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Inside Japan Photography Expedition
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11 days

from $15,729 AUD trip_detail hint icon

($10,795 USD)

Prices are per person, based on twin share occupancy. The AUD prices are based on USD and calculated at today’s rate of exchange. The expedition price will be finalised at time of booking.

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Travelers should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Daily activities may include walking tours, visits to sites, safari drives, and easy hikes; and some days will have more physical activities such as longer hikes, kayaking, snorkeling, or biking.

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Premium expeditions are led by a National Geographic expert, an expedition team, or top guides, and tap into National Geographic's worldwide resources to allow for in-depth exploration and special access to sites and experts in the field. Itineraries are fully planned, with some free time. Accommodations are high-end or best available. Ground transportation and most meals and activities are included in the trip price.

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Expedition Overview

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EXPEDITION OVERVIEW
  • Meet with geisha and photograph their traditional performance in Kyoto, and capture the vivid costumes and masks of Kagura dancers in Hiroshima.
  • Spend the night at a traditional Mount Koya monastery, and rise early for a temple photo shoot, followed by a morning prayer ceremony with the resident monks.
  • Capture images from the ancient pilgrimage site of Mount Koya and from Naoshima Island, overlooking the Inland Sea.
  • Record the ancient traditions of rural Japan as we explore age-old villages and thatched dwellings in Shikoku's verdant Iya Valley.
EXPERTS ON THIS TRIP

A National Geographic expert will accompany each departure to share insights and a rare behind-the-scenes perspective. Listed here are some of the experts that will be joining departures on this trip.

Itinerary

An intoxicating mix of time-honored tradition and cutting-edge modernity, Japan is a fascinating place to photograph. In Kyoto, enjoy a private photo opportunity with elegant geisha and explore the lantern-lit streets of the Gion district. Photograph the thatched villages of Shikoku before traveling to Hiroshima, the island of Miyajima, and more.

Day 1: Kyoto, Japan

Arrive in Osaka at any time. Transfer to Kyoto and check in to our hotel.

Day 2: Kyoto

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Our exploration of Kyoto begins with some of the city’s most treasured temples and gardens, where photographic opportunities abound. Train your lens on the lines of swaying bamboo trees in Arashiyama’s atmospheric bamboo grove early this morning before the crowds arrive. Step into Ryoan-ji's Zen rock garden for a chance to photograph the serene site. Then try out different perspectives of shimmering Kinkakuji, a UNESCO World Heritage site also known as the Temple of the Golden Pavilion. This evening, go on a photo walk through the lantern-lit streets of Gion, Kyoto’s historic geisha district. At our welcome dinner, we’ll be joined by a former geisha and current proprietress of a geisha house. As we learn about this unique tradition and watch a performance, enjoy a rare chance to photograph geisha freely.

Day 3: Kyoto

This morning, photograph paths lined with hundreds of vermilion torii (wooden gateway) at the Fushimi Inari Shrine. Continue to Nijo Castle, built in 1603 and designated a National Treasure. Explore the castle’s Ninomaru Palace, known for its beautiful wall paintings and its intruder-deterring "nightingale" floors, designed to squeak when stepped upon. This afternoon, experience the tranquil gardens at Hosen-In and Sanzen-In Temples.

Day 4: Mount Koya

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Travel to Mount Koya, headquarters of the Shingon Buddhist sect and a popular pilgrimage site. With your camera in hand, meander through the evocative Okuno-in cemetery, where some 200,000 tombs of samurai warriors and dignitaries fill a grove of towering cedar trees. Venture into Kongobuji, the chief temple of the Mount Koya monastery and continue to the tranquil Danjo Garan monastic complex, originally constructed in the ninth century. Settle into our simple lodgings and enjoy a traditional Buddhist vegetarian dinner.

Day 5: Mount Koya/Iya Valley

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Rise early this morning for a photo shoot of a local temple at this sacred place. After an optional morning prayer service, descend to the shores of the Inland Sea and ferry across to Shikoku, the smallest of Japan’s main islands. On our way to the remote Iya Valley, enjoy an Awa Odori dance performance followed by a photo shoot of the dancers in their colorful costumes. Our home for the next two nights is a ryokan, or traditional Japanese inn, where inviting, on-site hot spring baths offer a chance to relax and rejuvenate.

Day 6: Iya Valley

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As we travel through the dramatic Iya gorge, stop to photograph shrines peeking out from the emerald slopes. Our destination is a 300-year-old thatched farmhouse, home to the Chiiori Trust, a unique project that seeks to preserve age-old rural traditions in the valley. Document the architectural details of this ancient building style and continue to photograph the evocative Okuiya Niju Kazurabashi, primitive twin suspension bridges constructed out of coiled vines that stretch high above the river valley below. Then capture timeless scenes of village life in Ochiai, a community of traditional dwellings, some of which date from the Edo period (circa 1600-1870).

