Classic Japan Autumn Tour
12th – 29th November 2018
Experience the vivid autumn colours of Japan!
Autumn/fall is one of the most picturesque times in Japan, when maple leaves transition through majestic colours of the sun. Join us on our incredible 18-day Classic Japan Autumn Tour, where you will experience the best this season has to offer – and how to capture the pictures that will reflect memories for a lifetime.
You name it, Japan has it all – traditional culture proudly practiced in modern day, leading futuristic cities, diverse landscapes showcasing spectacular natural wonders, and ancient temples preserving thousands of years of history.
Led by Julius Pang, a Japan expert and award-winning travel photographer, you’ll learn how to take better travel photos and visit the best spots in Japan to take amazing photos of the autumn colours.
We roam the great cities of Osaka and Tokyo, capturing the buzz of the night and the bustle of the day. Experience the energy and buzz of Dotonbori, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Harajuku and Ginza, some of the most famous urban areas in Japan, and perfect for street photography and cityscapes.
Leaving Tokyo, we visit Lake Kawaguchi, part of the Fuji Five Lakes area, which boasts stunning views of Mount Fuji. No visit to Japan is complete without experiencing a Japanese castle, and we visit to two best ones, Matsumoto Castle and Himeji Castle.
After paying our respects with a sombering visit to Hiroshima Peace Park, we journey to nearby Miyajima island, home to the World Heritage listed Itsukushima Shrine and its stunning ‘floating’ torii gate. We also visit Korakuen (one of Japan’s “Three Great Gardens”) and Ritsurin, a masterpiece of Japanese garden design.
Our trip also includes a visit to Mount Koya, the center of Shingon Buddhism, where we overnight at a temple lodging (shukubo), visit the amazing Okunoin cemetery, and get a glimpse at the daily lives of monks.
No trip to Japan is complete without a visit to magnificent Kyoto, mighty in temples, glorious in landscape, and saturated in proud culture. This is the city to witness geisha up close and watch the elegance of their traditional art and service, a peek into their exclusive world. The gardens of Enkoji, Eikando, Hogonin, and Tofukuji are at their best – vivid, rich, and popping with colours red, orange, yellow and green.
We finish off with a visit to the Snow Monkeys in the Yudanaka Onsen area. Capture the antics of these world famous monkeys and enjoy a soak in a traditional Japanese onsen (hot spring)!
This is the tour that shows you the postcard shots, the history, and the secret hot spots of Japan. Book now for our early bird special – all you need is your camera and passport!
Day 1 – TOKYO – [Mon 12th Nov]
Arrive at Narita or Haneda Airport and make your way to our accommodation located in Asakusa. If you arrive early you can take the opportunity to explore the world-famous shopping area of Ginza or around Tokyo Station.
A welcome dinner will be held and we’ll discuss the photography and activities we will undertake in Tokyo over the next few days.
Day 2 – TOKYO – [Tue 13th Nov]
A packed first day as we start off with an early morning visit to Tokyo's most famous temple – Sensoji Temple in Asakusa. Followed by Tsukiji Market*, famous for its early morning tuna auction, and in the process of moving in 2017. You can enjoy a super fresh sushi meal nearby after seeing all the incredible variety of seafood on sale.
We next visit Harajuku, the youth fashion hub of Tokyo, where you'll encounter all manner of crazy fashion and sweet snacks galore!
A little further away is Shibuya, home to the world's busiest pedestrian crossing. Be part of the experience of crossing the street with a thousand other people at the same time!
We finish off our day at Tokyo Skytree, the second-tallest structure in the world and tallest in Asia at 634m! There are amazing views to be had and fantastic opportunities to capture the Tokyo cityscape literally beneath you as the sun sets and the night lights illuminate the city.
