JOIN NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC AUTHOR, PHOTOGRAPHER AND EXPEDITION LEADER CHRISTOPHER P. BAKER ON THIS EXCITING JAPAN PHOTO TOUR  FOCUSED ON THE SENSATIONAL FALL FOLIAGE

Christopher has used his knowledge of Japan based on his recent magazine assignments to create a sensational 13-day itinerary that incorporates a dream-list of destinations and festivals, while tantalizingly unveiling secretive, enigmatic Japan. The trip is timed for Japan’s famous Momijigari—when the mesmerizingly beautiful autumn foliage peaks as maples (Momiji) blaze a thousand shades of vibrant orange, red, and crimson. This is the best time of year, when the weather is crisp and the skies crystal clear.

To which, add Tokyo’s über-contemporary neon-lit Shibuya and Akihibara districts, and fantastical anime and manga culture… visits to magnificent temples and Buddhist shrines… jaw-droppingly gorgeous Mt. Fuji… three days in the Japanese Alps, where you’ll photograph the world-famous “snow monkeys” soaking in steaming hot tubs… plus Kyoto, the ancient Japanese capital, with its geishas strolling the lantern-lit streets in kimonos.

Along the way, you’ll be immersed in traditional, ancient Japan as we explore its tooi inaka (deep country), dress in yukatas (casual kimonos), feast on fresh seafoods, soak in communal onsen (hot springs), sleep on comfy futons atop tatami mats… and return home stress free, serene, and with your memories (and memory cards) chock-full of indelibly wonderful memories.
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ITINERARY (SUBJECT TO CHANGE): 

Day 1: Saturday, November 11 / Tokyo 
Participants arrive and settle into our hotel, in the heart of Ginza, Tokyo’s foremost shopping district and perfect for sensational nighttime photography, with its blaze of neon lit facades. Meet with Christopher in the evening for orientation, then a welcome dinner.
Overnight: SOTETSU FRESA INN GINZA, TOKYO, or similar

Day 2: Sunday, November 12 / Tokyo
Today, ‘Old Tokyo.’ We begin with an early morning walk to the nearby Tsujiki Open Market. The narrow streets, teeming with restaurants and shops selling market produce, provide endless opportunities for superb photography. Later we’ll head to the Tokyo Imperial Palace Gardens, and nearby Hibiya Park--a blaze of autumnal color. Nearby, depending on time and the sakura, we may visit the Yanaka Cemetery—in autumn, lavishly framed by maple blossoms—plus Nezu Shrine, with its gorgeous garden, and Senso-Ji Shrine, which we visit for dusk and night-time photography.
Overnight: SOTETSU FRESA INN GINZA, TOKYO, or similar

Day 3: Monday, November 13 / Nikko - Lake Chuzenji
This morning we journey by private bus with guide to Nikko, where we’ll spend the afternoon exploring and photographing Nikko’s Toshogu temple complex. Considered Japan’s most lavishly decorated shrine complex, it in the final stages of a years-long restoration to its original state. Prepare to be awed! We then climb whiplash hairpins to reach Lake Chuzenji, where our lakeside hotel offers stunning sunset vistas. At this time of year, it will be spectacular with fall foliage.
Overnight: CHUZENJI KANAYA, LAKE CHUZENJI, or similar

Day 4: Tuesday, November 14 / Kegon - Shibu Onsen
We spend the early morning photographing the Kegon Waterfall, ranked as one of Japan’s three most beautiful waterfalls. It’s a sublime autumn color spot. We’ll select several key vantage spots to capture the falls at their most spectacular, including from the Akechidaira Ropeway lookout, the Lower Observation Deck, and the base of the falls. Then we travel a memorably scenic route into the Japanese Alps via Mt. Shirane—sensational vistas here from Japan’s highest mountain pass—to the little spa town of Shibu Onsen, a charming and historic mountain hot-spring community where it is common to see visitors walking the streets dressed in kimonos.
Overnight: SUBINOYU RYOKAN, SHIBU ONSEN, or similar

Day 5: Wednesday, November 15 / "Snow monkeys" - Ueda
This morning is a real highlight of the tour as we hike into Jigokudaki “Monkey Park” to photograph Japan’s famous “snow monkeys”—a species of onsen-loving macaque that loves to steep in the natural hot springs. This is mating season, so we may witness some lively behavior.  This afternoon we'll journey to Togakushi Jinga shrine, surrounded by massive trees at the base of Mount Lizuna. (November 15 coincides with the Shichi-go-san Festival, when throughout Japan, young children are dressed in traditional kimonos--and hakamas for boys--and visit local Shinto shrines as a rite of passage.) We then journey to Ueda. We'll then settle into our rioykan at nearby Bessho Onsen--a hillside spa community with more than a dozen temples.
Overnight: BESSHO ONSEN NANJYO RYOKAN, UEDA, or similar

