Recent Posts About Japan
- Concluding our Photo Tour: Cherry Blossoms and Mt. Fuji at Fuji Five Lakes
- The Old Capital in Bloom: Experiencing Kyoto during Cherry Blossom Season 2023
- Capturing the Ethereal Beauty of Himeji Castle with Adobe Photoshop’s AI Generative Fill
- A Castle in the Blossoms: Capturing Himeji Castle in Cherry Blossom Season 2023
- Island Life and Urban Reflections: Cherry Blossoms in Miyajima and Hiroshima 2023
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Apr 20 | Evan | Comments Off on Embracing the Unexpected: Cherry Blossom Photography Tour in Rainy Tokyo 2023 |
Back in March of 2023, I had the unique pleasure of guiding a photography tour in Tokyo during the cherry blossom season. This was the first cherry blossom tour I lead in Japan since covid so we were all super excited to be in Tokyo for Now, Tokyo in cherry blossom season is nothing short of magical, but this year was different. What made it stand out? Rain. And lots of it. From gentle drizzles to dramatic downpours, rain was our constant companion, redefining our adventure and pushing us to think outside the box.
As a seasoned guide, I’m always prepared for a curveball from Mother Nature. After all, one of the joys of photography lies in embracing the unexpected. And so, we took the wet weather in our stride, swapping sunny cherry blossom picnics for moody rain-soaked shots, reflections, and indoor explorations.
We found ourselves, umbrellas in hand, wandering towards the Tokyo International Forum one day. Inside, I spent hours experimenting with slow shutter speeds and panning techniques, capturing the pulse of the city in a way that’s impossible under the bright sun. The rain may have pushed us indoors, but it also pushed us creatively, and I couldn’t have asked for more.
Another favorite spot of ours was the grand Tokyo Station. The rain-soaked ground in front of the station turned into a natural mirror, reflecting the splendid architecture and bustling city life. The sight was awe-inspiring, and our cameras were thrilled with the unexpected gift from the skies.
With our eyes set on indoor locations, we sought out buildings with interesting architecture that could offer us unique photographic opportunities. The rain had given us a chance to explore Tokyo’s architectural marvels from a different perspective, and we relished the chance.
In between our photographic escapades, we were invited into a local Japanese chef’s home for a meal. The delicious, home-cooked meal was a welcome break and a heartwarming experience, making us feel a little bit more at home in the sprawling city.
However, the rain did grant us a few free moments to catch the cherry blossoms. We seized these precious opportunities and headed to Chidorigafuchi, Aoyama Cemetery, and the Meguro River. We may have been damp and a little chilly, but seeing those delicate blooms against the grey sky was worth every drop.
The 2023 Cherry Blossom Photography Tour in Tokyo was unlike any other. We may have been rained out, but we didn’t let that dampen our spirits. Instead, we found beauty in the unexpected, captured memories in the rain, and left Tokyo with a newfound appreciation for the unpredictable nature of photography.
If you’re a photographer who loves a challenge, I highly recommend visiting Tokyo during the cherry blossom season – rain or shine. You never know what surprises you’ll find, and that’s the real magic of photography in Japan.
Immerse yourself in the breathtaking beauty of Japan’s cherry blossom season in 2024! Reach out now to secure your spot on our guided photography tour, or explore our 2023 cherry blossom tour of Japan posts to get a glimpse of the unforgettable experiences that await you.Oct 05 | Evan | No Comments |
Step by step traveling procedures in June and Oct 2022
Yes, it might be still too early to say it’s “Post COVID” particular in Japanese standard, but things are clearly changing in the right direction even in Japan when it comes to international traveling! We just recently shared the exciting news about Japan finally opening its border to international tourists without any restrictions (tour groups or individuals) after the country finally opened its borders on June 10th 2022 to tour groups only. This time though, it is completely open without any restrictions. Since the country has been so strict about international travelers entering Japan for such a long time, we thought it would be helpful to get an inside experience of what exactly you have to do when traveling to Japan.
In this article, we provide actual pictures and steps of a traveler who traveled from Hawaii to Japan in June 2022 so that you can also prepare yourself for your journey to the country. Yes, it’s from a few months back so things have changed, but you can get a sense of what the traveling procedure is like so that you can start thinking about a photo tour of Japan. (Note: the traveler holds a Japanese passport, but as of Oct 11th 2022, procedures are the same for any individual travelers if he/she is a Japanese citizen or not so this is still informative for anybody.)
What you need to prepare before traveling to Japan
If you were traveling to Japan as of June 2022 below items were needed to enter Japan. (This article is only focusing on tourists, thus we are omitting the information for business personnel and international students/interns.)
