13 day Autumn Colours Japan Photo Tour
Join Adam Monk and Robert van Koesveld for 13 days of photo tour adventures in the rich diversity of Japan. From the bustling downtown streets of Tokyo, to a tiny historic fishing village, and the surreal beauty of the Kyoto temple gardens in Autumn, Japan is a wonderful mix of modern and historic places, stunning landscapes, culture and culinary delights.
- 2019 Autumn Colours Japan photo Tour – Details out soon
- 2019 Winter Wonders of Japan Photo Tour – Just released
- Coming Soon, for details email firstname.lastname@example.org
- 2018 Tour – Fully Booked
- Guided by Adam Monk & Robert van Koesveld.
The plan for this Photo tour is 13 days of stunning Autumn colours, history, culture and food in Japan. The tour will begin in Tokyo and will end in Kyoto, and the price is inclusive of all breakfasts and dinners, transport, accommodation, photography tuition and local Japanese guides.
This tour will be a lovely balance of landscapes, historical urbanscapes, street photography, people and culture, with lots of great Japanese food, music and sake thrown in. It is going to be a fantastic tour and we are very much looking forward to seeing it come to fruition. All the itinerary and details are finalised and bookings are now open.
Tour highlights at a glance
- 23 November – 5 December 2018. – Fully Booked
- 2019 Japan Winter Photo Tour – Available Now
- 2019 details available soon.
- 13 days with 11 full days on tour in Japan.
- From the big cities to tiny local towns.
- Small group size of just 10 guests
- All your breakfasts and dinners on tour.
- Two full-time professional photographers both with extensive experience in Japan.
- Itinerary written by us, the photographers, not by a travel agent.
- We have visited & photographed all of these locations.
- Native Japanese photo guides with extensive experience and excellent English.
Tour is Fully Booked for 2018
Japan, the land of diversity
Japan is a country of over 400 inhabited islands – four large ones and over 6,000 small uninhabited ones. To the west and north are China, Korea and Russia, yet Japan’s unique culture has evolved over the millennium from prehistoric to feudal to a modern economy. Fascinating traditional elements live alongside rural and urban community life, challenging the Japanese and foreigners to interact with many sub-cultures there.
Small group size – the only way to travel
We have a maximum group size of just 10 people, so with 3 full time professionals to look after you. This means there will always be plenty of time to answer your questions and give you the level of assistance that suites you.
Small groups are simply more fun and this is especially true with photographers. The last thing you want are members of your own group getting in the way of your shots, and with just 10 people this is easy to manage. From personal group interactions, to hotel bookings and restaurants, small groups work best.
The road less travelled… by train
Our primary transport for this tour is the astoundingly efficient and comfortable Japanese rail system. Your Japan Rail Pass is fully included in the tour price and the process of finding, getting on and getting off the trains couldn’t be simpler.
I personally love trains, and Japanese trains are the best I have ever used. Always on time, clean and comfortable, quiet and relaxing. Just sit back and gaze out the window as the Japanese countryside slips by. It sure beats traffic jams, and it sure beats the dramas of getting on and off airplanes. We could have hired a bus and a driver for the duration of the trip, but that means traffic jams, parking problems, and being stuck on a bus for 5-6 hours at a time. No fun at all.
No hidden extras
There are no hidden extras on this tour. There are no breakfasts or dinners that are not covered or nights you have to find your own hotel. All your transport while on the tour, including local taxis and buses are covered and all your entrance fees to temples, gardens and National Parks.
The only meals we don’t cover in the tour cost are lunches, and that was a very deliberate decision on our part. Having free time at lunch means that you can do a little exploring on your own at your own pace. It gives you some time away from the group to contemplate and interact with locals without the guide interpreting, and Japanese people are great fun to interact with. Learn one or two simple words and watch their faces light up with smiles. At that point nothing will be too much trouble and you will see why Japan is one of our all-time favourite people destinations. Of course if you are not that comfortable at first the guides are always there to help, and we need to eat lunch too, so you can always come with us.
