the second morning was a nice experience and provided photographic opportunities with this amazing Japanese castle.

Our final destination was the ancient capital of Kyoto, a city that never ceases to amaze with its beauty and charm. We visited some of the city’s most iconic landmarks, such as the Kiyomizu-dera Temple and the Fushimi Inari Shrine. We also explored some of Kyoto’s hidden alleys and backstreets, discovering the city’s intricate architecture and rich history.

We had a chance to witness the traditional geisha culture up close, as we attended a private portrait session with a geiko. The trip concluded with a farewell dinner where we shared our favorite photos and memories from the tour.

Leading a photography tour of Japan was a truly unforgettable experience, and I feel grateful to have shared it with such an incredible group of photographers. Japan’s landscapes and culture are truly unparalleled, and I hope that our journey has inspired others to explore this magical country through the lens of a camera. From the bustling streets of Tokyo to the tranquil gardens of Kyoto, Japan’s beauty is truly beyond compare. I look forward to returning to this incredible country and discovering even more hidden treasures along the way. Thank you to all the participants of our photography tour for making it such a special and rewarding journey. I hope that everyone has taken away plenty of amazing photos and memories from this experience.

Thinking about visiting Japan on a guided tour? Whether you want a private photography tour, a group tour of Japan, reach out to Japan Photo Guide to help create the experience and trip of a lifetime in Japan.

Photographing Mt. Fuji from Yamanashi Prefecture

Jan 14 | Evan | No Comments |

If you had some time to already look through Japan Photo Guide’s past photography tours of Japan, you probably noticed that he has many beautiful photos of Mt. Fuji at Fuji Five Lakes. As you might have already guessed, Fuji Five Lakes are the lakes around Mt. Fuji in Yamanashi Prefecture, which are known for the outstanding locations to see and photograph the mountain. In this article, let’s discuss photographing Mt. Fuji from the Yamanashi Prefecture and let’s find out what’s so special about touring and capturing the beauty of Japan in Yamanashi. 

Fuji Five Lakes

As introduced already, Fuji Five Lakes are the lakes around Mt. Fuji, which stretches over the northern side of the mountain on the Yamanashi Prefecture. These lakes include Kawaguchiko, Saiko, Yamanashiko, Shojiko, and Mototsuko and are said to be the best places to view Mt. Fuji as well as photographing the mountain. Japan Photo Guide’s photography tours also visit the Fuji Five Lakes almost annually where he and his guests can photograph stunning images of the mountain. Just look at the photograph he captured at one of the lakes at Kawaguchiko below. Yes, you can photograph a beautiful reflection of Mt. Fuji in the lake at this location. 

Of all the lakes, if you are new to Japan and not sure how to get around, the easiest and the most accessible lake is Kawaguchiko. It is the most developed of all the lake areas. However, if you join Japan Photo Guide’s Japan photo tour, you don’t need to worry about how to get around etc. by yourself. He will take you to other lakes as well so you get to photograph many faces of the mountain! For example, if you are curious to know how the Mt. Fuji looks like from Shojiko, take a look here at the 2015 Cherry Blossom Tour of Japan!  Additionally, during 2017 Cherry Blossom Tours of Japan, Japan Photo Guide took his tour not only to Kawaguchiko, but also to Shojiko and Yamanakako. 

Btw before going forward, let’s have a mini Japanese lesson here! 

If you look at 5 lakes listed already, you might have already noticed that all of the lakes end in “ko.” This stands for “lake” in Japanese, thus you know it is a lake we are talking about. If you are wondering what is the Japanese character, it is “こ” in hiragana, and “湖” in kanji. If you are visiting a lake, you will see this character “湖” so you might like to keep an eye on it when you are looking for a lake in Japan! 

The best location to photograph “sakasa fuji” 

Have you ever heard of a Japanese term “sakasa fuji?” Sakasa in Japanese means “upside down.” Thus, sakasa fuji is the Mt. Fuji, which is reflected in the lake of Kawaguchiko and is one the most popular Mt. Fuji photographers enjoy capturing. Japan Photo Guide has of course photographed sakasa fuji many times and has taken his photography tours of Japan to Kawaguchiko annually. Below are some of Japan Photo Guide’s sakasa fuji images as well as those who have joined his previous Japan photo tours. As you can imagine, this is something you definitely have to go close enough to Mt. Fuji in Yamanashi at these lakes to view and photograph a flipped/reflected mountain in the beautiful body of water.

Photo created by and courtesy of Dan Leffel

For those of you who cannot wait till the photo tour of Japan to see sakasa fuji, why don’t you check out the live camera dedicated to Kawaguchiko’s sakasa fuji here

Tell me more about Yamanashi! 