* Tsukiji Market banned photography in the inner market area as of Nov. 2017. During our visit to the inner market we will not be encouraging photography. If you are interested in visiting the tuna auction this requires arriving at Tsukiji Market by 2:00am in order to safely secure a spot for the auction (first in best dressed, with only 120 places available for two auctions) and will not be accompanied by the tour leader. The first auction is from 5:25-5:50am, the second from 5:50-6:15am. We do not consider Tsukiji Market and the tuna auction photographer-friendly. We have an alternative and much better tuna auction we can visit at the end of the tour. Tsukiji Market is also due to move location to Toyosu on 11th October 2018, and the tuna auction may be suspended. Please contact us for more details if you are interested in the Tsukiji Tuna Auction and the photography restrictions.
Day 3 – TOKYO, LAKE KAWAGUCHI – [Wed 14th Nov]
A morning visit to Showa Memorial Park, one of the largest parks in Tokyo and a fantastic autumn colours location. The highlight here are the ginkgo trees, including a beautiful ginkgo avenue.
In the afternoon we make our way to Lake Kawaguchi, with its famous views of Mount Fuji.
Accom: Lake Kawaguchi
Day 4 – LAKE KAWAGUCHI – [Thu 15th Nov]
A brand new addition to our tour this year is Lake Kawaguchi, part of the Fuji Five Lakes area and located 3 hours from Tokyo. Lake Kawaguchi is a popular spot for views of Mount Fuji in Japan, and is especially photogenic during autumn season.
Accom: Lake Kawaguchi
Day 5 – LAKE KAWAGUCHI – [Fri 16th Nov]
A whole day exploring around Lake Kawaguchi today and with good weather some great views of Mount Fuji.
We depart Lake Kawaguchi in the late afternoon and make our way down to Okayama.
Day 6 – HIROSHIMA, MIYAJIMA – [Sat 17th Nov]
Hiroshima is best known as the first city to suffer an atomic bomb attack in history. Despite this tragic event, the city was rebuilt after the war and a number of monuments are present to remember the atomic bomb victims and to promote peace.
We spend the day in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, the location of the Atomic Bomb Dome, Children’s Peace Monument (the “Sadako statue”), the Memorial Cenotaph, and the Peace Memorial Museum. These monuments make for a moving experience and time for contemplation.
From late afternoon, we visit Miyajima, home to Itsukushima Shrine and its iconic “floating” torii gate in the water. This sight is ranked as one of Japan’s three best views.
Day 7 – HIMEJI, KOYASAN – [Sun 18th Nov]
We bid farewell to Okayama in the morning and head to Himeji to visit one of Japan's most famous buildings, Himeji Castle. This castle is considered the most beautiful of Japan's original castles.
After lunch, we have a long transit to Mount Koya (Koyasan), the center of Shingon Buddhism. We stay overnight at a temple lodging (shukubo) where you can get a taste of a monk's lifestyle. There is also the option to visit the Okunoin Temple cemetery as part of a night tour* run by one of Mt Koya's temples.
Accom: Temple stay
Meals: B, D
* Okunoin night tour subject to weather and temple scheduling.
Day 8 – KOYASAN, OKAYAMA – [Mon 19th Nov]
We have an early start to experience the unique morning prayer ritual of our temple before breakfast. We explore more of Mount Koya including Okunoin Temple, where the Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism is enshrined. The cemetery surrounding Okunoin is the largest in Japan.
In the centre of town, we visit Kongobunji Temple, the headquarters of Shingon Buddhism and featuring beautiful screen doors and Banryutei, the largest rock garden in Japan.
After lunch, we make our way to Osaka.
Day 9 – OKAYAMA, KYOTO – [Tue 20th Nov]
In the morning, we visit Korakuen, one of Japan's "Three Great Gardens" and with the stunning backdrop of Okayama Castle, also known as "crow castle" due to its black exterior.
The afternoon will feature a special editing workshop and photography critique sessions. In the evening, we make our way to Osaka.
Day 10 – KYOTO – [Wed 21st Nov]
This morning we visit Arashiyama in western Kyoto, a popular destination for tourists and locals alike especially during cherry blossom and autumn colour seasons. Among the attractions in Arashiyama are the famous Sagano bamboo forest, the Kimono Forest, and Jokkajoji Temple, with its stunning autumn colours.
