Sacred Japan 2024 Photocultural Tour

Oct. 20–30, 2024

Photocultural exploration into the rich and unique culture of Japan

Photographer Wayde Carroll, along with Kyoto native and professional tour guide, Miyu Tamamura, invite you into the magical land of Japan. Experts in their fields, with a rich background in the arts, Miyu and Wayde designed this trip especially for photographers who wish to capture the beauty of Japan while having a true cultural immersion experience.

Our home base will be Kyoto, a cultural mecca and home of Zen Buddhism. This ancient capital is more than 1,200 years old and exudes the essence of what makes Japan one of the most unique and sophisticated cultures in the world.

Kyoto is known not only for its natural beauty but also for the highest quality arts and crafts found in the nation. Kyoto houses over a thousand temples and shrines and their well-tended gardens invite us to pause and to experience the present moment. Please join us and experience Japan’s extraordinary beauty through your heart and through your lens.

This truly special offering will allow photographers to fully immerse themselves in a wide variety of photographic opportunities. With Miyu’s 20 years of extensive experience guiding tours in Japan, we’ll explore unique, lesser-known locales along with more famous must-see sights.

As photographers we’ll be able to work on most aspects of travel photography, including landscape, portraits, architecture, cultural, street, and still-life. Subject matter will include temples, gardens, markets, villages, hot springs, artisans, street scenes, Geisha, and more.

Each day will be filled with some combination of photography excursions, technique-building workshops, hands-on guidance, assignments, and reviews, as well as Miyu’s insights.

Our accommodations are rated 5 stars and include a gourmet breakfast every morning.

By anchoring ourselves in Kyoto, we get to know this amazing city intimately before we head to Kinosaki Hot Spring, a charming countryside town where we’ll experience the true hospitality of Ryokan (traditional Japanese inn). We have multi-night stays in each location so if you just want to take a break and spend some time relaxing or explore on your own, you’ll have that option as well.

Trip Highlights

  • World Heritage Sites Todaiji Temple and Kasuga Taisha Shrine in Nara, and Tenryuji Temple in Kyoto.
  • Beautiful and hidden gardens, temples, and shrines in Kyoto.
  • Kyoto must-see sites of Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Golden Pavilion, and Ryoanji Rock Garden.
  • Meet with an Indigo Master in his studio in Miyama thatched-home village in the countryside
  • Private portrait photography opportunity with Geisha
  • Luxurious two-night stay in a traditional Japanese Ryokan in Kinosaki, and soak in the natural hot springs.
  • Explore Kyoto historic districts and festive markets.
  • Take a hands-on Tea Ceremony class, one of the five traditional arts of Japan.
  • Attend a special Kimono exhibit by master artist Ei Tamamura (Miyu’s father), and so much more.

10 Nights

8-10 Travelers

Activity Level

⬤ ⬤ ◯ ◯ ◯

$7,950

(Double-occupancy; single supplement $950)

$1,000

Deposit

Itinerary

Note: All guests are encouraged to depart US on Oct. 18, arriving on Oct. 19 (one day early) in Kyoto on their own to acclimate. Earlier if you’d like. There’s 16-hour time difference between US and Japan.

Arrive at Osaka Kansai International Airport or Osaka Itami Domestic Airport, transfer to our hotel in central Kyoto. Meet for a welcome dinner, orientation, and presentation by Wayde and Miyu.

Highlights

  • Arrive in Japan
  • Welcome presentation

Meals

  • Dinner

Accommodations

  • Hotel Granvia Kyoto

An early-morning visit to the Golden Pavilion and Ryoanji Rock Garden will provide fantastic photography opportunities. After lunch, we’ll head to downtown Kyoto to visit the festive Nishiki food-market street known as Kyoto’s kitchen. A walking tour of downtown Kyoto to follow.

Highlights

  • Golden Pavilion
  • Ryoanji Rock Garden
  • Nishiki Market and walking tour

Meals

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch

Accommodations

  • Hotel Granvia Kyoto

This morning we’ll head out early to capture the iconic and sacred Fushimiinari Shrine and walk through hundreds of beautiful vermillion Torii gates. We’ll continue our way to Tofukuji Zen Temple and Komyoin—famous for its exquisite garden. After lunch, we’ll partake in a hands-on Tea Ceremony class. Tonight we’ll review the day’s images and Wayde will give a slideshow on photography tips and techniques.

Highlights

  • Fushimiinari Shrine
  • Torii Gates
  • Tofukui Zen Temple
  • Komyoin garden
  • Tea Ceremony class

Meals

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch

Accommodations

  • Hotel Granvia Kyoto

Early-morning visit to the magnificent Tenryuji Temple, a Unesco World Heritage Site and we’ll explore the beautiful Arashiyama district including an enchanting bamboo grove. Then we’ll spend time exploring the stunning Hozu river and surrounding area.