Of course, there is more to learn about Yamanashi! The best thing about the photo tour of Japan is how you can enjoy photographing all the beauties of Japan, but also actually feel and experience Japan as you tour. So let’s learn some of Yamanashi’s delicacies and other unique spots you want to know before you make your way to Japan with Japan Photo Guide. 

If you have already visited Japan, many of you know that fruits in Japan are so sweet and delicious. Yamanashi offers a lot of fresh fruits such as strawberries, cherries, peaches, pears, and grapes to just name a few. It is because Yamanashi of all Japan has the longest daylight hours, thus providing ample Sun for sweet fruits to grow. Of all these fruits, Yamanashi grows the most grapes in Japan and they are in season now during August to October. Yes, as you have guessed, since Yamanashi grows the most grapes, there are wineries in Yamanashi too! Wine making started in Japan during the Meiji Era (Jan 25th 1868 – Jul 30th, 1912) and today, Yamanashi’s wine is internationally well known for its rich taste, which matches perfectly with washoku, Japanese food.  

And for those of you who enjoy outdoors, Yamanashi offers many outdoor activities such as fruit picking, camping, BBQ, golfing, and even riding on an Olympic road cycle race track! It may not have the Ocean, but Yamanashi still offers abundant nature, which is so fun to tour and photograph the beautiful nature including lakes, waterfalls, and depending on the season, you get to see beautiful cherry blossoms in spring and colorful changing colors of leaves in autumn. 

Photo created by and courtesy of Daniel Leffel


Just by going over what Yamanashi has to offer, I am getting hungry for Yamanashi’s delicacies and dreaming of the fresh air by Kawaguchiko looking at sakasa fuji. When you are in Yamanashi, you need to be always ready to photograph Mt. Fuji because as well as the famous sakasa fuji, there will be many faces of the mountain with unexpected collaborations that Yamanashi has to offer. If it is during cherry blossom season or rich summer green with blue sky reason or even during vividly colored autumn leaves season and snow white winter season, Yamanashi always provides picture perfect locations for us photographers. 

If you are now more than eager to join Japan Photo Guide’s tour in 2021 or 2022, find out more details about the photo tour of Japan from here

Photographing Mt. Fuji from Shizuoka Prefecture

Sep 14 | Evan | No Comments |

Mt. Fuji (Fujisan in Japanese) is without a doubt the most famous mountain and the landscape of Japan. It is also one of the most photographed landscapes of Japan and is a very popular destination for Japan Photo Guide’s Japan photo tour. 

Unfortunately, due to the global pandemic, Mt. Fuji is closed for 2020 and traveling to Japan is very restricted at this time, in September 2020. We can’t climb the mountain nor get close enough to photograph the mountain any time soon, but why don’t we take this time to revise the best spots and concepts of photographing Mt. Fuji from the Shizuoka side. 

Where is Shizuoka? 

Before going in depth, for those of you who do not know the geography of Japan, let’s take a look at the map of Japan to familiarize yourself with where Mt. Fuji is located and what I mean by the Shizuoka side. 

As you can see from the map, Mt. Fuji is located SouthWest of Tokyo and is over two Prefectures, Shizuoka to the South and Yamanashi to the North. As it is the highest mountain in Japan, even from Tokyo, you might be lucky enough to see this national symbol in the distance on a sunny day such as from the observatories.  However, if you really want to get close to Mt. Fuji and experience the majestic beauty up close, you definitely want to travel to Shizuoka and/or Yamanashi to capture its beauty. 

In this article, we want to focus solely on the idea of photographing from the Shizuoka side. (Yes, don’t worry! I will be visiting the best spots and concepts to capture Mt. Fuji from the Yamanashi side in the other article. ) Btw for those of you who are hoping to not only photograph Mt. Fuji, but also eventually climb to the summit of Mt. Fuji, Shizuoka Prefecture has 3 routes called, “Subashiri Trail,” “Gotenba Trail,” and also “Fujinomiya Trail,” which offer more options than 1 route that starts on the Yamanashi side called “Yoshida Trail.” 

Let’s learn about Shizuoka 

Shizuoka Prefecture is a huge prefecture of abundant natural beauty, which is located SouthWest of Tokyo, next to Kanagawa Prefecture. It attracts many Japanese tourists as well as international guests for its delicious seafood, rich green tea, fresh wasabi, relaxing hot springs to just name a few. With its rich nature, many Japanese often find Shizuoka as the resort spot that is easily accessible from the busy city life of Tokyo. Thus, if you are interested in photographing Mt. Fuji, but also enjoy Japan’s delicacy like wasabi and tasty seafood, Shizuoka is the perfect location to join the photo tour of Japan with a finishing touch of onsen, hotspring to relax your mind and body at the end of the day. 