The tour begins in Tokyo and ends in Kyoto, so you just have to make your way to our Tokyo hotel and back home at the end from our Kyoto hotel. Hotel/Airport transfers are very simple in Japan, and we will ensure you know how to get there.
Multiple nights means less time travelling and packing
We go to fewer locations, but we give you time to explore them. In most locations we are staying two nights, or even four nights, because getting to know a culture is not just about seeing as many temples as possible, it’s about having time to contemplate the age of the temple and the people who built it, and perhaps to even meet the people who maintain it. This translates to lots more time actually seeing, experiencing and photographing the unique culture and beauty of Japan, and less time seeing it wiz past the window of the train. When the days are full of new sights and great photo opportunities it’s so nice not to have to pack your suitcase every morning.
Should you go on this photo tour?
This photo tour is for anyone with a keen interest in photography and a love of adventure. It doesn’t matter if you are a seasoned professional or a complete beginner, all levels of photographer are welcome, in fact the diverse experiences of the group are an integral part of what makes these photography tours so much fun. Our group size is kept small (just 10 people) so you are always assured of personal interaction and tuition, whatever your needs.
Some just like to be taken to the great locations at the right time of day and set free to roam. Others are looking for more guidance with everything from composition or how to approach locals for portraits, to getting the most out of camera gear. We cater for all levels, and with a small group and our diverse expertise we will ensure you get exactly what you need.
What about non-photographers?
Non-photographers are very welcome on this tour too, whether as a partner to a keen photographer or people who just love the slower pace of travel that this photographic tour provides. Japan is an intensely beautiful place with deep rich culture in architecture, history, dress, language, religion and food, so there is never a shortage of things to do or explore. And the great thing about photographers is that we aim to be at the beautiful locations at the absolute best times to see them.
I must warn you though, an obsession with photographing beautiful places and people is a very transmissible condition and highly addictive. You may begin as a non-photographer, thinking it’s not something for you, but by the end this may well have changed… You have been warned.
A basic level of walking fitness is essential, but this tour is not a hiking tour or a trekking tour so nothing extreme will be required of you. We have several scenic walks in nature planned, and we will be visiting many stunning temple gardens, but all have well maintained pathways. The hardest physical test will be to climb some stairs occasionally. Just let us know if you have any health issues or doubts and we will work around them.
Your camera gear
There is really no limit to what camera gear you take other than your ability to carry it. Everything from Digital SLRs, professional and consumer, simple point-and-shoot cameras, even medium format digital and film. Whatever level of camera equipment you have, we will ensure you get the most out of it. After you sign up for the tour we will send out a detailed recommended gear and packing list, and we are very happy to discuss the camera gear you have and how to best make it work for you.
Like to book the tour? – Fully Booked for 2018
Full Itinerary: 13 day Japan Photo Tour 2018.
Day 1 – November 23 2018: Arrival in Tokyo.
Today you will make your way to our Hotel in Tokyo, where you are free to explore the surroundings or just rest and recover after your flight. That evening we will all meet in the hotel lobby before heading out for our first dinner in Japan. At dinner you will get to know the others on the trip and Adam, Robert and Dai will run through the plans for the coming adventures.
Day 2 – Nov 24: Tokyo exploration.
After breakfast we will head to the Tokyo Central Station to experience the Japanese super-efficient metro system and then off to explore some of the sites the metropolis has to offer. Tokyo is a wonderful mix of bustling modern big city, some of the quirkiest architecture you will find in Asia, all mixed in with ancient Shinto shrines and some very cool cafes for lunch. We will take you through some stunning areas of truly amazing buildings, to the city’s central shopping district, then on to tree-lined streets with French cafes and alfresco dining. Architecture and street photography is the go today, juxtaposing Japan’s wildly hi-tech present against its ancient past. Then we head back to the Hotel to freshen up before going off to dinner.
Day 3 – Nov 25: Tokyo to Okayama.