The afternoon is free time to explore more of Kyoto on your own.
Day 11 – KYOTO – [Thu 22nd Nov]
A free day morning to relax and explore Kyoto on your own. We recommend visiting the following temples: the gold-covered Kinkakuji (also known as the “Golden Pavilion”); Ryoanji, featuring Japan’s most famous zen rock garden.
After lunch, we visit Komyoin, a beautiful small temple with a stunning moss garden.
In the evening, we visit one of Japan's most beautiful autumn illuminations at Eikando Temple.
Day 12 – KYOTO – [Fri 23rd Nov]
A pre-dawn start as we visit Fushimi Inari Shrine and its thousands of torii gates, which make a seemingly endless vermillion tunnel up the mountain side. Try finding one of the lanterns attached to a gate! The gates look amazing as the light changes with sunrise.
Our next location is Rurikoin, an off-the-beaten-track temple with incredible atmosphere and stunning autumn colours.
Our day finishes with Enkoji, a quiet temple with a unique sand garden and autumn colours.
Day 13 – KYOTO, OSAKA – [Sat 24th Nov]
For our final day in Kyoto we have have an early start with a visit to Tofukuji temple, one of Japan’s most famous autumn colour locations.
Next is our tour's special highlight – a walking tour of Gion guided by a Kyoto guide, with a special lunch followed by a photography session with a maiko (apprentice geisha), there to serve and talk with us! Learn more about the world of geisha while taking photos in a traditional Kyoto teahouse. This is a truly exclusive gathering, it’s just our tour group, our guide/interpreter, and the geisha. And yes, you will have the chance to take photos with the geisha!
The late afternoon is free time before we make our way to Osaka.
Day 14 – NARA, OSAKA – [Sun 25th Nov]
Today we head to Nara, a former capital of Japan with several significant historical monuments. We will be visiting Todaiji temple, one of the world’s largest wooden buildings, and housing the world’s largest wooden Buddha statue inside. We will also walk around Nara Park, home to hundreds of free-roaming deer!
In the evening, we visit Dotonbori, Osaka’s famous food and nightlife district. Osaka is home to some of Japan’s famous street food, including okonomiyaki (Japanese-style “pancake”), and takoyaki (octopus-filled batter balls – you just have to try it!).
We will explore Dotonbori and you will get to see and shoot the enormous neon signs surrounding Ebisu Bridge.
Day 15 – OSAKA – [Mon 26th Nov]
This morning is free for you explore on your own until lunchtime. Take the opportunity to visit some of Osaka's landmarks, including Osaka Castle, the Umeda Sky Building, or Osaka Aquarium. If you are especially keen, you could also visit the Osaka Central Wholesale Market* which has its own tuna auction, a much more intimate affair compared to Tsukiji's popular one.
We make our way to Matsumoto from lunchtime.
* The Osaka Market is open Mon-Sat, except national & temporary holidays. The tuna auction starts at 4:15am, and currently there are no restrictions on tourist access, but this may be subject to change.
Day 16 – MATSUMOTO – [Tue 27th Nov]
We visit Matsumoto Castle today, one of the best original castles in Japan, and incredibly photogenic with its distinctive black cladding and elegant moat and surrounding gardens.
We make our way to the Yudanaka Onsen area in the afternoon.
Accom: Yudanaka Onsen
Day 17 – SNOW MONKEYS, TOKYO – [Wed 28th Nov]
An early morning start to check out snow monkeys! The snow monkeys in Yudanaka are famous for their habit of soaking in hot springs. They especially like a long soak once the colder weather starts from late autumn, all through the long winter in this area.
We return to Tokyo by mid afternoon, where there is free time for you to relax or catch up on shopping. In the evening, we have our farewell dinner.
Day 18 – TOKYO – [Thu 29th Nov]
The end of our tour and after checkout we will assist you with transport advice to the airport for your flight home or your continuing travel in Japan.