Day 6: Thursday, November 16 / Matsumoto - Ueda
We’ll take a short excursion to nearby Matsumoto to immerse ourselves in the world of the samurai at its spectacular “Crow Castle,” built in 1504 and set in a lake. We hope to time our arrival for the Chrysanthemum Festival, in the castle’s Honmaru Garden. We’ll return to our hotel in Ueda, where you can relax in the onsen; explore the many nearby temples and shrines; or visit the 16th-century samurai castle, which hosts the annual “Colored Leaves Autumn Festival” and which features chefs (in traditional costume) from all over Japan.
Overnight: BESSHO ONSEN NANJYO RYOKAN, UEDA, or similar

Day 7: Friday, November 17 / Lake Kawaguchiko
Today we descend from the Japanese Alps and head south to Lake Kawaguchiko for two days in Mt Fuji World Heritage Park. Arriving around mid-day, we’ll base ourselves at a premium lakeside hotel for two days of sensational photography. We’ll arrive during the two-week-long “Fall Foliage Festival,” when a 600-meter-long avenue of maple trees—the Momiji Kairo or “Autumn Leaves Corridor”—is floodlit at night, This riverside walkway leads up to the photogenic ItchikuKubota Art Museum, dedicated to the revived art of centuries-old Tsujigahana silk dyeing. Today’s highlight will be photographing sunset from the Arakuren Sengren Shrine, with its five-storied Churieto Pagoda overlooking the town of Fujiyoshida and, beyond, snow-capped Mt. Fuji—a fantastic perspective during the golden hour, sunset and blue hour.
Overnight: KUKUNA RESORT & SPA, LAKE KAWAGUCHIKO, or similar

Day 8: Saturday, November 18 / Lake Kawaguchiko
Up early for the best chance of photographing Mt. Fuji without clouds! We’ll spend the day photographing around Lake Kawaguchi, beginning with the famous “Momjii Tunnel” of maple trees--one of the most popular photograph locales for its views of the iconic sacred mountain framed by maple leaves. We continue west to Oishi Park--a lovely landscaped lakefront foreground for images of Mount Fuji, plus Saiko Iyashi no Santo, a traditional thatched village with traditional craft workshops. We'll end today at Lake Kamanaka to photograph the swans with Mt. Fuji as the backdrop.
Overnight: KUKUNA RESORT & SPA, LAKE KAWAGUCHIKO, or similar

Day 9: Sunday, November 19 / "Bullet Train" - Kyoto
This morning we’ll drive to Shizuoka and catch the Shinkansen “bullet train” to Kyoto, the ancient Imperial capital, boasting more than 1,600 temples! After checking into our hotel in Ninenzaka—a preserved historic quarter close to the temples—we’ll spend the balance of the late afternoon strolling the “Philosopher’s Path” alongside a narrow canal lined with maples and gingkos; and the early evening visiting the mountainside Kiyomizua-dera temple for sensational sunset photography. Strolling to and from the temple via the narrow streets of Ninenzaka offers a smorgasbord of sensational images, with women in traditional kimonos, wooden shops adorned with lanterns, and even rickshaws!
Overnight: HOTEL VISTA PREMIO KARAWAMACHI, KYOTO, or similar

Day 10: Monday, November 20 / Kyoto
Up bright and early this morning to visit the Arashiyama “bamboo forest,” a sublime setting for creative photography before the crowds arrive. A ten-minute drive away, we’ll also visit Otagi Nembutsu-ji temple, where thousands of stone statues represent the souls of the dead. This afternoon we’ll visit the Nishijin district and the Watabun weavers’ workshop (or the Orinasu-kan weaving house) to photograph Noh costumes being made. The rest of the afternoon and evening are free for you to enjoy Kyoto at leisure.
Overnight: HOTEL VISTA PREMIO KARAWAMACHI, KYOTO, or similar

Day 11: Tuesday, November 21 / Kyoto
Up very early again today to beat the crowds to Fushimi-Inari shrine, renowned for its 10,000 vermilion tori gates snaking up the mountainside. The photos ops here are superb! We’ll then have a private tea ceremony and portrait session with a maiko (an apprentice geisha). The afternoon and evening are free for you to enjoy Kyoto at leisure. We’ll enjoy a traditional Japanese dinner in the lantern-lit Gion district with a maiko, then photograph the geisha district by night—a chance to capture geishas scurrying to secret liaisons, and other such quintessential Japanese scenes.
Overnight: HOTEL VISTA PREMIO KARAWAMACHI, KYOTO, or similar