Today after breakfast we will try our first Shinkansen… the famous Japanese bullet train, to Okayama. You might like to try a bento box on the train, or the amazing food hall at Okayama for lunch. We check into our hotel right by the station before heading off to explore the tiny village of Kurashiki in the Bikan historical quarter right in the middle of Okayama city.
Kurashiki is a time capsule of life in the merchant quarter of a small town in Japan in the 1600’s. Its perfectly preserved shops and temples are a great place to wander about and imagine you have stepped back in time. After sunset in Kurashiki we head back to our hotel, and a local restaurant for dinner.
Day 4 – Nov 26: Explore Okayama and then to Taishaku.
Early start today, as we catch a taxi to visit Korakuen Gardens a short ride from our hotel in Okayama. The Korakuen Gardens were created by the local feudal lord in 1687 as a place for the ruling family to relax and contemplate nature. The gardens are a paradise of small secret groves, tinkling waterfalls and mirror-like reflecting ponds. With the trees in full autumn colour it is truly spectacular. You will see why these gardens are considered one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan.
After our early morning adventure it’s back to the hotel for breakfast and checkout before we head off to our next destination, the natural wonder that is Taishaku-Kyo Valley. Here we will stay our first night in a traditional Japanese ryokan (Inn), complete with Tatami matt flooring and real futon beds. They are actually very comfortable and it’s a great way of experiencing a little of traditional Japanese lifestyle. We will explore a little of the lower reaches of the Taishaku Gorge for sunset before heading back to our ryokan for dinner.
Day 5 – Nov 27: Walk Taishaku-Kyo, then to Tomonoura.
Another early morning in the crisp autumn mountain air to explore the upper reaches of the Taishaku Gorge. We will follow the well defined and easy walk trail alongside the Taishaku River as it meanders along the floor of the gorge, going over waterfalls and rapids with beautiful arching bridges along our path. This is the natural world of Japan at its best – clean, clear and peaceful. We will walk the length of the Taishaku Gorge until we get to Onbashi, one of the three largest natural stone bridges in the world, and a stunning sight with the early morning sunlight streaming through the red autumn leaves of the forest. Onbashi is a 90m long, 19m wide and 40m high natural limestone bridge arching across the Taishaku Gorge and over the river! It is spectacular and all the more so for being completely natural.
Remember this gorge and its naturally sculptured shapes and gracefully arching trees for when we get to Kyoto later in the trip. You will see that the temple gardens in Kyoto, though they are planted and manicured, really do beautifully mimic the natural world of Japan.
We will walk back along the gorge, and to our hotel for breakfast before checking out and heading to our next destination, the lovely historic seaside fishing town of Tomonoura, where we will be staying for 2 nights.
Like to book the tour? – Fully Booked for 2018
Day 6 – Nov 28: Explore Tomonoura.
For those who are up for it, we will have an early morning walk around Tomonoura to see the town as it wakes up. The fishermen will be heading out of the bay, and the shop keepers will be opening their shops and freshening up for the new day. This is a town centre that has hardly changed since the Edo period of 1603-1868. In fact Tomonoura is the only complete Edo period port town left in all of Japan. It’s a magical experience to walk around in the twisting narrow streets and lovely alleys to photograph friendly locals amidst lovingly maintained 16th century streetscapes. It really feels like you have stepped back in time.
Tomonoura also has a couple of wonderful modern Japanese cafes with excellent food and great atmosphere. So we will have some free time over lunch, perhaps some photography workshops (depending on what the group wants) in the afternoon, before a sunset shoot over the harbour and the stunning islands view.
Day 7 – Nov 29: Tomonoura to Miyajima Island.
Another early morning for those who are keen (sunrise around 6.30am). Tomonoura has many Edo period Buddhist and Shinto temples up the hill, each one is different and each one has its own unique charm and beauty to explore. From these hills above Tomonoura township there are also some stunning views of the bay and the beautiful Islands. In 1711 this view was famously described by the Korean envoy as the most beautiful view in Japan.
