JAPAN PHOTO TOUR 2024
WITH MARK HEMMINGS
PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP LOCATIONS – Tokyo, Nagano, Matsumoto, Enoshima, Karuizawa, and Kyoto
International travel photographer and workshop instructor Mark Hemmings is ready for his annual one week Japan photography workshop and tour, scheduled for Sunday January 21 to Saturday 27, or Thursday February 1 to Wednesday February 7, 2024. We will also be photographing the world famous Japanese Snow Monkeys in Nagano. Scroll down for pricing information.
Message from professional photographer Mark Hemmings: “The country of Japan is a really important travel destination. The World Economic Forum gave Japan the highest ranking of first out of the top 10 countries for travel and tourism development. I don’t want you to miss out on Japan. What it offers for food, nature, cities, architecture, wildlife, and especially my favorite . . . photography! That’s why I’m inviting you to the Japan trip of a lifetime.
Since 2005 I’ve been leading photography workshops and tours throughout Japan, and this coming year is no exception. My job is two-fold . . . to teach you photography, AND to introduce you to one of the most intriguing countries and cultures in the world.
What better place to learn street, architecture, and urban photography than Tokyo? It’s hard to beat Nagano for mastering landscape, nature and wildlife photography, and where else in the world can you step back in time and witness the unique natural and cultural gems of Kyoto?
The Japan Photo Tour is meant for photographers of all skill levels and all types of cameras. Whether you’re a beginner or pro, whether you have a ten thousand dollar camera or an iPhone, YOU are well positioned to receive maximum technical and artistic skills by joining the Japan Photo Tour.
But this isn’t just any photo tour that chooses low end hotels and transportation methods . . . The Japan photo Tour is my premium photography workshop that stays in high-end hotels and traditional inns, uses the famously fast Japanese bullet trains to explore the country, and makes full use of Japan’s famous culinary arts.
Japan is a land of mystery and beauty, and I believe it’s now time for you to visit and photograph this magical country. And as I’ve been a photography workshop instructor for so many years now, I am thrilled to pass along my two decades worth of professional photographic knowledge to you during this trip.
Because I like to keep this photography tour small, there are very limited spaces remaining, so contact me right away to get more sign-up information. I am quite certain that you will LOVE Japan, and come back home with a wealth of amazing photographs, a new passion for photography, and a strange fascination for the most chilled out and relaxed animals on earth . . . the world famous Japanese snow monkeys! Living your entire life soaking in natural hot spring water? Nice!!!
My name is Mark Hemmings, an internationally recognized professional photographer, and I cordially welcome you to the Japan Photo Tour. I hope to see you in Tokyo!”
Please view the Japan Photo Tour & Workshop video below to get an idea of what you may encounter on this photography trip. Also check out the second video that CBS Sunday Morning created featuring Mark and his photo tours to visit the famous Japanese snow monkeys:
JAPAN PHOTO TOUR COSTS
The one-week workshop includes all meals, all subways and taxis, all local and bullet train fares, all accommodations, all teaching time, and all admission fees. Exceptions are mid-meals snacks/drinks/alcoholic beverages, and return airfare from your home city to Tokyo Narita or Haneda airport. This all-inclusive full package is $4,950 USD per person for a double occupancy room. For single occupancy, please add $495 USD. Please contact Mark for further details about this workshop: firstname.lastname@example.org (FaceTime enabled) or 506-898-0204 (Canadian mobile number).
Since 2005 Mark Hemmings has been leading photography enthusiasts throughout Japan, taking them on an enlightening tour of a visually and aesthetically rich country. While both itineraries below are based on previous years, there may be alterations of equal or better visual and cultural value based on in-country changes. Mark will lock down the itinerary closer to the departure time. Until then consider the following itineraries as 90% accurate.
Due to higher demand for the Japan Photo Tour, for 2024 we are offering two different dates with different experiences. After you read through the itineraries, please check out the Itinerary Summary which will help you decide which trip is right for you.
DAY 1: SUNDAY JANUARY 21 AND THURSDAY FEBRUARY 1 – If you arrive in Japan today, you will be picked up at either Haneda or Narita airport by Mark or one of his associates and delivered to the workshop hotel in Shinjuku. If you arrive in Japan earlier than today (recommended) Mark will give you full instructions on how to purchase your own bus or train ticket to Shinjuku, Tokyo. This transfer into Tokyo is quite easy. When we are gathered as a group at our hotel we will go out for our first dinner and discuss the exciting week that lies ahead of us! After dinner we will practice night street photography in Shinjuku. If you are arriving a day or two earlier than the photo tour start date, and are apprehensive about navigating from the airport to the hotel, contact Mark and arrange for a private pick-up.
DAY 2. – FOR THE JANUARY GROUP: Mid-morning we will be catching a train to Enoshima to photograph the iconic Mt. Fuji from across the Sagami Bay, and then after tour of the island stay overnight at a Kamakura hotel.
