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2017 Private Summer Tour of Japan | TokyoAug 10 | Evan | No Comments |
The first full day of my private tour of Japan was spent as a day trip in Nikko, visiting a master Japanese sword smith and some of the sights that make Nikko magnificent. After our time in Tochigi Prefecture, we had a few days to explore, photograph, experience and eat our way through Tokyo. Though even if we had many days, there is never enough time to see, and especially eat and photograph everything in Tokyo!
Also, back to when I mentioned I love creating private tours of Japan for the amount of personalization I can put into it, for this tour it meant including some stops for anime and Studio Ghibli which happens on the majority of my trips to Japan, but also introduced me to another side of Japan that I knew of but didn’t really know much about, brand name fashion in Japan like BAPE and Supreme, not based in Japan but has more stores in Japan than the rest of the world combined. This along with how Japanese owners are famous for keeping items in good condition, mean that Japan and Tokyo is a mecca for pristine second hand goods like Supreme. So along with photography and eating, there was a lot of shopping while traveling around Japan.
We also made time for a cooking lesson with a Japanese chef in her home in Tokyo, which is always one of most popular experiences with my visitors to Japan. Besides the experience and connecting with a local family, the food is always amazing.
Between shopping and eating, we of course managed to do some sightseeing, photography and exploring. Including one night after dinner we went to Hie Shrine where there was a nice little Summer Festival going on with taiko drums and dancing. Another perfect opportunity to play with the stabilization for Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II. The three photos below are all hand held with shutter speeds of 1/10, 0.4 and 0.8.
See more photos below or the full report to see more posts from the custom and private photography tour of Japan.
Private and Custom Tour of Japan | Tokyo and Cooking ExperienceAug 10 | Evan | No Comments |
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!
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!
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!
2015 Cherry Blossom Group Tour of Japan | TokyoApr 25 | Evan | No Comments |
Before evening returning from the the 2015 Cherry Blossom Tour of Japan, I received a few inquiries about the 2016 Cherry Blossom Tour of Japan! If you are looking for that information, the details of the 2016 Cherry Blossom Tour of Japan can be found here.
Like every trip to Japan, the 2015 Cherry Blossom Tour went by too fast! Even though the weather was not great for traveling around Japan (I think in 2 weeks I saw the sun on 3 days at best and somebody forgot to tell Japan that it was Spring and not still Winter)…. and in some cities the cherry blossoms bloomed too early for us to catch the peak bloom of the sakura, we had a great time, made new friends, ate delicious (and too much) Japanese food, experienced the culture and we were able to make some nice photos!
This guided tour of Japan started out in Tokyo, with the tour participants flying into Japan from 4 different countries on 3 different days. Tokyo was the perfect place to meet and wait while the entire group was getting settled in Japan. I arrived in Tokyo first, just as the cherry blossoms had hit their peak, only to see the next two days bring rain and extreme winds which are both devastating to the fragile cherry blossoms…sigh… But that didn’t stop us having a portrait session in Shinjuku Gyoen with Manami in her kimono! It was a great portrait session in Tokyo, but she was too popular with everyone else in the park as well! She was great about it and so kind to let every take her photo!
Due to cherry blossoms blooming a few days earlier than the average and the weather not cooperating, we didn’t get too many cherry blossom photos in Tokyo, but still managed to get some photos close to peak around Tokyo! Also, as the sakura petals are falling off, the cherry blossom petals can make for some quite beautiful photos as well!
The first night we were all together, I had arranged with a friend of mine in Tokyo to introduce some Japanese families to our group! We had dinner together in a (really dark-sorry photo is so as well) restaurant in Shibuya and it was a great cultural exchange for our group visiting Japan and for the Japanese friends to meet travelers. If you are visiting Tokyo and want to make some Japanese friends over a meal, here is the facebook page my friend started for cultural exchange in Tokyo.
Other highlights of our days in Tokyo were a cooking lesson in a Japanese home and visiting an early morning sumo practice! All really great experiences in Tokyo for some nice memories!
Want to see more photos from the 2015 Cherry Blossom Photography Tour of Japan? The group tour also went to Miyajima, Hiroshima, Himeji, Kyoto and some of us to The Fuji Five Lakes close to Mt. Fuji. Stay tuned for more photos from the escorted tour of Japan!
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.
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
Want 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!