Frequently Asked Questions
Tell me about your approach to photo tours
Our Japan photography tours are designed for people who want to explore fascinating landscapes, towns and people, while using and strengthening their creative skills. We (Daisuke and Robert) have explored Japan extensively and, as creative hosts, we want to share with you the Japan we love, including traditional and modern Japan, remote Hokkaido, intimate Kyoto, awesome Fuji and mysterious Yakushima. We aim to research and offer new itineraries each year so that we can show different facets of Japan to our guests.
We can be flexible and offer optimal experiences and learning support because our tours are designed for just four to six people, with two leaders. This means we can use a single comfortable vehicle that can manage the back roads, get us to more locations and have more photo stops along the way. Also, when we use trains or planes, we are able to move efficiently, with less stress. Small groups are better able to access interesting smaller hotels and local restaurants.
As photography coaches and teachers, we are interested in your creativity and how to support you in your personal projects. We can talk about technical stuff where that's required but are more likely to focus on the process of seeing and image-making. We gently build in cultural context and visual inspiration. The small size and personal engagement mean you can have a relaxed, enjoyable and creative journey.
What level of photography experience do I need?
Our photographer guests range from absolute beginners to professionals. With a small group and two skilled leaders (Daisuke and Robert) on each Japan tour, we can provide input that's appropriate for each individual guest. Coaching is always available and teaching content is adapted to the needs of each group. While we can problem-solve technical challenges and coach post-processing in detail, we both think good images are more about learning to see and thinking about intention.
I am a non-photographer. Can I come?
Absolutely! We enjoy having artists and other creatives on our tours and they tell us they’re having a productive and enjoyable experience. We like to allow for ‘slow travel’ at times, so there is plenty of time in some locations; at other times we will aim to work quite quickly. Photographers enjoy ‘great light’ which can mean early mornings or late afternoons and sometimes long days. If you are comfortable looking, sketching, writing or just being, then you will enjoy yourself.
What will I learn on my Japan photography tour?
Development of any knowledge or skill is the product of experience, well-timed input, plus personal reflection.
All our Japan photo tours will give you heaps of opportunities to work at your craft in the field. We research locations in depth, drawing on past exploratory trips and established networks. We aim to get you to great places at the best times and adapt our activities depending on weather or new opportunities. (This tour does not involve a big bus rushing between tourist sites.)
We (Daisuke and Robert) are always available to coach and discuss; we often use travel times and other opportunities for 1:1 teaching. Group teaching sessions are scheduled about every second day. Our small group size means we aim for input that's appropriate for the needs of the actual guests.
We definitely encourage reflection on what is working or what can be refined in your creative image-making. There will be thoughtful image review sessions and we are happy to look at and discuss your images at any opportunity.
Individuals goals are different, but you will definitely be supported in making great images or image series. You will improve in visualising the images in the field and considering the final intention so that your personal projects are more successful and linked to personal goals and style.
What about camera gear, tripods and laptops?
Most people on our photography use a DSLR or a mirrorless camera but a compact digital camera can be fine provided it has some individual controls. An iPhone can be a great tool if you are confident in how to get the most out of it and are happy with the file size. Some people use medium format cameras too. We will give more suggestions in the trip notes package specific to your photography tour.
Tripods can be especially useful in low light and at night. A solid but light tripod will work for some people. Modern cameras are more flexible so some people will choose not to bring a tripod. A lighter laptop really helps for image review and editing sessions. Extra batteries, memory cards and a backup strategy are also important. The trip notes package will cover these matters more specifically.
Do the leaders photograph during the tours?
Your images are our absolute focus on tour. We (Daisuke and Robert) have usually been to locations before, so already have our own photographs. We do use our cameras to demonstrate possibilities to you (it’s easier just to show on the back screen sometimes) and we do want to teach about the process of finding an engaging subject and conceptualising the shot. We are photographers though, so we do take photographs if everyone is fully engaged and we aren’t talking together about the rest of the day’s plans. If we do, we will always share the shot.
Are there other costs?
Each Japan photo tour has its own specific inclusions and exclusions but, in general, most meals are included as well as accommodation, entrance fees and local travel within the tour itself. International airfares, insurance (travel, cancellation and gear), and visas (if needed) are not included. Obviously, your souvenirs, personal snacks and drinks and any optional activities are extra costs. Sadly, cameras are generally not cheaper in Japan. We recommend coming a day or so early, so you are well rested before; however extra nights are your responsibility. Generally, you don’t tip in Japan.
