Trekabout Photography Workshops - Creating Adventure Through Photography
Workshops, Tours, Adventures with AIPP* Accredited Professional Photographer Mark Rayner and the Dream Team
Fifteen Day Enchanting Japan Photography Adventure Tour and Workshop
When: 13 - 27 April 2023 - FULLY BOOKED
Where: Tokyo, Suwa, Takayama, Kamikochi, and Matsumoto
Book now to secure your spot on this amazing photography workshop and tour.
Bookings at the bottom of this page.
Please check back for additional dates. If you subscribe to the TREKeZine RSS feed, you will be automatically notified when more workshop dates are released.
Please come and join Australian professional photographers Mark Rayner and David Metcalf on an amazing photography journey through the less travelled parts of the mountainous region of central Japan.
This first Trekabout tour to Japan will take you on an enchanting voyage of discovery on mostly back roads through the beautiful landscapes of the mountainous heart of the country where foreign tourists seldom venture. Spring will be bursting with new green buds and blossoms and the bird and animal life will be coming out after the long winter.
We will visit some fascinating cultural sites including Suwa Shrine, one of Japan’s most ancient Shinto shrines and Matsumoto Castle, its best and most attractive black castle. We will stay in one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Japan, Takayama, and witness an amazing ancient festival where young men dressed only in loin cloths, engage in a drumming and acrobatic competition on floats careering through the narrow streets of the town.
We will also visit Shirakawago, with its incredible 4 story steeply thatched roofs to handle the meters and meters of snow that falls there.
We have timed this trip so that we will catch somewhere on our journey some beautiful weeping cherry blossoms and visit Takato, the ruins of an ancient castle turned into a park with 1,500 cherry blossoms which when lit up at night is like being inside a pink cloud. We will travel through deep valleys surrounded by snow-capped mountains and see farmers plowing their rice fields.
Hopefully, we will get some amazing views of iconic Mt Fuji. We will stay at a lodge inside the Alpine National Park at Kamikochi, arguably one of the most beautiful spots in Japan and go on walks seeking to spot birds and other wildlife, like the unique Japanese serow – an ungulate cross between a goat and an antelope.
Moreover, if we are in-luck we could see some Japanese macaques, known as the Snow Monkeys and visit the hot springs where they go to bathe in cold weather. We may also visit Karuizawa, one of the most popular summer resorts, for some more birdwatching or check out a wasabi farm to see how it grows in the cold clear mountain streams.
Our accommodation will be in a range of different types, including western style hotels and lodges to traditional Japanese ryokans, sleeping on futon on a tatami floor and wearing Japanese yukata (night gowns) while eating traditional kaiseki (many beautiful dishes).
The food in Japan is first class, and you can expect every meal to be a delight to the eyes and taste buds. On this journey we will experience the best local cuisine of the regions we visit which will include dishes which you can only find in these areas – such as wild boar hot pot and wild mountain herbs tempura.
One of the delights of traveling in Japan is being able to relax in natural hot spring baths after a long day, and this trip will be no exception. Indeed, we stay at Lake Suwa which is a famous hot spring resort where you can even have a hot spring foot bath at the station platform while you wait for the train.
We're not leaving anything to chance and have teamed up with Shumi Stay Japan to ensure you have an amazing photography adventure. Read about Shumi Stay Japan below.
Shumi Stay Japan is focussed on providing any kind of hobby group with a bespoke program to enable them to pursue their “shumi” (hobby) in Japan. Shumi Stay Japan is operated by Phil and Kazuko Ingram, who have over 60 years of combined living and working experience in Japan.
Their passion is showing visitors from overseas the ‘real’ and ‘deep’ Japan which is commonly missed by most tourists.
They are not a travel agent but travel planners focussed on helping visitors have a meaningful holiday in Japan where they can do what they love most – their ‘shumi’ (hobby).
Taking photographs in Japan is a great ‘shumi’ and we look forward to partnering with Mark and Dave from Trekabout to make their first workshop in Japan a truly memorable photographic and cultural experience for everyone joining this tour.
Itinerary and Program of Events
Everyone arrives and checks in after 3pm to our well-situated city hotel in the heart of Tokyo and we go out for a Japanese dinner to get to know each other.
Day 2– Acclimatisation day and skills workshop in Tokyo
Japan takes a bit of getting used to, and Tokyo is the biggest city in the world, so it’s always helpful for first time visitors to have an orientation day where we can get used to how things work. Mark and David will also assess your skill levels and help setup your cameras so you can get the most out of your visit. We will focus on a variety of things during the day – such as busy Shibuya crossing, Asakusa temple area, or a quiet Japanese garden.
We take a two-and-half hour express train (not the bullet train) to a hot spring town called Suwa in the centre of Nagano – which is in the middle of Honshu Island and surrounded by the highest mountain ranges in Japan, the North, Central and Southern Alps.
Suwa is on a large lake surrounded by mountains. There is an 18-kilometer-long path and park around the lake and a geyser can be seen at one spot. The town is famous for its hot springs and its 5 sake breweries that offer tours and tastings.
We spend the next 3 days doing tours in a mini-bus to all or some of the following locations:
- - Mt Fuji – we have a good chance of capturing Mt Fuji from a number of locations in the area and as well, if the weather is right, we could drive in the van to the foot of Mt Fuji as a day trip.