- PCR test within 72 hours before traveling to Japan (+-$150 per test) needed to use the particular certificate (updated June 2022)
- Vaccine & booster record (upload to the app MySOS)
However, as the Japanese Prime Minister made an announcement on September 22nd 2022, the requirements for entering Japan have changed dramatically (individual tourists will be finally welcomed back, no daily limit of entry, no more visa applications for those who have not had visa requirements prior to COVID, and no more PCR test if you have 3 vaccines done) and below items will be required as of Oct 11th. There are slight differences between those who have had 3 COVID vaccines or not so you need to know what is required in your case.
Those who have had 3 COVID vaccines:
Those who have not had 3 COVID vaccines:
As you probably noticed, you still need to download the app MySOS for traveling to Japan. This was not required prior to COVID, but this is something you must have to travel to Japan today. With the app, everything is smooth as you can provide the proof of vaccine/proof of negative test as well as submit the questionnaire so everything is in one spot. As you use the app, it starts from the red screen shown below and as you provide information and documents, the screen color changes to yellow and so on. In order to enter Japan without any hiccups, the screen needs to turn to blue by the time you are passing immigration so that you can avoid extra steps to pass through the immigeration.
*This is the actual smart phone app screen for MySOS. It starts from Red, but once you submit all the necessary documents and they review, the color changes to Yellow. Further, the color changes to blue and green so know the colors of MySOS and what each means.
Traveling from Hawaii/Daniel K Inouye Airport
When international travel first opened up in June 2022, only 5 airports were accepting international flights in Japan. These were Haneda(Tokyo), Narita(Tokyo), Kansai(Osaka), Fukuoka(Fukuoka), and Nagoya(Aichi). To follow these airports, at the end of June, both Naha (Okinawa) and New Chitose (Hokkaido) opened up to allow international flights to depart/arrive. As Oct 11th fast approaches, Japan welcomes any travelers from around the world, we are expecting more airports opening up as well as more flights being available for travelers.
Here is an experience of traveling from Hawaii, Daniel K Inouye Airport to Haneda Airport in Tokyo Japan as of June 20th 2022. The waiting time in line to get everything sorted out before passing immigration was 30 minutes total. As indicated above, if you have everything ready in MySOS you won’t have any problem and it should be smooth. However, every airport is different so come prepared to arrive at the airport early!
Things hopefully have changed since then, but one thing that was inconvenient traveling in June through Daniel K Inouye Airport was that they didn’t open the gated waiting area for this particular flight to Japan till an hour before the flight so that not everyone had a comfortable chair to sit and wait until an hour before the flight departed. As more fights become available and COVID measures get relaxed, hopefully airport functions like how it used to be so that we don’t need to worry about stretching legs before being on an international flight in a restricted position on a plane for hours.
Procedures at Haneda Airport
Entering Japan during and post COVID time (current) is quite different from how it was before, prior to COVID time. It’s a lot better in the last few months, but you might need to be prepared to cover a long distance of walking from A to B to C and even D and further. One great thing though is that it has improved dramatically over the last months and it is expected to get better so the time it takes to pass the immigration is way shorter than how it used to be. Now that you no longer need to take a PCR test at the airport and staff at the airport are getting more used to the new normal, it won’t be as stressful for visitors as it was before.
In this individual’s case, she traveled with a toddler, thus she had a priority to pass the immigration with COVID measures a lot more quickly than others. Even though they had to cover the same distance of endless walking around the airport, the time it took them to pass everything was only 10 to 15 mins, when it used to take hours and hours. However, you need to have everything prepared to be able to pass each station of checks with MySOS ready in hand so be prepared to have everything listed above so that you don’t need to waste extra time at the airport.
A useful tip you might like to know is that MySOS requires the internet. Haneda Airport like other airports have free Wifi so connect to the free Wifi as soon as you get a chance so that everything is smooth. If you are planning to rent a pocket Wifi, until you pass the immigration, you can’t get there so you first have to use free Wifi at the airport unless you are fine paying high cost of international roaming from your home country! Furthermore, when you return to your home country through Haneda Airport, the airport is yet operating at a full capacity as of Aug 2022 so if you travel at night, you may not have all the options available to eat and shop so make sure to finish your souvenir shopping before arriving at the airport as well as don’t get disappointed with the food choice the airport provides in the evenings.
Hopefully this article has provided you with some insightful information about what it is like traveling to Japan in 2022 and gave you confidence to plan a trip there. Yes, things are constantly changing and for the better so let’s hope next year we don’t even need to download MySOS app etc, but for now, follow the simple procedures and finally enjoy the time to visit Japan! Yes, it’s time to go and capture beautiful Japan on the photo tour of Japan that we all long been waiting for.
