October 10 - 20, 2017 Autumn Nagano - Snow Monkey - Japan Photography Tour


An autumn alpine adventure that has the most breathtaking scenery Japan has to offer. You will feel humbled as we travel a time-honored traditional route and embrace the ancient villages with there majestic shrines, temples and castles. This wonderful place is home to the Snow Monkeys and Anraku-ji Zen temple. Anraku-ji Zen temple was founded in the 13th century and is the only one of its kind, which is designated a national treasure of Japan.

Day 1, 2, 3 Arrival and pick-up Tokyo, Haneda Airport, (HND)
After meeting, we depart for Yatsugatake Chushin Kogen Quasi-National Park which spans both Yamanashi and Nagano prefectures, with its majestically beautiful mountain, views the Southern Alps and Mt. Yatsugatake mountain ranges. We will take advantage of the golden hours for Japan's legendary high alpine autumn landscape photography. I know several vantage points where we will photograph the iconic symbol of Japan Mt. Fuji, which is a 130km away in the sea of clouds. This area is well known for its observatories and the soothingly captivating night’s sky. We will dedicate an evening for astrophotography; where we will include Japanese maple trees along with the breathtaking landscapes in our star-lit night sky, we will have high power torches to illuminate/paint with light your chosen foreground subject of your Starscape compositions. If you have never used an intervalometer don’t worry, I will guide you on the finer points of interval shooting along with setup and advice on post-processing. During the daylight, we will journey where for centuries artisans have been inspired to create by the wowing natural display of Japanese autumn colour. There is always a tree that ignites the imagination and inspires the artist. One particular tree we will visit is over three centuries old diligently standing in the middle of a countryside road, with scenic mountains in the backdrop, it’s also a scarce species known as the (Yamanashi Nihon Tree/wild Pyrus pyrifolia) symbolizing physical and spiritual nourishment.

Day 4, 5, After breakfast, and check out at our hotel in Yatsugatake, we will take a meandering scenic route to Ueda village, where we will spend two days exploring and experience traditional Japanese community village lifestyle. Ueda Castle originally built by Masayuki Sanada, a legendary samurai daimyo well knows throughout Japan. Ueda Castle had sustained not one but two attacks by the Tokugawa samurai armies. We will explore and photograph the castle built in the Edo architectural style. The alley of the zelkova trees is vividly lit up at night for us to photograph. Every autumn (Ueda Castle Coloured Leaves Festival) is held, there are local events and the Yakitori Olympics, where chefs/experts of Yakitori gather from all over Japan, and you can enjoy the atmosphere and cuisine of a Japanese barbecue. At festival time most dress in traditional Japanese wear, making for appealing cultural photo opportunities. Our lodgings provide you with a traditional Japanese Yukata (a casual summer kimono) which you may wear while out on the town.
After a night on the town, you may enjoy our lodgings natural healing hot springs.
After breakfast on day 5 we will enter the world of the Buddhist Monks, at Anraku-Ji Zen Buddhist Temple of Soto School, founded in the 8th century. In the temple grounds, there is an octagonal three-storied pagoda built in the late 1200’s and is the only of its kind in Japan, designated a National Tressure; it is said to be a serene point of spiritual zen healing.

Day 6, 7, 8, After breakfast at our traditional Japanese Ryokan, in Ueda, we will depart for Obuse Onsen Village inside of Joshinetsu Kogen National Park, where we will spend two full days photographing the wild Japanese macaque, better known as (snow monkeys). There are 3 troops of snow monkeys that live in the area, with only the strongest group claiming rights to the luxurious hot springs pool. The other two troops during the cold winter days are kept toasty warm by using the natural volcanic steam vents in the surrounding valley. We will be able to enjoy photographing the monkeys from morning to late afternoon, in the hot springs, also in around the foothills due to there being no snow or cold temperatures. It's mating season when little-photographed behaviors and fleeting encounters can photograph with proper planning and preparation. Even rarely photographed Macaque facial expression can be captured. I spend several weeks per year photographing and video-recording the snow monkeys. I am familiar with individual monkeys in the park, including their ranks and behaviors. During last autumn’s workshop participants were well prepared to photograph a new Alpha male being rebuffed by a highborn female. It’s all in their body language and facial expressions. As visual artists, we seek to capture that moment. I want something that’s unique, real-and unstaged. The snow monkeys will offer us that look. I will show you the rebuffing on video, which has never released.

Day 9, 10, Today we transfer to Matsumoto two hour drive from the snow monkeys. Where we will enter the world of the Samurai and photograph Matsumoto Castle, also known as crow castle or Kurasu-Jo, due to its grandeur poised black exterior. Built in 1504 it has a unique architectural design that does not exist elsewhere, having both a secondary donjon and turret adjoined to its central keep. Looking from the outside, the castle unquestionably has 5 floors. However, the builders managed to perfectly hide the fact that on the inside there are 6 floors. The wood interior of crow castle provides an authentic experience unlike that felt at many other castles. After years of studying and photographing Kurasu-jo, I have become familiar with its most striking aesthetically photographic angles. While photographing the interior of the castle, we will practice low-lighting techniques that I will explain to you.
After an early breakfast on day 10 at our hotel in Matsumoto, we will venture out on a local pilgrims route to several Buddhist temples, and Shinto Shrines said to be some of the oldest in Japan. Such as the (Tengu Jinja) shrine, with its majestic display of autumn colours in full dress. You will be awestruck with the serene zen atmosphere before you.

Day 11, Drop off and departure from Tokyo, Haneda Airport, (HND)
Thank you, and we look forward to the next adventure together.

Tour cost
$5950 USD based on double room occupancy
Single supplement: $1100 USD
A deposit of $1000 USD is required to reserve your spot

•Small group 5-8 Participants
•All Ground Transport; Sports Utility Vehicles With Business Class Seating
•All 3-4 Star Accommodations
•All Breakfasts And Dinners
•All Entrance Fees
•All donations At Temples/Shrines
•Professional Photography Guide
•Detailed Itinerary + Gear and Clothing Recommendations

Not Included
•Flights to JPN & from JPN, Alcohol Beverages, Travel Insurance, Lunches, Hotel Amenities