- - Suwa Grand Shrine – this is one of the oldest and most beautiful shrines in Japan and is surrounded by giant cryptomeria trees. There are 4 parts to the shrine so it could take a day to see them all.
- - Takato Castle Park – the park has over 1,500 cherry trees covering an entire hill of the castle ruins. It’s a spectacular site especially when lit up at night.
- - Suntory Hakushu Whisky Factory – apart from an interesting experience to visit a whisky factory, this one is unique because it is situated in a forest which Suntory has turned into a bird watching spot. We should see a number of local birds, including the Cuckoo.
Takayama is truly one of the most enchanting mountain towns in Japan which has preserved much of its old wooden buildings dating back 200 to 400 years. Its narrow streets of merchant shops swarm with shoppers and visitors and a number of them are historically interesting and open to the public. We will spend time wandering through the morning markets and the busy main streets as well as exploring the quiet back streets and the historical buildings. We will drive through the countryside looking out for some beautiful and old weeping cheery trees, We will visit the amazing village of Shirakawago which is a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its unique architecture – all the houses are massive 3 to 4 story thatched roofs structures with doors opening from the second and third floors because of the deep snow that falls there in winter.
The cultural highlight of the tour will be watching the amazing Furukawa Festival, one of Japan’s Three Most Famous ‘Naked Festivals’. This festival involves men dressed in cotton loincloths, despite the cold, running around the town in groups carrying large drums. In a ‘battle of the drums’ there are 12 neighbourhood groups jockeying for positions and it becomes quite a spectacle that goes on almost throughout the night. You will be able to stand right in the middle of the action but it can be dangerous so we will have to take care.
Days 10 to 11 Based in Kamikochi
Kamikochi is right in the middle of the North Alps and is regarded as the most beautiful alpine valley in Japan and inside a national park. It is a popular bird watching area and also wild snow monkeys and Japanese serow can be spotted. Private cars are banned and the whole area is closed from November to mid-April. The new shoots of spring will be bursting through the melting snow when we get there. We stay is an eco-lodge inside the national park and go for leisurely walks to capture the stunning scenery and wild life.
Matsumoto is the regional centre for central Nagano with a population of about 300,000. The city is built around its famous castle, a 'National Treasure' built in 1592 which is the oldest castle remaining in Japan. Its elegant black structure it is called the 'Crow Castle'. There is an area of well-preserved merchant buildings near the castle which is worth walking through and photographing as well.
Apart from the castle and its surrounds there is a choice of day trips to be made from here depending on time and our group’s interests:
- - Nagano Snow Monkey Park – this park is the best place to see wild monkeys bathing but usually only in the winter or early spring will they be in the water. We will check if the monkeys are about before we decide to go as it’s a full day excursion from Matsumoto.
- - Nakasendo – refers to the old road connecting Tokyo and Kyoto through the centre of Honshu. Parts of the trail and several towns are well preserved and quite photogenic. We can visit Kiso Narai and Kiso Hirasawa which is famous for its lacquer ware.
- - Daio Wasabi Farm – is an interesting place to see wasabi growing in the cold fast flowing river.
- - Karuizawa Bird Watching Park – Karuizawa is Japan’s most famous summer resort situated at over 1,000m and has a very good dedicated bird watching park.
In the morning we can spend more time in Matsumoto, or we can take an express train to Nagano City and visit the famous Zenkoji Temple. Founded in the 7th century it is regarded as one of the most important in Japan. In the afternoon we take a 2-hour Shinkansen “Bullet” train ride to Tokyo.
We can spend the next day photographing in Tokyo, the world’s largest fish market, the Imperial Palace, iconic Tokyo Station, and busy shopping and bar areas. In terms of nature photography, there are numerous parks and gardens in Tokyo which would have lots of plants budding and in flower. Also, there are several wetland bird watching places around Tokyo that we might visit.
The tour ends in Tokyo on 26 April.
This amazing photography tour workshop is designed to suit the beginner or serious enthusiast. A digital SLR or mirrorless interchangeable lens camera camera is recommended, however, any camera that has manual functions would also be suitable. Best lenses to bring include a longer zoom, a wide angled lens and mid-range zoom. A sturdy travel tripod is essential.
✓ All Meals.
✓ Excursions and transfers as stated on the itinerary
✓ Meet and greet services as stated on the itinerary.
✓ Transport in Japan
✗ Drinks, entrance fees, porterage, tours/excursions and transfers not specified in the itinerary
✗ Travel insurance
✗ International, regional and domestic flights not stated in itinerary.
✗ Staff gratuities (tips)
✗ Any new Government taxes, levies, fuel or industry increases which are beyond our control
✗ Visa and visa fees where relevant.
✗ International airport departure taxes applicable
✗ Any items of a personal nature
RESERVE YOUR PLACE NOW
A $1000.00 non-refundable deposit is required to secure your position.
(please note a 2.9% handling fee applies to credit card payments)
Final payment must be paid 60 days prior to the workshop.
You must secure travel insurance.
This workshop is limited at 10 participants to ensure a high student/tutor ratio.
The workshop requires a minimum 4 bookings to proceed