Japan – Spring Photo Tour 2019

Join seasoned travel photographer Ronald Nelson in a spring-time 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. The tour includes several photography lectures, private mentoring, and an opportunity to create a photo essay of our journey. 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
Inquiries and booking: ron@ronaldnelsonphotography.com

Tokyo: 6 nights
Lake Kawaguchi near Mt Fuji: 2 nights
Fukuyama: 2 nights
Kyoto: 4 nights

Fly in to Tokyo, and out of Osaka


  • 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

Day 2: Imperial Palace Gardens, Ginza

  • Lecture: Photo Story Telling
  • Imperial Palace: Visit the gardens around the primary residence of the emperor of Japan
  • 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: Shinjuku District


  • Lecture: People Photos and Night Photos
  • Shinjuku Gyoen: Tour this large, gorgeous garden with many cherry trees
  • Possible attendance at a model photoshoot in the garden
  • Robot Restaurant Show
  • Roam around the shops in Shinjuku
  • (Breakfast only)

Day 4: Harajuku, Shibuya


  • Lecture: Advanced Composition
  • Harajuku.  Explore this trendy fashion district and have lunch in one its cafes
  • Shibuya.  Enjoy a nighttime walk around this modern maze of neon-lit shops
  • Walk along the Meguro River to see cherry blossoms
  • (Breakfast, Lunch)

Day 5: Ikebana Class, Shinjuku by Night

  • Ikebana, flower arranging, workshop
  • Review progress on photo essays
  • Shinjuku by night: Visit some of the unusual shops and bars near our hotel, e.g., the cat cafe or the prison bar (drinks, admission: not included)
  • (B)

Day 6: Ueno, Senso-ji, Akihabara


  • Ueno Park: Explore this large historic park with museums and many cherry trees
  • Senso-ji Temple: Visit Tokyo’s oldest temple with its pagoda and many shops
  • Walk along the Sumida River
  • Akihabara: Enjoy an evening walk around this district focused on electronics and anime
  • (B,L,D)

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

  • Lecture: Landscape Photography
  • Bus ride to Lake Kawaguchi, a location with great views of Mt. Fuji
  • Take a short boat trip across the lake for sunset photos of Mt. Fuji
  • Fuji View Hotel or similar
  • (B)

Day 8: Kawaguchi Site Seeing

  • Wake early for sunrise photos of Mt Fuji (weather permitting)
  • Lecture: Editing Photos with Lightroom and Snapseed
  • Possible lakeside biking, nature walk, visit to historic village, visit to tea plantation, soak in a traditional hot spring spa (Onsen)
  • Sunset photos of Mt Fuji
  • Photo reviews. Get feedback on your photos and building your travel story
  • (B)

Day 9: Tour of Fuji area, Transfer to Fukuyama by Shinkansen

Day 10: Bike the Inland Sea or Go Sightseeing in Fukuyama

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: Explore Fukuyama Castle and visit a historic fishing village
  • (B)

Day 11: Rabbit Island, Transfer to Kyoto by Shinkansen

Many Rabbits on Ōkunoshima Island, Japan - 2014

  • Okunoshima: Walk around Japan’s famous ‘Island of Rabbits’
  • Ride the Shinkansen to Kyoto (2 hours)
  • Photo reviews.  Get feedback on building your travel story
  • Share Hotels Rakuro Kyoto or similar
  • (B,L)

Day 12: Kyoto – Ryoanji, Kinkakuji, Nijo Castle by Night

Kinkakuji, Kyoto, Japan - 2014

  • Possible morning Maiko photoshoot (a private 2-hour photoshoot with a geisha in training) in the historic back alleys of Kyoto.
  • Ryoanji: Visit Kyoto’s Zen temple, famous for its stone garden
  • Kinkakuji: Tour the Temple of the Golden Pavilion
  • Night visit to Nijo Castle to photograph the cherry blossoms
  • (B,L,D)

Day 13: Kyoto Temples and Gardens

Cherry Blossoms, Heian Shrine, Kyoto, Japan - 2014

  • Possible visit to Katsura Imperial Villa.  This one of Japan’s most perfect gardens.  Access is limited and only by special permission.  This is a rare opportunity.  Unfortunately, photos are not allowed.
  • Kiyomizu-dera: Explore an ancient hillside temple with amazing views
  • Heian Shrine: Photograph a lovely, intimate garden with a pond and many cherry trees
  • Philosopher’s Path: Enjoy a hillside walking path lined with many cherry trees
  • Toji Temple by night: Photograph these ancient illuminated cherry trees
  • (B,L)

Day 14: Last Day.  Fushimi Inari, Photo Essays, Farewell Dinner

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

  • Visit Fushimi Inari Shrine, famous for its path with hundreds of red torii gates
  • Gather to share photo essays created during the tour
  • Come together for a group farewell dinner
  • (B,D)

Day 15: Flight Home

  • Transfer to Osaka for flights home
  • (B)

Tour Philosophy

  • This tour is designed to provide unique experiences and photo 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.
  • We’ll have a flexible attitude and may adjust the schedule to take advantage of unexpected opportunities.
  • All activities are optional: You can be as busy or as relaxed as you like.


  • Rooms are in Western style, nonsmoking, have two single beds, en-suite facilities, and complimentary wifi.
  • If you are traveling alone, you will be assigned a room to share with another guest of the same gender.
  • For this tour, no single rooms are available.


  • 14 nights’ accommodations with daily breakfast
  • 6 lunches and 4 dinners (vegetarian options available)
  • Transportation for all tour activities, including Shinkansen tickets
  • Admission and fees for all scheduled activities
  • Portable wifi hotspot: 4G, unlimited data, up to 187 Mbps
  • 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 $5,300 per person based on double occupancy.
  • 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. 1, 2019. No refunds will be given after Feb 1.
  • Prior to Feb 1, 2019, full refunds will be given, minus the deposit.
  • If at least six guests do not register by Feb. 1, the trip will be cancelled.
  • 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 you are 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 may 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.
  • The tour dates are fixed, but the day to day activities are subject to change, until finalized in mid-December  


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