For those of you who want to know the changes that will take place starting Oct 11th 2022, there is another article in detail that you can read about so check out the article here.Sep 30 | Evan | No Comments |
Oct 11th 2022 onward, all the travel restrictions will be removed
Yes, it is official! A long awaited travel restriction will be removed on October 11th 2022 to travel to Japan. Yes, it is legit, not fake news. Finally, we can plan a photography tour of Japan that we have long awaited!! This is an official announcement made by the Prime Minister Kishida who announced this big news in New York on September 22nd 2022.
As well as Japan finally opening its borders to the entire world in October, Japan’s neighbor, Taiwan, also finally opened its borders to the international visitors a little earlier than Japan on September 29th. Asia, which has been having a lot tighter restrictions than elsewhere to the international travelers, is finally opening up! Are you ready to travel as well? Are you ready to be on a photo tour of Japan?
What will be removed starting on Oct 11th, 2022?
So what will exactly change starting Oct 11th, 2022? As the Prime Minister Kishida announced, there will be no more daily limit to entering Japan, which is currently set to 50,000 people per day. In addition, the international tourists no longer need to obtain the visas (up to 90 days) for those countries previously not needing to obtain visas prior to COVID. Furthermore, so far only tour groups have been allowed to enter Japan, but Japan will completely open up the borders so that individuals can travel without any restrictions as well. Japan has already removed the PCR test for those who have done 3 COVID vaccines starting September 7th 2022, and this will remain for those who have already taken the 3 COVID vaccines. For those who have not gotten the vaccines, a proof of a negative test within 72 hours of departure is required for entering Japan.
These changes are dramatic considering how slow Japan has been opening up its borders compared to the rest of the world. A lot of people have been waiting for Japan to open up, but when the country announced in spring that they were only allowing tour groups, many were disappointed and not keen on traveling to the country in a group so many have been waiting. These no restrictions to any groups of people entering Japan will definitely attract everyone who has long been waiting for this update as well as those who want to take advantage of historically weak Japanese yen that Japan has been experiencing in the last few months.
So what do you still need to enter Japan?
With these changes, what do we need to prepare to enter Japan? The preparation to enter Japan differs depending on your COVID vaccine status so the requirements are separated by the individual’s vaccine history. Below is what is decided for October 11th 2022 onward as of October 3rd 2022.
Those who have done 3 COVID vaccines
Those who have not done 3 COVID vaccines
Downloading MySOS for Japan trip will be crucial as everything can be uploaded and managed on your phone regardless of your vaccine status. Below is an example of MySOS screens on a smartphone when traveling from Hawaii, USA. As you complete each task of uploading the required fields and authority checking your submissions, the screen colors change from Red, Yellow, Blue, and Green and you eventually want to get to either Blue or Green to easily enter Japan.
For those of you who want to learn more about the details for entering Japan with these new guidelines,it is highly recommend to check the official government website from the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare on COVID-19: Current Japanese Border Control so that you know what vaccines are recognized as vaccines in Japan as well as which tests are approved as a form of negative COVID test.
Tourism and entertaining promotions October 11th onward
As well as these new changes to international travel, the Prime Minister Kishida also announced on September 22nd that there will be promotions to support domestic travel industries and entertainment industries that have been impacted significantly due to COVID in the last three years. These special promotions also start on October 11th and the details and duration of these promotions are handled by Prefectural basis.
The travel promotion allows Japanese citizens and residents to get discounts to travel around Japan for accommodations and transportations up to 11,000 JPY a day including coupons so this is a favorable discount for those who are eager to travel domestically. The entertainment promotion is for entertainment such as concerts, theme parks, museums, theaters, zoos, aquariums, movies, and sports that people can get up to 2,000 JPY per person to get discounts for the tickets. Certain venues and entertainments won’t cost the full amount so you might be able to enjoy free entertainment! By the way, the catch is that in order to enjoy these discounts, one must finish the vaccines with a booster shot or need to provide proof of a negative PCR test.
Unfortunately, these promotions only target Japanese citizens and residents of Japan, thus it won’t impact international travelers, but from what you see, Japan is really trying to push its economy back to where it used to be and it is an encouraging news for international travelers too as you can expect many entertainments to open up that have been closed or operated at smaller scales by the time you get there.
Are you ready to travel to Japan?
