Japan – Spring Photo Tour 2019

Join seasoned travel photographer Ronald Nelson in a springtime exploration of the more intimate and quirky sides of Japan. Ronald has photographed in Japan many times, and this tour is designed around sharing his favorite places and experiences. There will be ample opportunities for photography and adventure: from Tokyo by night, to Kyoto temples, to the stunning lakeside landscape near Mt Fuji.  Each guest will focus on creating a photo essay based on experiences in Japan.  There will be photography talks, and private mentoring to help guests improve their photography and create an essay.  This will be a small, friendly group of independent photography-oriented travelers who love to explore. We are going during the usual cherry blossom season so, with luck, we will see Japan during its most amazing season.

March 24 to April 7, 2019.  15 Days, 14 Nights
8 Guests Maximum
$5499 – double occupancy
Inquiries and booking: ron@ronaldnelsonphotography.com

Tokyo: 6 nights
Mt Fuji, Five Lakes Area – Lake Kawaguchi: 2 nights
Onomichi: 2 nights
Kyoto: 4 nights

Fly in to Tokyo – Haneda, and out of Osaka – Kansai Intl. Airport


  • Photographing during prime cherry blossom season
  • Exploring Tokyo nightlife and fashion
  • Visiting historic temples and gardens of Kyoto
  • Staying two nights at beautiful Lake Kawaguchi by Mt Fuji
  • Touring a tiny island inhabited by hundreds of wild rabbits
  • Bicycling on several islands near Fukuyama (optional, full-day island hopping excursion)
  • Riding on one of Japan’s famous bullet trains
  • Attending photography lectures and engaging in private coaching, including use of video and drones

About Your Tour Leader

Ronald Nelson is known for his exquisite travel photos with a strong sense of story and place.  He has traveled to over thirty counties, and usually spends about half of each year on the road.  His photos have won contests, been used for advertising, and have appeared in National Geographic.  He holds private photography classes in the San Francisco Bay Area, and is committed to helping each tour member achieve their photography goals.


Day 1: Arrive in Tokyo – March 24th

Day 2: Orientation, TeamLab Planets, Ginza

  • Lecture: Photo Story Telling, select topics for photo essays
  • TeamLab Planets: Visit a warehouse sized, high tech, interactive art installation
  • Ginza: Amble through Tokyo’s famed, high-end, shopping and entertainment district
  • ‘Get to know you’ dinner at an Alice in Wonderland themed restaurant
  • (Breakfast, Dinner)

Day 3: Imperial Palace Gardens, Tokyo Station Area

  • Lecture: People Photos and Night Photos
  • Chidorigafuchi: Stroll through a moat side tunnel of cherry trees
  • Imperial Palace: Visit the gardens around the primary residence of the emperor of Japan
  • Intermediatheque Museum: Get inspired at this natural history collection of curiosities
  • (Breakfast only)

Day 4: Ikebana Class, Harajuku

  • Ikebana, flower arranging, workshop
  • Omotesando: Take a walk down a lovely high end shopping street
  • Harajuku:  Explore this trendy fashion district including Cat Street and Takeshita Dori
  • Lunch at Kawaii Monster Cafe
  • Meiji Jingu:  A forest and shrines in the heart of Tokyo
  • Nighttime walk along the Meguro River to see cherry blossoms
  • (Breakfast, Lunch)

Day 5: Shinjuku, Shibuya


  • Lecture: Landscape Photography
  • Shinjuku Gyoen: Tour this large, gorgeous garden with many cherry trees
  • Shibuya:  Enjoy discovering this busy shopping district and its famous four way crossing
  • Robot Restaurant Show
  • Shinjuku by night: Visit some of the unusual shops and bars near our hotel, e.g., the cat cafe or the Golden Gai mini-bar street (drinks, admission: not included)
  • (B)

Day 6: Ueno, Senso-ji, Tokyo Skytree, Akihabara


  • Ueno Park: Explore this large historic park with museums and many cherry trees
  • Group lunch at an okunomiyaki restaurant
  • Senso-ji Temple: Visit Tokyo’s oldest temple with its pagoda and many shops
  • Walk amoung the cherry trees along the Sumida River
  • Tokyo Skytree: Take in great views of Tokyo from the observation deck
  • Akihabara: Enjoy an evening walk around this district focused on electronics and anime
  • (B,L)

Day 7: Transfer to Lake Kawaguchi for views of Mt. Fuji

  • Private bus to Lake Kawaguchi, a location with great views of Mt. Fuji
  • Chureito Pagoda: An iconic hillside pagoda that is perfectly situated for photos of Fuji
  • Oishi Park:  A garden park across the lake from Fuji
  • Nemba Village:  A small village with rustic buildings and traditional craft shops
  • Group dinner at our hotel
  • Stay at Fuji View Hotel
  • (B,D)

Day 8: Kawaguchi Site Seeing – Free Day

  • Free Day with opportunities for…
  • Lakeside bike ride, nature walk, soak in a hot spring (Onsen)
  • Sunrise and sunset photos of Fuji
  • Photo reviews: Get feedback on your photos or photo essay
  • Lecture: Editing Photos with Lightroom and Snapseed
  • (B)

Day 9: Transfer to Onomichi by Shinkansen

  • Bus ride from Kawaguchi to Mishima
  • Ride a Shinkansen, Japan’s famous bullet train, to Onomichi (4 hours)
  • Stay at Green Hill Hotel
  • (B)