Back to the hotel for breakfast, then checkout and onto our next location. This afternoon we take the Shinkansen onwards to Hiroshima, and Miyajima (Itsukushima) Island. We arrive in time to check in to our hotel and catch the afternoon light through the autumn leaves and the huge red Tori gate that stands in the sea just outside the bay as a gateway between the human and the spirit worlds. Miyajima is the home to several stunning temples, and the most exquisite temple gardens, as well as cascading rivers, waterfalls, forests of Japanese maple and elm and some particularly friendly local deer who may even pose for us.
Day 8 – Nov 30: Explore Miyajima Island.
We start early again for that gorgeous slanted early morning light through the autumn leaves of the maple and elms, and the opportunity to walk around the stunning Miyajima Island before the Japanese devotees arrive to ask for blessings at the Itsukushima Shinto shrine, a Temple that has been here since the 12th Century. After breakfast we will walk up the hill from our hotel and take the cable car to the top of the mountain in the centre of the island, marvelling at the views from the top, before a leisurely walk down through the forest along the river with the lovely morning light, we arrive in time for early lunch and some free time.
Later in the day we will have a workshop, and then as the day visitors begin to disappear we will chase the light again with some more waterfalls, rivers with elegant bridges, and stunning afternoon atmosphere in the autumn forest. The finale will be sunset with the magnificent Tori Gate and Itsukushima Shinto Shrine.
Day 9 – Dec 01: Miyajima to Kyoto.
Seems like it’s all early starts on this trip! Of course they are all optional, and since our hotel is on the island in the middle of all the beauty it’s easy to get around and participate or not as you wish. The reason for the early starts is that the early morning light through the trees is so very beautiful. It makes it worth it to get up just to see it, and of course by the time the first ferry arrives with big crowds of visitors and pilgrims, we have been out and about for a couple of hours and are ready to head back to our hotel for breakfast, check out and onto Kyoto via Shinkansen bullet train (the absolute best way to travel in Japan).
‘Saving the best till last’ really applies to having Kyoto at the end of the tour… Kyoto really is the jewel in the Japanese crown and that’s why we have saved three full days just for Kyoto.
We will be met on arrival at Kyoto station by our specialist local guide Akie Watanabe who really understands Kyoto. She has worked with Robert for over five years and has come to understand photographers’ unique ways of working. We head by taxi to our centrally located hotel to leave our luggage and then head out to begin to explore this gem of a city.
This afternoon we head to southern Kyoto to visit the famous Shinto complex of a thousand tori (gates) and then nearby the quietness of a Zen Temple and associated rock garden. This evening we stroll to dinner through the side streets of Gion.
Day 10-12 Dec 2,3,4: Kyoto
Our time in Kyoto will bring us some of the best this city has to offer. Kyoto has many thousands of gardens, temples and shrines, it has beautiful cobbled streets and of course geiko and maiko. The city is very popular and that can mean busy, so we carefully choose times when we go to the busier locations and seek out less well-known sites that are most rewarding.
We will probably start Sunday (Dec 2) with taxis up the hill to a splendid temple and then walk down gently through winding streets for an early lunch. I say ‘probably’ because we will adapt as needed to embrace opportunities that might arise and follow autumn colour as well. In the afternoon we have a tea house location and opportunity to meet and photograph maiko and geiko and experience a tea ceremony. There are several locations to photograph in and we will work in small groups.
The bamboo grove is a famous location in Kyoto and now usually too busy with the selfie crowd. So we go to a different bamboo forest, which is typically much quieter and we also explore a wonderful moss garden nearby. This morning we will be accompanied by a kimono clad local to add an extra dimension to our images.
In the afternoon we go to the Golden Temple choosing a Monday (Dec 3) when it is usually quieter. Nearby is a very special rock garden.
On our last full day (Dec 4) in Kyoto we start at the Eikando temple as it opens, then head to magical Silver Pavilion. We come back along part of the Philosophers Path and more autumn colour. In the afternoon there is some free time for last minute shopping, revisiting locations or whatever suits. We will help you make an individual plan and can join you carrying it out.