So what do you think? With these positive changes, are you ready to travel to Japan this fall or do you want to wait a little bit to see how the new change will impact travelers like yourself to finally make a way to Japan? The Japanese yen is at an all time low so the advantage of going to Japan right now is to fully enjoy this special time. Hopefully, we will be able to make an exciting announcement of a photography tour of Japan tour plans shortly so that you will be able to finally travel to Japan and enjoy taking photographs there soon! It has been so long! The time is here.
Btw for those of you who want to know what it’s like to actually travel to Japan in 2022, check this article here so that you can get a better feel of what you expect with traveling to Japan today.Jun 14 | Evan | No Comments |
What you should expect when eating sushi at a kaiten sushi, converter belt sushi.
Do you like sushi? Who is excited to go to Japan to eat fresh sushi?
Well, sushi has become an internationally well recognized Japanese food in the 20th century. However, not everyone has been to kaiten sushi, the sushi that comes around on a converter belt! Today, let’s learn about kaiten sushi and what you should know before going to one so that you can prepare yourself for the photo tour of Japan, especially when you have an opportunity to venture out to eat!
What is “kaiten sushi?” Is it different from regular sushi?
So what is kaiten sushi? You all know what sushi is so what does “kaiten” mean? Kaiten in Japanese means “rotaining.” Thus, kaiten sushi is a particular sushi that comes on a converter belt, which rotates around the restaurant.
Sushi comes in many different forms in Japan, which also varies in prices. In general, you can consider “kaiten sushi” to be a cheap option. In comparison to sushi where you eat at a counter seat, kaiten sushi is much more relaxed, casual, and accessible to everyone. The matter of fact, because of such nature, it is popular among families to go to kanten sushi. Of course it is a sushi restaurant, so you will have a lot of different sushi, but at kaiten sushi, many other options such as sides, soup, and desserts can also be ordered at an accessible cost as well.
Make sure to pay attention to the colors of the sushi plates!
One thing you might like to be aware of is the color of plates. Yes, kaiten sushi is much cheaper than other options, but depending on the colors of plates, some are more expensive than others so make sure you are aware of the colors of plates, thus prices. Otherwise, you could be eating all expensive options, thus at the end of the day, you will be paying a lot more than you were originally planning.
In general, at kaiten sushi, the different colors of plates indicate different prices. It is usually 3,4 different colors of plates that are rotating so it’s not that hard to keep a track of the price. You also keep all your plates at your table where you eat so that staff can count the number of plates at the end to calculate the cost.
This clear identification of price is so crucial and why kaiten sushi became so popular. For example, some or all of the items are market price so you may not know the price till the end at high-end sushi places like eating at a counter table. Kaiten sushi is created for its accessible/cheap cost and clear identification of price so different colors of plates is one of the key features of this venue.
History of kaiten sushi
So how did kaiten sushi come to life? Originally, sushi was an expensive food, which was not for everyone. However, everyone wanted to eat sushi and the idea of kaiten sushi came to life. At the beginning, it was more like “all 100 yen ($1),” but later on, different colors of plates, thus different prices of sushi, automatic tea dispensers, and sushi robots were introduced.
Interestingly, the idea of kaiten sushi was born in Osaka at a beer factory in 1948. 10 years passed since the idea emerged, the first ever kaiten sushi opened in Osaka in 1958, called “Mawaru Genroku Sushi 1st Store.” Since then, the first franchise opened in Sendai city in Miyagi Prefecture in 1968, followed by the creation and placement of automatic tea dispensers in 1973. From 1975 to 1985, the kaiten sushi boom came to Japan with the introduction of sushi robots, major chains entering the competition of the industry.
By 2007, kaiten sushi became a 500 billion yen industry and now it is becoming international. If you are around the Los Angeles area, you might have seen “KULA,” Japanese kaiten sushi chains. There are around 10 KULA stores around the LA area and is popular among American people. As well as KULA, another major chain “Sushiro” is focusing its international market expansion in Asia, opening stores in Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong in recent years. In 2018, there were 12 stores internationally and in 2019, there were 13 more additional stores opened, a total of 25 international stores operating outside of Japan. Currently the international market is expanding more than Japanese market in that each international store produces more revenue per year than a store in Japan.
So who is hungry for sushi after reading this article? As you learned, there are different chains of kaiten sushi in Japan so if you are so keen, you can try different chains of kaiten sushi when you are on the photography tour of Japan to see, which one suits you the best. Each kaiten sushi has unique features that are different from one another so try a few and let me know what you like about each kaiten sushi! Of course, with COVID19, kanten sushi is most likely not the same today, but let’s hope that in 2021 when we are on a photo tour of Japan, we can go to a kanten sushi to enjoy fresh fish together!