2017 Private Summer Tour of Japan | Portraits and Tea Ceremony with Maiko

Aug 19 | Evan | No Comments |

While traveling to Kyoto for the private and custom tour of Japan, I arranged for a tea ceremony and private portrait session with a real maiko (geiko apprentice) in Kyoto.  I’ve taken her portraits many times before and she is almost finished with her apprenticeship and will be a geiko soon, I think by the time I see her again in the 2018 cherry blossom season in Japan!  It’s been a wonderful experience working with her over the years and seeing her progression through the maiko/geiko culture and profession in Kyoto.

We met our maiko at her tea house for a short tea ceremony and dance performance.  After chatting a little we went to a temple in Kyoto for our portrait session.  Having photographed her before in Kyoto at this temple, I knew some of the poses I wanted to try again and some new poses I wanted to try.  In this sense, photography locations for me can be similar to returning to a restaurant I like in that I know what menu items I already had and enjoyed but interesting in trying something new.

Taking a step back with restaurants in general, even more so when I do tours in Tokyo and Kyoto as I know my favorite restaurants to eat in Japan but there is always a new place I want to try and visit! Back to photography though! Luckily, with photography, especially now it’s digital, I can try as many poses as time permits and get the instant feedback on how the portraits are coming out.  In this case, working with a professional model, our maiko made it hard for us to take bad portraits!

This was actually my first entire portrait session using only my Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and no nikon gear.  After editing in raw and comparing to my portraits of our maiko from the same location last year with my Nikon D750, I’m very pleased with the results!

See more photos below or the full report to see more posts from the custom and private photography tour of Japan.

2017 Private Summer Tour of Japan | Miyajima and Hiroshima

Aug 13 | Evan | No Comments |

After a few days of exploring Tokyo it was time to move to our next destination, Miyajima and Hiroshima.  We took the bullet train from Shinagawa all the way down to Hiroshima and then a local train to Miyajimaguchi before finally taking a ferry to the island of Miyajima.  As you can see, it’s quite the transfer to get to Miyajima from Tokyo, but Miyajima, considered to be one of Japan’s three most scenic places, is worth the effort to get there during a trip to Japan!


Besides the scenery, Miyajima is famous for the semi wild deer that roam free on the island.  I use the word “semi” because the deer are more or less completely adjusted to seeing humans and walking next to or even begging for food.  In some cases, like in the video below, if the deer on Miyajima think you have food, they will chase you!  If you go to Miyajima, hide plastic bags, don’t eat in front of the deer and avoid the baby deer as mom’s can be overprotective!  The baby deer are super cute though!

In addition to spending time on the island of Miyajima, we explored Hiroshima a little before moving on to our next destination, Kyoto.  The morning was spent at the Peace Memorial Park and Museum, obviously a very somber experience but a important to learn about the horrors of what happened.  After the museum, thanks to Gluten Free Japan Tours, we went to an okonomiyaki restaurant, Koguma, that can prepare gluten free okonomiyaki before finishing up our day at Shukkeien Garden. 

See more photos below or the full report to see more posts from the custom and private photography tour of Japan.

2017 Private Summer Tour of Japan | Tokyo

Aug 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.

2017 Private Summer Tour of Japan | Nikko

Aug 07 | Evan | No Comments |

After an awesome morning photographing and learning from a Japanese master sword smith, our small group continued our tour of Japan to Nikko.  Nikko is in Tochigi Prefecture, north of Tokyo and well regarded for it’s beauty in both nature and man made structures like the mausoleum of the Tokugawa Shoguns, Toshogu.  Nikko is also a fantastic spot in Autumn to see the the Fall foliage with it’s hiking trails, lakes (Lake Chuzenji is most famous), scenic mountains and waterfalls (Ryuzu Waterfall and Kegon Waterfall are both great).  There is actually a famous Japanese saying that translates something like “you haven’t seen beauty until you’ve seen Nikko” or substituting beauty with magnificent. 

This day though, while not Autumn was a Summer day but thanks to some overcast and misty weather in Nikko, the temperature felt closer to a day in October than a day in June!  For a place like Nikko, this misty weather isn’t horrible for photos and it did let me slow the shutter speed down quite a bit to play with the awesome IBIS (in body image stabilization) of my Olympus OMD-EM1 Mark II.  For other photographers, the shutter speeds of the photo just above this paragraph and the photos below, in order from top to bottom are 1/13th of a second, 1/5th of a second and 1/10th of a second.  All of those are handheld, no tripod.  

Back to the private tour of Japan though! As much as I would have liked to visit Lake Chunzenji, Kegon Falls and Ryuzu Falls, photographers do tend to move at a slower pace than most tourists in Japan and we just had time to visit Toshogu and Kanmangafuchi Abyss. Toshogu is the mausoleum of the first Tokugawa Shogunate, Tokugawa Ieyasu and walking around it certainly makes you think of the famous Japanese saying I mentioned earlier. The Kanmangafuchi Abyss is a pleasant walk along a gorge and also known for it’s “Narabi Jizo” or “Jizo in a line.”  See more more photos of our time in Nikko below.  


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