FOR THE FEBRUARY GROUP: After breakfast we start our day of exploring the fascinating sub-cities of Tokyo, traveling along the Yamanote train line. We will be learning about architectural photography, urban/street photography, and techniques for great travel photos. The Yamanote line is a huge circle around Tokyo. Some locations that we will visit and photograph are Ueno, Akihabara, Tokyo station area, Yurakucho, Shibuya, and Harajuku.
DAY 3 – FOR THE JANUARY GROUP: After a morning photo walk around the historic Enoshima island, and a lunch break in Fujisawa, we will make our way to Kyoto. Travelling on the famously fast Shinkansen bullet train, we will reach Kyoto by mid-afternoon. For the rest of this day in Kyoto we will be exploring the Higashiyama side of Kyoto, enjoying a fantastic traditional sukiyaki meal before returning to our hotel.
FOR THE FEBRUARY GROUP: After breakfast we will get on the famously fast and comfortable Japanese bullet train (Shinkansen) for our journey to Nagano. We will break up the trip by stopping at Ueda City to have lunch at a fantastic traditional Japanese restaurant, then re-board the bullet train to arrive in Nagano city mid-afternoon. After a coffee break at Nagano Station we will then board a mountain train for our final destination in the mountainous Shiga Kogen region of Nagano. We will be staying in a beautiful and authentic traditional inn called a ryokan in Shibu Onsen. For those who like natural hot springs, there are plenty in this village and in the inn. Before our traditional multi-course Japanese dinner we will do a village photo walk, and after dinner we are free to soak in the public hot springs throughout the village, or in the traditional inn’s own natural hot spring baths. There’s nothing quite like soaking in hot water with snow falling on your head!
DAY 4 – FOR THE JANUARY GROUP: This morning we wake up very early and depart our hotel for 5:30am to capture the famous Bamboo Forest during ‘blue hour’ (and before other tourists arrive!). Today’s sites and photo locations are centred on the Arashiyama side of the city, as well as lunch in the famous Nishiki market. After lunch we will make our way to the Kiso valley via bullet and express train. We will be staying overnight in a picturesque Edo-era post town after an 8km hiking session between the picturesque Tsumago and Magome villages.
FOR THE FEBRUARY GROUP: After breakfast at our inn we will go for a wonderful hike into the mountains to photograph the world famous Japanese Snow Monkeys. The path that we take into the mountains is all uphill, but at a slight incline so it is not too strenuous. After our snow monkey photography adventure we will have a late lunch at a local cafe, and will then head back to our hot spring village. We will tour a local sake distillery as well as other local photogenic traditional businesses. After some time for hot spring soaking we will do an evening photo walk, and then enjoy a traditional Japanese dinner in the ryokan.
DAY 5 – FOR THE JANUARY GROUP: Mid-morning we will get on a local train to Nagano City and stop for lunch. We will then make our way to Obuse for a photo walking tour. Obuse is famous for its sweet chestnut confectionary, which we will be sampling! Back on the local train to Yudanaka, we will have a ‘kaiseki’ dinner at our traditional Japanese inn called a ryokan. This evening is reserved for hot spring soaking at many of the village’s hot springs.
FOR THE FEBRUARY GROUP: After breakfast at our ryokan inn we will get back on the train and go straight to Kyoto. We will spend our evening in the Pontocho and Gion district, watching for Geisha as they go from tea-house to tea-house, and photographing the classic Kyoto back alleys and traditional architecture. Our dinner will be a selection of local Kyoto specialties!
DAY 6 – FOR THE JANUARY GROUP: After breakfast at our inn we will go for a wonderful hike into the mountains to photograph the world famous Japanese Snow Monkeys. The path that we take into the mountains is all uphill, but at a slight incline so it is not too strenuous. After our snow monkey photography adventure we will have a late lunch at a local cafe, and will then head back to Nagano Station to get a bullet train to Karuizawa where we will stay the night. Karuizawa is a peaceful wooded mountain town. We plan to rent bikes to explore the area, creating photographs as we go.
FOR THE FEBRUARY GROUP: Today is our full day in Kyoto, exploring the many photogenic sites that make it a world-class destination. Photo walk locations include the famous Bamboo Forest, Ryoanji, Inari, Higashiyama’s two “zaka” stairs, Kiyomizudera, the Shirakawa canal, Nishiki market plus many other smaller locations along the way. Mark plans to hire a local food guide to help us navigate the Nishiki market at lunch time, sampling traditional Japanese food as we go.
DAY 7 – After breakfast Mark will be taking everyone back to Tokyo today for their flights home. Thank you for joining the Japan Photo Tour!
Both photo tours offer the same level of photography instruction. The big difference however is that the January photo tour is quite physically demanding. We will be staying at different lodgings in different locations each night. We also need to roll our small suitcase and carry our backpack from train to train, which can get strenuous. The February photo tour, on the other hand, is much more relaxed, with only three different accommodations instead of six. The February version will have personal down-time for relaxing or shopping, whereas the January version is go-go-go! The January trip will see more locations, however if you have any health or mobility issues that cause tiredness after a lot of physical exertion, the February trip will be a perfect choice for you. Regardless of which option you choose, we use coin lockers within the train stations to store our larger bags when out doing photo walks, while transitioning from location to location. Both trips will have plenty of traditional Japanese food eating opportunities, however the February dates will have at least one guided tour by a local food expert.