Btw, if you don’t know much about Japanese food, wasabi is the green spicy paste when you eat sushi. You can’t grow wasabi just anywhere. You can only grow wasabi with truly clean water. Shizuoka grows the most wasabi in Japan and its traditional cultivation is recognized by FAO(Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) back in 2018 March. So yes, there is so much to learn about and eat in Shizuoka! 

Anyways, if you are hoping to join Japan Photo Guide’s Japan photo tour when the pandemic is over, you have more to expect from touring Shizuoka than simply photographing Mt. Fuji (even though photographing Mt. Fuji is most likely the highlight of the tour). You will for sure enjoy amazing Japanese food in Shizuoka and the best hot spring experience one can imagine. 

What’s so special about photographing from the Shizuoka Side 

Well, we got side tracked a little so let’s get back to why photographing Mt. Fuji from the Shizuoka side is so special. As I pointed out, Mt. Fuji is over Shizuoka and Yamanashi prefectures. When you photograph from the Shizuoka side, you can photograph Mt. Fuji with the ocean (Yamanashi does not face the ocean), the mountains, cities, and also shinkansen, the bullet trains. If you have already traveled to Japan previously and have been on shinkansen, you know you can also photograph Mt. Fuji with shinkansen at some locations in Shizuoka by the railways as well as photographing the mountain from the train. 

 The Mt. Fuji and shinkansen combination is fun, but you can also photograph Mt. Fuji with the famous tea fields such as below in Shizuoka. Like wasabi, Shizuoka produces the most green tea in Japan, which is approximately 40% of the entire nation. This is from one of Japan Photo Guide’s previous Japan photography tours he has led. Yes, the rich green of the tea field and the majestic Mt. Fuji combinations are also stunning, right? 


So are you now excited about traveling to Shizuoka and photograph Mt. Fuji and perhaps enjoy onsen? The photo tour of Japan is of course to photograph the beauty of Japan, but also a way to learn about Japan. There is obviously so much more to learn what Shizuoka has to offer, but I wanted to give you an introductory course of Shizuoka with the idea of photographing Mt. Fuji as a base. 

By the way, some of you might have been curious if the famous Japanese painter, Hokusai’s Mt. Fuji and waves are from the Shizuoka side or not, right? The answer is No! The title of the painting is called “The Great Waves of Kanagawa,” so the angle of the painting is from Kanagawa Prefecture, which is located right next to Shizuoka. Having said that, Shizuoka faces the ocean too so from the Shizuoka side, you will be able to photograph a great combination of the Pacific Ocean and Mt. Fuji as well. 

Finally, for those of you who cannot wait till the Japan photography tour, and want to check how Mt. Fuji looks from the Shizuoka side, you can check the Shizuoka Prefecture’s official website here to see Mt. Fuji Live View

2018 Cherry Blossom Photo Tour of Japan | Mt. Fuji

May 25 | Evan | No Comments |

In previous photography tours of Japan, I’ve spent a lot of time photographing Mt. Fuji from the Fuji Five Lakes, but for the 2018 photo tour of Japan in cherry blossom season we spent most of our time photographing Mt. Fuji from the Shizuoka side.  One thing that really interested me about photographing Fujisan from Shizuoka was the idea of being able to get more city elements included with the mountain.

Mt. Fuji, perhaps Japan’s most iconic symbol, has a bad reputation for being too shy, often hiding behind layers of clouds.  I usually tell the photographers on the photo tours of Japan that I will feel lucky if we have a clear view of Mount Fuji 1 out of 3 days.  The 2018 Cherry Blossom Photography Tour of Japan set a new record for me though! On my previous photo tours of Japan, I’ve never had two days in row where we could see a clear view of the entire mountain, but for this year’s photo tour, we had a clear view of Mt. Fuji for at least part of the day, three days in a row.  On the second day, it was so clear that if there was anyone hiking on the mountain, I’d know if they were a friend of mine or not!


The 2018 Cherry Blossom Photography Tour took a small group of photographers to Japan.  We started in Tokyo and continued to Hiroshima, Miyajima, HImeji Castle, Kyoto and Mt. Fuji.  Here is the trip report from the 2018 Cherry Blossom Photography Tour of Japan. The 2019 Cherry Blossom Photo Tour of Japan is already planned and live!  Limited spots are available for the 2019 Cherry Blossom Photography Tour of Japan, with first booking already reserved!  Below is a gallery of cherry blossom photos from our time spent making photos of Japan’s iconic Mount Fuji.

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