Chasing Sakura Blooms
Our most elaborate tour!
Land of the Rising Sun
DateMarch 27th-April 7th 2020
Trip length12 Days
You could travel to Japan any time of year and visit any place and we promise you would return with rich and vibrant memories of people, architecture, cuisine and culture. So when we set out to create our Japan photo tour, we asked ourselves, “how can we raise the bar and deliver an experience even more exceptional to our guests?” And the answer is the Sakura season. Sakura, or “Cherry Blossoms” is highly symbolic and celebrated throughout Japan while their flowers bloom moving North with the warming of Spring.
Their blooms are celebrated at shrines, castles, temples, parks and more where we can enjoy not only special fairs and events but also capture ancient Japanese structures surrounded and framed by the beautiful blooming Sakura!
This photo tour is chock full of highlights as we make our way from the Southern city of Hiroshima, 800 kilometres north to Tokyo, with many stops along the way during our journey. Our carefully choreographed tour leaves no stone unturned visiting massive Torii gates, mystical mountains, bamboo groves and zen gardens. Between our photo opportunities, we’ll enjoy a diverse variety of authentic Japanese cuisine from local food markets to sit-down 5-course feasts!
To allow our photographers to spend ample quality time with our guests, and to keep our group intimate, we only allow eight to twelve guests to join us in Japan. For complete tour and itinerary details, continue reading below. When our group is sized at eight guests, we have one pro photographer leader accompanying the group. When the group size is twelve, we offer two awesome pro photographers to lead our group. Regardless of the group size, we always have a top-notch local Japanese/English speaking local guide on our team as well. This tour typically sells out during our pre-registration event, so if there are still seats left, don’t wait too long!
Discovery Gold Standard
Our Spring in Japan Photo tour is an all encompassing cultural phenomenon. It’s got cuisine, history, art, nature, and architecture galore! Temples, Torii Gates, markets, shrines, pagodas, castles, and so many other locations, all of which will serve as the backdrop to many of our planned photo shoots.
You’ll have the privilege of photographing a Geisha in a beautiful garden setting during a private photo session and learn how to create a collotype (ancient photographic printing technique) on beautiful Japanese rice paper in a master class workshop.
We guarantee every morning you wake up in Japan, you will be looking forward to the adventure of the day ahead. Beginning with the food; forget what you know about Japanese cuisine, this tour is on another level and delivers authentic regional dishes that will not only ravish your taste buds but will also be meticulously presented in a traditional style.
We’re going to take a moment and pat ourselves on the back for this one. There are so many wonderful shots to get in Japan, and we’ve taken all the guesswork out about where to capture the magic. We’ve studied the locations and will be sure to share our knowledge and secrets with you at every shoot.
When planning shots, we consider weather, traffic, crowds, time of day, construction and more. We know exactly where to be and the precise time to be there, all to make sure you get that shot your friends and family will envy. At the end of the day, taking unbelievable pictures is what we do, and now we’re sharing these locations with you.
Our photographers are the heart of our company… and they’re so much more than their incredible talent. Sure, they’ve traveled the world and captured beauty beyond our wildest dreams. Sure, they’ve graced the covers of magazines and websites and earned the respect of their industry. But it takes much more to be a Discovery Photo Tour Leader. Simply put, our photographers are good people. You’ll travel, explore and learn with them, you’ll share meals together, and they’ll show you how to capture amazing pictures. And at the end of the tour, you’ll have a lifelong friend; the newest addition to your holiday card list. Our tour leaders are here to make your journey unforgettable, and that’s why they’re not only world renowned for their craft, but they’re also an absolute pleasure to adventure with around the world.
Welcome to Japan
Our tour begins in historic city of Hiroshima
It's Arrival Day and our guests and photography leader will be traveling to Japan from all over the globe! After landing at Hiroshima Airport you'll make your way to our traditional Japanese Ryokan hotel in Miyajima for the night. Our group will meet up for a gourmet celebratory dinner to get our tour kicked off!
(note that most guests wisely choose to arrive a day early to rest up and get used to the new time zone - details in our welcome kit)
Peace Memorial Park Hiroshima
History of our world
After a group breakfast, we travel by ferry to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. This beautiful serene setting celebrates the heroes and history of the city's WWII tragedy. It is an eye-opening experience that demonstrates the honor and life passion of the Japanese people.
Next, we will visit the beautiful Hiroshima Castle for a landscape shoot before returning to Miyajima for a visit to Shukkein Garden and a sunset photo session by the unique Floating Torii Gate.
Temple, Shrines and the Great Torii Gate!
In the morning we visit the Island of Miyajima where we'll have an optional sunrise shoot back at the Floating Tori, visit the beautiful Itsukishima Shrine and take a cable car up the Mt Misen Ropeway for some spectacular views. For lunch, we'll indulge in some incredibly delicious traditional Japanese street market food. Don't miss the steamed buns! Yum ...
History and Canals
Sunrise brings us to a unique modern masterpiece of architecture for our morning shoot and after breakfast, we visit a zen painting exhibit and contemporary art installation. For our midday repast, we feast on a lunch of delicious udon noodles at a quaint Japanese tea house.
After eating, we will take a local train to the historically preserved town of Kurashiki. Hundreds of years ago it served as a rice distribution town, now we can visit a slice of history and see where the rice was stored and the canals they used to transport it. After exploring the small town, we will end our day with a sunset shoot on the canal.