JANUARY TRIP LOCATIONS: Tokyo, Enoshima, Kamakura, Kyoto, Obuse, Shibu Onsen, Karuizawa. Not much free time, always moving from place to place, plus long distance hiking and some bicycling.
FEBRUARY TRIP LOCATIONS: Tokyo (2 nights), Shibu Onsen (2 nights), Kyoto (2 nights). Slow paced walking with some free time scheduled.
Please contact Mark with any questions: email@example.com or 506-898-0204
FAQ & CONTACT INFO
1. “How long have you been operating the Japan Photo Tour?” Mark Hemmings started the Japan Photo Tour and Workshop in 2005, and operated it annually. He took a break from the workshop during the Covid travel restrictions of 2021 and 2022, but restarted the trip in 2023. Each winter Mark returns to Japan to offer photographers such as yourself a glimpse into one of the most interesting cultures of the world!
2. “Why is the tour in winter? What temperatures will I encounter?” We chose winter for this tour and workshop so we can capitalize on the snowy mountains for great Snow Monkey photos. Also, Japan is one of the most beautiful locations in the world when photographing in the winter. Tokyo will be between 5 and 10 degrees celsius, Nagano will be at about the freezing mark (between plus 2 and minus 2 celcius), and Kyoto will be warmer at about 8 or 15 degrees celsius.
3. “How many times have you been to Japan?” Mark has been to Japan thirteen times, and lived in Nagano Prefecture from 2000-2001. Mark’s desire to always return to Japan speaks well of the country! There’s always a new photo opportunity around every corner.
4. “What kind of food will we be eating on this trip?” Most of the food that we will be eating at restaurants is Japanese food. There is very little Western food available, especially in the traditional inns. If you have a dislike of Japanese food this tour may present some challenges for you, but feel free to contact Mark to discuss options.
5. “I am a complete photographic beginner. Will I be the weak link of the workshop?” All of Mark’s workshops and tours are geared for any skill level, from beginners to pros. Each skill level will glean new information and leave the workshop with new inspiration. Don’t ever feel that you will hold others back! Our workshops are geared to be of value to photographers of all skill levels.
6. “What level of health do I need to attend this workshop?” There is a lot of walking on the tour, and some gentle mountain path hiking. Participants of any age are welcomed, but please be prepared for a significant amount of walking, crowded Tokyo subways, and bringing your luggage from one location to another.
7. “What kind of camera do I need to buy for this tour?” Mark can teach participants that come with any type of camera, including mobile phone cameras. The type and cost of a camera is less of an issue than becoming grounded in compositional principles. If you only use a mobile device you will not feel out of place.
8. “How many workshop participants?” We operate this workshop with a maximum of 8 participants.
9. “What is included in the cost of this photo tour? Is it all-inclusive?” Upon meeting Mark Hemmings in Japan and until we depart at the end of the workshop, all meals are included, accommodations, in-country transportation, admission fees, and of course the photographic instruction. What is not included are alcoholic drinks, additional orders of food at the restaurants that we eat at, plus mid-meal snacks and drinks. The tour begins at supper time the first evening, and ends just after breakfast on our last day with our bullet train returning to Tokyo.
10. “Should I get a flight to Tokyo Haneda (HND) or Tokyo Narita (NRT) airports?” Tokyo Haneda (HND) or Narita (NRT) are both equally good airports to fly into. We suggest that you make your decision based not on which airport, rather which airport will allow you to arrive in Japan for (at the latest) mid-afternoon on the first day of the tour. Our desire is to all have dinner together on evening #1, so a 3pm arrival in Japan at the latest would be ideal.
11. “Is there any free time on this trip? How busy is the itinerary?” There are breaks during this trip almost every day for you to go off on your own to photograph, edit, or see the sites by yourself. A detailed schedule will be give to each person before the trip.
12. “I want to stay in Japan longer than just one week. Can you help me extend my trip?” Many workshop participants like to stay in Japan longer, and Mark will do his best to help with accommodation and sightseeing options.
13. “What are some potential issues that may keep me from signing up?” There is no baggage forwarding services; you are responsible for transporting your luggage as we go from city to city. Thus, we ask that you only bring one wheel-able suitcase and one backpack. The lighter your luggage is, the easier it will be to move from location to location. Please be aware that while rare, there have been winters in Japan without snow in the mountains where the monkeys live. The photo workshop operators cannot guarantee snow. However we have scheduled the trip to be within the ideal range of historical snowfalls.
14. “How do I know that you are a legit business?” Mark has been a professional photographer from Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada since 1997. Please do a Google search for Mark Hemmings Photography to see what the internet has to say about him. His website is www.markhemmings.com and his Instagram is @markhemmings
15. “Do you have a refund policy?” Yes, our policy is part of our contract/application and will be emailed to you upon request. Please ask Mark for a copy for you to review: firstname.lastname@example.org
CHECK OUT OUR TOUR PHOTOS!
CHECK OUT MORE TOUR PHOTOS:
JAPAN PHOTO TOUR LEADER MARK HEMMINGS