Highlights

  • Tenryuji Temple
  • Arashiyama District
  • Bamboo grove
  • Hozu River

Meals

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch

Accommodations

  • Hotel Granvia Kyoto

With voluntary photo assignments from Wayde, we’ll start our day by visiting the ancient capital of Nara. With a local guide, we’ll explore the majestic world heritage sites, Kasuga Grand Shrine, and Todaiji Temple, which houses the largest bronze Buddha statue in the world. After a delicious lunch and a bowl of Matcha tea at Isuien garden, we’ll have a special private portrait session with a Geisha.

Highlights

  • Nara
  • Kasuga Grand Shrine
  • Todaiji Temple
  • Isuien Garden Tea
  • Geisha portrait session

Meals

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch

Accommodations

  • Hotel Granvia Kyoto
 

This morning we’ll visit a local’s favorite, the open-air Kitano flea market in downtown Kyoto, where you’ll see small vendors and shops lined up to display and sell all kinds of art, antiques, food, crafts, and treasures. In the afternoon, we’ll attend the special showing of Ei Tamamura’s Kimono exhibition. We’ll share our assignment photos this evening.

Highlights

  • Kitano flea market
  • Master artist kimono exhibition
  • Photo review

Meals

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch

Accommodations

  • Hotel Granvia Kyoto

Today we’ll take an express train north through the countryside and arrive in the charming hot spring town of Kinosaki, known for its beautiful willow-lined streets and healing waters. Our elegant Ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) has been run by the same family for many generations. Soak in the natural mineral hot springs and enjoy the warm hospitality and the chef’s delicately prepared creations. An enchanting nighttime stroll in the village dressed in Yukata and Geta sandals will transport us to old Japan.

Highlights

  • Express train ride
  • Town of Kinosaki
  • Hot springs
  • Traditional Ryokan experience

Meals

  • Breakfast
  • Dinner

Accommodations

  • Nishimuraya Honkan Ryokan

On our morning walk we’ll visit an ancient Onsenji Temple, founded in the 800’s, and have a private tour of the magical Shingon Buddhist temple with the head priest. The afternoon is free for you to soak and relax. The town of Kinosaki is filled with attractive shops and restaurants to enjoy and opportunities for massage and Shiatsu therapy (Japanese acupressure) are available at the Ryokan. Gather for a special Kaiseki dinner in Yukata.

Highlights

  • Onsenji Temple tour
  • Hot springs
  • Kaiseki dinner

Meals

  • Breakfast
  • Dinner

Accommodations

  • Nishimuraya Honkan Ryokan
 

After a hearty breakfast, we’ll take a short train and a private van to the picturesque Miyama Village, a unique artist community where the traditional thatched-roof homes are still beautifully preserved. We’ll stop by the Little Indigo Museum for its rare collection of indigo art and meet a master indigo artist in his studio. After a delicious Soba lunch, we’ll head back to Kyoto. Optional photo reviews and post-processing practice this evening.

Highlights

  • Miyama Village
  • Little Indigo Museum
  • Master indigo artist studio visit
  • Soba lunch

Meals

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch

Accommodations

  • Hotel Granvia Kyoto

Today you’re free to explore Kyoto on your own. Miyu will help customize your day depending on your interests and desires. You’re also welcome to accompany Wayde for a photo exploration of the Ninenzaka/Sannenzaka traditional district, a fun area to walk around for unique pottery and craft shops. Our special farewell dinner is in the heart of Gion entertainment district where we’ll take a night stroll through Yasaka Shrine to see the hundreds of paper lanterns magically lit under the stars.

Highlights

  • Free exploration time on your own or
  • Photo walk with Wayde
  • Farewell dinner in the Gion entertainment district
  • Night stroll to Yasaka Shrine

Meals

  • Breakfast
  • Dinner

Accommodations

  • Hotel Granvia Kyoto

After a lovely breakfast, we’ll say our farewells and begin transferring you to your departing airport.

Meals

  • Breakfast

Important Notes

  • We’ll be using various modes of transportation while traveling throughout Japan including public trains, private taxis, and vans. You’re in charge of carrying your small luggage at all times during our travels. Porter service is available at each lodging but is not available during our travel.
  • When we stay in the traditional Ryokan, you’ll wear Yukata, a cotton robe, to lounge at the Ryokan. We’ll also be sleeping on a comfortable futon on the soft tatami floor. Cushions are available for you to sit comfortably on the floor as well.
  • We’ll be removing our shoes constantly throughout our trip (at temples, Ryokans, etc.) Footwear that’s easy to slip on and off is recommended.
  • Tipping is not customary in Japan, but small gifts are. You’re welcome to bring some small gifts from home for people you meet along the way.
  • All beverages, including alcoholic drinks, sodas, juices, bottled water, etc. are NOT included in the trip cost.
  • Daily activities indicated in the itinerary are subject to change according to availability, unknown circumstances, and restrictions.
Note: All activities are weather-dependent; if poor weather keeps us inside, we’ll practice photo editing and post-processing techniques.