Day 12: Wednesday, November 22 / Bullet Train - Tokyo
This morning we depart Kyoto by bullet train for Tokyo. After time to relax, this afternoon we’ll focus our cameras on modern Japan in the Shibuya and Harajuku neighborhoods, including Shibuya Crossing, the busiest pedestrian intersection on the planet and where a flood of pedestrians crosses from multiple directions every time the traffic lights turn red. Architectural highlights may include Harajuku’s Tokyu Plaza Ometesando’s mirrored entranceway, offering a sensational multi-dimensional perspective; and the nearby “Iceberg.” Time permitting, we may shoot ‘Ginko Avenue’ in Meiji Outer Gardens. Finally, after dinner locally, we’ll photograph the neon-lit Shinjuku district, including the iconic Godzilla Road and Kabukicho red-light district entrance gate, ablaze with neon signs. Traveling by train in Tokyo provides an opportunity for fantastic photography in its own right.
Overnight: SOTETSU FRESA INN GINZA, TOKYO, or similar

Day 13: Thursday November 23 / Tokyo
You may choose to have the entire day at leisure to relax, or to explore a museum, temple, or district of your choice. Or join us late morning as we head to Akihabara—glitzy, neon-lit capital of all things cosplay, anime, and manga-related—for lunch at a “maid café” and a couple of hours spent photographing the maid pop-culture (and perhaps even some manga fashion monsters dolled up in Gaga-grade garb) for which the area is known. This evening we’ll enjoy a slideshow of everyone’s favorite images, followed by our farewell dinner aboard a yakatabune long-boat festooned with red lanterns.
Overnight: SOTETSU FRESA INN GINZA, TOKYO or similar

Day 14: Friday, November 24
Depart for home

Trip Details

November 11-24, 2023
Trip cost: $TBD

Limit: 10 participants

All participants are required to show proof of being fully vaccinated against Covid

Highlights

  • Photograph Tokyo's iconic sights, including the Senso-Ji and Meiji shrines, the amazing Skibuya Crossing, Lolita decora girls and fashion monsters, plus neon-lit Shinjuku by night.
  • Explore the magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Site of Nikko, with its more than 100 temples and shrines.
  • Photograph the famous 'snow monkeys' bathing in their natural hot springs.
  • Be awed by Mt. Fuji as photographed from across the 'Five Lakes,' and from the blossom-framed Arakuren Sengren Shrine.
  • In Kyoto, shoot kimono-clad models in the 'Bamboo Forest' and Fushimi-Inari shrine, plus a weaver's workshop, and a portrait sessions with a maiko (apprentice geisha).
  • Marvel at the magnificent fall foliage colors at virtually all the sites we visit!

Tour Leader

You’ll get to photograph with acclaimed National Geographic photographer, author, and expedition leader Christopher P. Baker, the Lowell Thomas Award 2008 ‘Travel Journalist of the Year.’ Christopher’s images and self-illustrated articles on Japan and other destinations worldwide have appeared in hundreds of magazines, from BBC, CNN and Newsweek to National GeographicNational Wildlife, Travel + Leisure and Penthouse, as well as dozens of coffee-table books, calendars, and other outlets. His work for National Geographic includes writing and photographing five guidebooks in the National Geographic Traveler series, as well as numerous articles for National Geographic Traveler. His many photographic awards include ‘Gold Prize’ for his double-page spread image of a man and his horse in Cuba that appeared in a National Geographic special. Chris’ profession as a full-time travel journalist informs his work, which is also represented by Getty Images. Chris is an accomplished photo instructor and tour leader, and has led more than 100 tours to destinations worldwide for Jim Cline Photo Tours, National Geographic Expeditions, Santa Fe Photo Workshops, and others.

Testimonials

Chris was the perfect trip leader. His knowledge of the country and its history is vast and he enthusiastically wanted to share it with us along with his years of experience as a photographer… He’s talented, interesting, accessible, and fun to travel with. Plus, he really did seem to care about each of us — if we were okay, getting good images, too tired, too hot, etc. I would certainly travel with him again. He certainly kept up the high standards of a Jim Cline Photo Tour.”
JUDY B., JIM CLINE PHOTO TOURS, COLOMBIA 2018

Thanks for the master class in photography. I learned so very much from you, particularly about context, ambiance and milieu to create a riveting picture.
SARAH S., JIM CINE PHOTO TOURS, CUBA 2020

Chris, you are a one of a kind. Really enjoyed you as a photographer, a guide, and of course as a fabulous story teller. You have so much Cuba knowledge and I loved your positive energy
ASA M., JIM CLINE PHOTO TOURS, CUBA 2020

Molly Danner [Program Director & Director, Photography Trip Talent, National Geographic] came back with a rave review of your performance on our Eastern Cuba trip, along with the recommendation that I consider featuring you as NG photographer on future private jet trips—which I most definitely will do!
FORD COCHRAN, DIRECTOR OF PROGRAMMING, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC EXPEDITIONS