We end our time in Kyoto with a splendid group banquet dinner in one of Robert’s favourite restaurants.
Day 13 – Dec 5 2018: Breakfast and Departure.
Our last breakfast together, then pack and final goodbyes before heading off to the Osaka airport for our flights back home, or you may wish to stay on for a few extra days to see more of what Japan has to offer.
** This itinerary is the plan. The actual tour may vary slightly due to weather, road conditions or other things beyond our control. Either way, we will ensure you get the best photographic tour that we can provide and you will come away with fantastic images and memories that will last a lifetime.
The important details.
- Dates: 23 November – 5 December 2018, 13 days with 11 days on tour.
- Tour begins in Tokyo and concludes in Kyoto.
- Just 10 places available – Fully Booked for 2018
- Tour Price: Twin Share**.
- Single Supplement: Available.
- Booking Deposit: AU$2,000 per person.
**To book the twin share rate you must specify a room partner, we cannot be responsible for pairing you with others.
- 13 days in Japan, full 11 days on tour.
- All transport for the duration of the tour, including taxis.
- All entrance fees to temples and national parks.
- All you breakfasts & All your dinners, excellent local Japanese cuisine.
- All your tour accommodation in Japan.
- All photographic tuition and workshops for the duration of the tour.
- Two professional photographers to help you get the best photos.
- Highly experienced local Japanese specialist photo guides.
- Extensive photographic notes to help you remember all you have learnt.
- Fully functional Lightroom catalogue with Japan Keywords & Smart Collections pre-loaded.
What’s not included
- Flights to and from Japan.
- Japan Visa (if you require one, please check with your travel agent).
- Initial transfer from the airport to the hotel in Tokyo.
- Transfer to Osaka airport at the conclusion in Kyoto.
- Lunches on tour.
- Travel insurance (required as a condition of booking).
- Camera Insurance.
- Alcohol and extra beverages.
- Any extras you may wish to buy along the way.
- Tips for local guides.
Like to book the tour? Fully Booked for 2018
Your Guides – Adam Monk
Adam is an award winning landscape and travel photographer with a longstanding passion for the natural environment. He has been travelling and photographing the world’s wild places for over 25 years and the enthusiasm just continues to grow. Until recently, Adam was based in his own landscape gallery in the port city of Fremantle in Western Australia for a busy 13 years. His images can be found in numerous private collections all over the world. For the last 12 years Adam has been organising and running photography workshops and photography tours to some of the worlds wild and beautiful places such as The Kimberley, Tasmania, Bhutan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Iceland and Greenland.
Your Guides – Robert van Koesveld
Robert is a full-time photographer whose work is primarily involved with world cultures. He has been interested in cultural travel all his life. Since retiring early from his psychotherapy practice he has concentrated on photography and travels extensively each year. Together with his wife, Libby Lloyd, he published a coffee table book about Bhutan (‘Bhutan Heartland: Travels in the Land of the Thunder Dragon’, Fremantle Press, 2010). His book Geiko and Maiko of Kyoto was published in 2016 and, in advance form, won the Australian Professional Photography Awards category of best Photo Book for 2015. Robert is interested in capturing ‘spirit of place’ and ‘peoples’ presence’ in a cultural context. He has led photo tours to Bhutan, India, China and Japan. To see more of Robert’s photography click HERE>>
Your Guides – “Dai” – Daisuke Kondo
Dai has worked extensively in the outdoor adventure guiding field throughout Japan. He is a skilled photographer and is well tuned into what photographers are looking for as a guide. He also knows Tokyo particularly well as he grew up there. He has worked with Robert on previous scouting trips and tours.
Your Guides – “Akie” – Akie Watanabe
Akie has been a specialist guide for many years and has been a key resource for Robert’s Kyoto projects. She works predominately as a specialist individual guide and has extensive knowledge of Kyoto and the less visited places that suit photographers, as well as the ‘Flower World’ of maiko and geiko.