Castles and Zen Gardens
On this day, we spend a leisurely morning exploring the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Area followed by a ride in our private coach to the town of Bizen where we are treated to a display of unique craftsmanship by local master sword makers.
After lunch, our group continues to a vast zen garden at Kokoen where our group can explore 9 separate walled gardens spread over ten-thousand square meters! Our sunset shot of the day is in the town of Himeji where we will visit Himeji Castle, one of Japan's largest and most spectacular castles, listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.
On to Osaka!
Where History Meets Modernity
Today's adventure begins at the stunning Akashi Kaikyo Bridge after which we depart for the metropolis of Osaka. Once in this beautiful city we spend a day like locals visiting Kuromon Market, Doguyasuji, Shinsekai, and Dotonburi for shopping, dining, and some wonderful street photography opportunities. We wrap this wonderful day up by photographing the lovely Osaka Castle; a favorite of locals and visitors alike.
Sake to me!
Sleeping in will seem like heaven after several exciting full days of culture, history, and photography. After breakfast, we make a stop at Byōdō-in Temple on our way to the stunning and historic city of Kyoto. As a special treat, for lunch, you'll get the chance to visit a special sake brewery and enjoy a tasting menu for a distinctively Japanese experience with a twist.
After settling in in Kyoto we wrap up the day with a visit to the Nishiki Market for some cultural exploration and urban photography. We dine in the Pontocho district where after dinner the streets make a perfect setting for a fun night shoot with vibrant colors and colorful people.
Enter the magical city
Early rise and off to Fushimi Inari Shrine! We need to arrive before the crowds in order to capture the Torii gates uninterrupted by the multitude of visitors this place attracts every day. After our morning shoot, we will explore the trails around the mountainside visiting dozens of shrines along the way.
You're in for a very special treat as we'll have a very exclusive workshop for you where you will learn an ancient photographic printing technique on rice paper. You'll be taught by master printer and even take home your own creation of one of your photos created in this special way.
Your very own memoirs of a Geisha
Another amazing day as we'll have special access to photograph a Geisha in a private photo session!
Sunrise will be at the famous Keage Incline and after a full day of sightseeing in the beautiful Gion district, Higashiyama, and many other classic Kyoto spots we will wrap up our busy day with a blue hour shoot at the seminal Yasaka shrine.
Bamboo Groves, Temples and More!
We kick off today with an early sunrise shoot at the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest where we will capture the sun's early rays piercing the peaceful grove. Our day continues onto the Tenryuji, Adashino and Nanzenji temples, each with its own character and story. Finally, after a full day of shooting, we will end our day with a sunset shoot at Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion before dinner.
The great city awaits!
After breakfast our group will board a high speed bullet train and make our way to Tokyo. Once we arrive we will head to Asakusa, one of Tokyo's oldest areas. There we can get a glimpse of what Tokyo used to look like many many years ago. After exploring and lunch we will make our way to the World Trade Center building where we will end our photography with a blue hour shoot of Tokyo taken from the 35th floor observatory. After our shoot our group will enjoy a farewell dinner before retiring for the night.
End of Our Journey
We Say our Goodbyes
Departure day is always sweet sorrow as we say farewell to new friends and the land of the rising sun.
As Dr. Seuss said: "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."
Get To Know
DateMarch 27th-April 7th 2020
Trip length12 Days
Max group size8-12
Our tours not only focus on postcard quality photography opportunities, we also carefully select all our dining locations and menus. Specifically on our Japan tour, our aim is to provide an authentic culinary experience that allows you to taste the extensive and stylistic cuisines from Hiroshima to Tokyo. Menus will include local delicacies and dishes throughout our journey including Ramen, Sukiyaki, Shabu-shabu, Okonomiyaki, Onigiri, traditional homemade Udon and Soba, and Sushi/Sashimi… of course!
Bring a healthy appetite, you will never be hungry!
Although we spend minimal time in our hotels, we select them with the focus on customer satisfaction, cleanliness, and location best suited to our shoot locations. This allows our guests a comfortable setting to unwind, recharge and rest with the convenience of departing to our next shoot or location.
Overview of shooting locations
Photography skill level
Recommended photography equipment
- DSLR or Mirrorless camera(s)
- Sturdy Tripod
- Wide angle lens 16mm or less
- Zoom lens 24-70mm
- Zoom Lens 70-200mm
- Cable release
- ND & Polarizer filters
Have questions about gear? We can help!
Join us in Japan
Single Room Supplement
If you would like to request your own room for the tour, there is an additional cost of $975 USD. We reserve our accommodations many months in advance, therefore please understand we will do our best to secure you a single supplement room, however, cannot guarantee its availability.
Choose your room type below and add to cart to complete your deposit and reserve your spot to join us on this unforgettable photography tour to Japan.
Your Japanese Adventure Awaits!
Ken Kaminesky is a co-founder of Discovery Photo Tours as well as a veteran commercial travel photographer, Fujifilm Global Ambassador, Formatt-Hitech Signature Artist, writer, consultant, and entrepreneur with over twenty years of experience in the photography industry. Ken's iconic photography has featured in major publications including the New York Times, Condé Nast Traveler, and twice on the front cover of National Geographic magazine.
Deborah Sandidge is a professional photographer specializing in world travel and artistic imagery. As an author and instructor, Deborah, expands the horizons of those who enjoy her photographic artistry. Deborah is well respected for her ability to blend the creative and the technical aspects of photography, giving the viewer a unique and fresh dimension illustrated in each subject she photographs