Day 10: Bike the Inland Sea or Sightseeing in Onomichi

Bridge Between Innoshima and Ikuchi Islands, Japan

  • Biking the Inland Sea. Take a scenic all-day bike ride across many small islands between two of Japan’s major islands (Distance = 40 miles)
  • Alternative: Ride a ropeway to Senkoji Temple and stroll through a hilltop park full of cherry trees
  • (B)

Day 11: Rabbit Island, Transfer to Kyoto by Shinkansen

Many Rabbits on Ōkunoshima Island, Japan - 2014

  • Okunoshima: Feed the bunnies on Japan’s famous ‘Island of Rabbits’
  • Ride the Shinkansen to Kyoto (2 hours)
  • Stay at Kyoto Tokyu Hotel
  • (B)

Day 12: Kyoto – Arashiyama, Temples, Maiko Photoshoot, Nijo Castle by Night

Kinkakuji, Kyoto, Japan - 2014

  • Arashiyama
  • Ryoanji: Visit Kyoto’s Zen temple, famous for its stone garden
  • Kinkakuji: Tour the Temple of the Golden Pavilion
  • Maiko photoshoot (a private 2-hour group photoshoot with a geisha in training) in the park around the Kyoto Imperial Palace.
  • Kiyomizu-dera: Explore an ancient hillside temple with amazing views
  • Teramachi Shopping District
  • Night visit to Nijo Castle to photograph illuminated cherry blossoms
  • (B)

Day 13: Kyoto Temples and Gardens

Cherry Blossoms, Heian Shrine, Kyoto, Japan - 2014

  • Photo editing and retouching demonstration of maiko photos
  • Ginkakuji: The zen garden of the ‘silver pavillion’
  • Philosopher’s Path: Enjoy a hillside walking path lined with cherry trees and cafes
  • Eikando and Nanzenji Temples
  • Heian Jingu:  A temple and garden with lovely cherry trees
  • Kyoto Station Area:  Kyoto train station is an amazing piece of architecture
  • Toji Temple by night: explore illuminated cherry trees around a pagoda and reflecting pond
  • Midnight visit to Fushimi Inari Shrine, famous for its path with hundreds of red torii gates
  • (B)

Day 14: Last Day.  Free Morning, Photo Essay Presentation, Gion, Farewell Dinner

Red Torii Gates, Fushimi Inari, Kyoto, Japan - 2014

  • Free morning in Kyoto
  • Gather at the hotel in the afternoon to share our tour photo essays
  • Gion: Kyoto’s geisha district, filled with historic tea houses
  • Maruyama: A festive park for cherry blossom viewing
  • Come together for a group farewell dinner
  • (B,D)

Day 15: Flight Home – April 7th

  • Transfer to Osaka Kansai for flights home
  • (B)

Tour Philosophy

  • This tour is designed to provide unique experiences and photo opportunities.
  • We’ll have a flexible attitude and may adjust the itinerary to take advantage of unexpected opportunities.
  • Lectures and private coaching will help tour members become better photographers.
  • Photographers of all skill levels are welcome. You don’t need to take photos to have a great time.
  • This is primarily a walking tour, we will be out and about for many hours every day, with plenty of rest breaks.
  • We will get around by taxis, public busses, subways, and trains.  Japanese subways often have many levels of stairs to climb.
  • All activities are optional: You can be as busy or as relaxed as you like.


  • 14 nights’ accommodations with daily breakfast
  • 2 lunches and 3 dinners
  • Transportation for all tour activities, including Shinkansen tickets
  • Admission and fees for all scheduled activities
  • Portable wifi hotspot: unlimited data, fast enough for video streaming and posting photos to social media
  • Photography lectures, coaching, and critiques

Not Included

  • Airfare
  • Hotel rooms before or after the tour
  • Transportation to and from airports
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Meals that are not indicated on the itinerary
  • Souvenirs
  • Travel insurance or emergency services

Rates, Reservations, Cancellations

  • The tour cost is $5,499 per person based on double occupancy.
  • Single supplement is $1500, limited availability
  • A nonrefundable deposit of $500 is required to hold a spot on the trip.
  • For inquiries and booking, contact Ronald at ron@ronaldnelsonphotography.com.
  • Full payment must be made by Feb. 15, 2019. No refunds will be given after Feb 15.
  • Prior to Feb 15, 2019, full refunds will be given, minus the deposit.
  • The tour may be cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances.
  • If the trip is cancelled for any reason full refunds will be given, including the deposit.  You will not be reimbursed for airfare or other expenses.
  • Tour members are strongly encouraged to get travel insurance to cover the costs of cancelled flights.
  • The tour goes ahead, rain or shine.

Visa and Passport

US citizens don’t need a visa to enter Japan.  You must have a valid passport and an onward airline ticket.  Your passport must be valid for the entire time of your stay in Japan.

Travel is Unpredictable

  • Cherry blossoms are fleeting, unpredictable, and not guaranteed.
  • I recommend purchasing travel insurance from my partners at World Nomads.
  • Bad weather may lead us to alter planned activities.
  • This is the most popular season, so some activities will be crowded.
  • Every effort will be made to do everything planned, but some changes might be needed to account for weather, delays, unexpected closures, etc.


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