Personal spending money is very individual depending on how much you shop and what you drink with meals. You will need some local currency as cash is still needed in some situations such as personal drinks in restaurants. We will advise about ATMs in the trip notes.
What is the food like, and can it include special diets?
Japanese food is usually a high point for guests, especially evening meals. Some hotel meals will be banquet style with many small courses. Other times we will experience a wide range of delicious local cuisines. Lunches will be simpler; so as to make the best use of our time, we may have a bento-style lunch box on trains or on the road. Fish is a mainstay of many meals in Japan (it does involve 436,852 islands!) but we will arrange other options at times.
Breakfasts in Japan tend to be either local style (more like a light dinner to a western palate) or a typically simple western option.
Vegetarian diets are mostly easily managed. More complex requirements we need to discuss with you. Please let us know if you have specific requirements when you book. In general, we will advise restaurants, but choices can be limited and those with serious allergies need to be personally alert and medically prepared, as always.
How fit do I need to be?
Our Japan tours are designed for people of average fitness and mobility. If you can spend a half day walking at home in the city or countryside, you should be fine. You walk more when you travel but our trips are not treks. It is more a matter of exploring a location. There can be stairs in hotels and temples, and paths can be cobbled or the ground uneven. You need to be able to manage your own luggage, including sometimes walking to or from train stations or ferry terminals. So, packing light is important especially, if you have mobility issues.
There are tatami floors in some restaurants, hotels and temples, so you will need to remove your shoes at times; we will coach you about the shoe etiquette. Sitting on the floor may be appropriate sometimes, but it is understood westerners are less flexible physically. We may occasionally use traditional hotels with futon sleeping mattresses in some or all rooms.
Let us know if you have mobility issues and we can assess if you will be able to make good use of the tour. Some mobility limitations may simply mean you have to stay back, occasionally, when there are a lot of stairs. Tours differ, so it is important to discuss concerns with us.
What cultural factors are important?
Japan has a rich history and complex culture. Like all cultures there are variations between people and cities in the way people live and interact. Nevertheless, what is polite and respectful may be different to what are used to. Operating from a base of respectful curiosity and openness is a great start. We will give you guidelines as well as answer questions. Daisuke will of course be our Japanese interpreter and our coach regarding customs.
Is the schedule flexible?
We (Robert and Daisuke) have planned the itinerary to make the richest experience we can based on our scouting, past trips and research. If we discover new opportunities, we will try and take advantage of them and will also adapt to the weather as needed. There may be some early morning or late evening shoots, so we are on location at the best times; usually, dawn shoots are optional.
We typically arrange accommodation, so we have two or more nights in most locations. That means less packing and unpacking and more time exploring. Sometimes it can be possible to take a morning off but not if it's a travelling day. Some free time may be scheduled but planning for specific activities outside the tour should be arranged for before or after the tour.
What else do I need to bring?
Our tours operate in different seasons, so clothing requirements vary. We will send you a detailed information pack specific to your trip once you sign-up. Packing light is always important, since hotels don't have porters in Japan (and do have stairs) and space can be limited on trains and in vans.
A mobile phone is a real advantage as it means you can be contacted by the leaders and vice versa if you become separated or delayed. It also provides access to wifi on those occasions when hotel wifi is limited to the lobby. Research your providers roaming charges well before hand and consider a local sim card if that is much cheaper.
What’s the accommodation like?
We choose good well-located hotels and sometimes local style ryokans where they make the most sense. City hotels will be 4- 4½ stars and comfortable. Rooms are often smaller in Japan and single rooms especially so; bathrooms can be ‘compact’. We always ask for non-smoking rooms, if available.
Ryokan style hotels are atmospheric and have beautiful Japanese style rooms. Often, they include a banquet-style restaurant and possibly a separate dining room just for our group. Hot spring onsen baths are a feature of many rural hotels, with separate baths for men and women. They are fun and great after a day’s travelling; they are optional.
Japanese hotels typically only open their bookings around six months before the day we plan to stay. That means we can’t confirm specific hotels till around then. We will give you as much notice as we can of our start and finish hotels.