Meet Your Guides

Wayde Carroll

Principal and Photography Instructor

Miyu Tamamura

Guide: Japan 2024

Packing List

Recommended

*Note: These are recommendations only. Don’t feel you need to buy everything on this list before your trip! Bring the gear you need to take the type of photos you really want.

  • Digital SLR or advanced “point and shoot” camera with the ability to shoot in “manual” mode and with a wide angle to telephoto range zoom.
  • Plenty of batteries for your camera and flash. Don’t forget to bring your chargers!
  • A card reader so you can download images.
  • Individual lenses, fixed focal length, or zoom, that give you wide-angle and telephoto possibilities. A good range would be 16mm to 200mm.
  • Tripod. Please make sure it is made to support the weight of your camera model. Flimsy tripods are useless!
  • Rain cover for your camera and camera bag. (Check out Fotosharp and Think Tank Photo covers for example).
  • A lens hood for each lens. This helps keep stray light out as well as rain off the front glass.
  • A polarizing filter for each lens diameter. I think all models use “circular polarizers” now but check your lens/camera manual to be sure! (You can also buy a filter for your largest lens diameter and buy “step-down” rings that allow that filter to attach to smaller lens sizes.)
  • Your camera’s manual. A digitial version saves weight and space.
  • Cable release, or wireless trigger-for tripod work.
  • Plenty of storage cards and batteries. I would bring enough cards to shoot about 1000 images a day just in case. More if you shoot multiple frames per second often.
  • Small portable hard drive to store your images on. ( 500 GB)
  • Small hand towel to keep in camera bag.
  • Lens cleaning solution and cloth.
  • Jeweler’s screwdrivers (pack in checked luggage!)
  • Dust blower and your preferred way of cleaning your camera sensor.

Optional

  • Laptop computer (with surge protector) or iPad etc., with your photo manipulation software ie: Photoshop, Lightroom. We’ll spend time viewing images to make sure we’re all getting results we’re happy with! We’ll work on post-processing when time allows as well.
  • 2 or 3 stop graduated neutral density filter with holder and lens mount for each lens size.
  • A super wide angle, 16mm  would give you more options inside temples and shrines.
  • Second camera body as back up.
  • Dedicated flash unit. This is a flash separate from your camera. The “built-in” flashes in the camera are very limited.
  • Project-a-flash/ flash extender
  • Small softbox or umbrella for dedicated flash.
  • Off-camera flash cord or wireless trigger such as Pocket Wizards.
    ( I love to do portraits/wildflowers with off-camera flash and a small umbrella!)
  • Photoflex Litedisc gold/white reflector. 12- or 22-inch.
  • Camera harness to prevent your arms from getting tired carrying your camera all day.
  • Light layers for daytime wear
  • Fleece and light waterproof rain jacket to guard against any nighttime chills and possible showers.
  • Long sleeve shirts and pants can help protect you from the sun.
  • Comfortable walking shoes that are easy to remove in temples, etc.. 
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Water bottle
  • Umbrella
  • Toiletries

FAQ

The deposit to hold your spot on the tour is non-refundable provided that the tour runs as scheduled. For this reason, we strongly recommend purchasing travel insurance. Travel insurance will often cover unexpected trip cancelations, delays, lost luggage reimbursement, and other travel-related expenses that may arise unexpectedly (policies vary). Should the tour itself be canceled for any reason, we will do our very best to refund any deposit amounts that have not already been forwarded to secure airfares or hotel accommodations.

Current travel protocols for Japan can be found on the U.S. Embassy website and the U.S. Dept. of State website. We’ll monitor both sites and provide updates to travel protocols. We’ll also have COVID tests with us on the tour. Please make sure that your passport is valid for at least three months after the end of our trip.

If it is required to have a COVID-19 test at the time of our return we will make sure to adjust our schedule so that every participant can receive their test.

We’ll be out walking quite a bit but there are no long treks, or walks of anything over moderate difficulty, built into our itinerary. We’ll be walking a lot daily and will be visiting some sites that have steep streets. We’ll be in no rush in these locations and can take our time accordingly.

Average temperatures in Japan in October range from the mid 50s to mid 70s.

  • 5 star accommodations
  • Meals as indicated in the itinerary (B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner)
  • All transportation throughout the trip starting on October 20th
  • Entrance fees for temples, gardens, shrines, and other facilities
  • Fees for all scheduled activities
  • Fees and gratuities for artists and local guides
  • Photography instructions, workshops, reviews, and critiques by Wayde
  • Guiding services, translations and Japanese interpretation by Miyu
  • Flights to/from Japan (Osaka Kansai International Airport or Osaka Itami Domestic Airport)
  • Airport transfer fees
  • Any unplanned excursions of your own choosing
  • Alcoholic drinks and non-alcoholic drinks such as sodas, juices, etc (Tea & water always served)
  • Snacks/ personal items
  • Travel Insurance (WE HIGHLY RECOMMEND TRAVEL INSURANCE!)
  • Gratuities for trip leaders