Day 7: Iya Valley/Naoshima

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Travel north to Zentsuji, a lovely complex of temples and a pagoda that marks the birthplace of the Buddhist priest, Kobo Daishi. In Takamatsu, stroll the 17th-century gardens of Ritsurin Park, photographing tranquil images of a local model in kimono on graceful bridges arcing over ponds. A ferry then brings us to the small island of Naoshima, which has recently emerged as a mecca of contemporary art and architecture. Our home for two nights is a photo op in itself: the cutting-edge Benesse House, designed by acclaimed architect Tadao Ando. This evening, photograph the island-dotted Inland Sea from our excellent vantage point at the hotel.

Day 8: Naoshima

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Early risers may go on a photo shoot overlooking the Inland Sea. Later, appreciate the innovative architecture of the Chichu Art Museum, built underground but designed to capture natural light and shadow. See the works of Claude Monet, James Turrell, and others in the museum’s collection, and then visit a house that is part of the Art House Project, which has transformed some of the island’s older structures into imaginative works of art.

Day 9: Naoshima/Hiroshima

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Ferry back to Honshu and take the high-speed train to Hiroshima. Pay a visit to Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park and Museum, which documents the atomic explosion that ravaged the city. Continue on an optional guided visit to Shukkei-en Garden, or explore this thriving modern metropolis—a testament to Japanese resilience—on your own.

Day 10: Miyajima

Set off by ferry on a full-day excursion to Itsukushima Island, popularly called Miyajima. Explore the 12th-century Itsukushima Shinto shrine, a World Heritage site, then enjoy ample free time for hikes, visits to tiny temples, and a stroll through the picturesque town. Participate in a tea ceremony this afternoon, with opportunities to capture images of this iconic tradition. Stay to photograph the shrine’s iconic torii at high tide, when the torii and parts of the shrine appear to float on the sea. This evening, gather for a private farewell dinner and photograph the highly stylized movements of dancers clad in vivid costumes and expressive masks during a specially arranged Kagura performance.

Day 11: Hiroshima/Osaka

Take the high-speed train from Hiroshima to Osaka, and continue by rapid train to Kansai International Airport for your flight home.

EXTENSIONS

Day 1: Tokyo

Travel to Tokyo via the high-speed train from Hiroshima. Upon arrival, get acquainted with the city’s celebrated landmarks and stop to take photos outside the Imperial Palace. Explore Asakusa, one of Tokyo’s oldest neighborhoods, and the Senso-ji temple, built in the seventh century and now a sizeable complex of shrines, temples, and a pagoda. Settle into our hotel late this afternoon and enjoy an evening at leisure.

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Day 2: Tokyo

Begin the day with a photo walk in Kappabashi-dori, also known as “Kitchen Town.” The shops here supply the city’s restaurants with many interesting items, including the plastic display food (sampuru, derived from the English word "sample"). Delve into Tokyo's cultural heritage at the Edo-Tokyo Museum. The museum brings to life Tokyo’s 400-year history, with exhibits illustrating subjects ranging from Kabuki theater and traditional arts to politics and architecture. Visit the Akihibara neighborhood, famous for electronics and neon signs, and a center for fans of anime and manga animation.

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Day 3: Tokyo

This morning, explore the sprawling Tsukiji fish market, one of the world’s largest. Browse the stalls where over 2,000 tons of seafood is sold daily, and take in the lively bustle. Continue to the newly-renovated Nezu Museum, which features works of calligraphy, painting, sculpture, and ceramics. Visit the museum’s collections and traditional gardens dotted with waterfalls, ponds, and teahouses. Then jump forward in time with a guided tour of the cutting-edge architecture of Tokyo’s Aoyama district. This evening, photograph Tokyo’s skyline at dusk from the top of a skyscraper before enjoying a farewell dinner.

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Day 4: Tokyo

Transfer to the Tokyo airport for flights home.

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What to Expect

This trip has an activity rating of light\/moderate; travelers should be in good health, comfortable walking or standing for extended periods, and prepared for multiple hours of activity on some days. Excursions may include navigating uneven terrain, climbing stairs without handrails, and walking on paths with steep sections.

Accommodations
Throughout the trip, we stay in high-end hotels with many amenities. We spend 1 night in a typical temple inn with shared bathrooms and 2 nights in a traditional ryokan. Both have simple rooms with futons set atop tatami mats on the floor and rice-paper sliding doors.

Expedition Team
A National Geographic expert and an expedition leader will accompany this trip, and local guides join us along the way.

PRICES & DATES

  • date Oct 31-Nov 10, 2019
  • double occupancy
    (from)
    $15,729 AUD Per Person
  • single occupancy
    (from)
    $18,636 AUD Per Person

  • date Mar 26-Apr 5, 2020
  • double occupancy
    (from)
    $15,729 AUD Per Person
  • single occupancy
    (from)
    $18,636 AUD Per Person

  • date Oct 29-Nov 8, 2020
  • double occupancy
    (from)
    $15,729 AUD Per Person
  • single occupancy
    (from)
    $18,636 AUD Per Person

Prices are per person based on double or single occupancy (unless otherwise noted) and do not include international airfare to/from your destination. The AUD prices are based on USD and calculated at today’s rate of exchange and subject to change. See the terms and conditions for this trip for more information.

  • Transfers upon arrival and departure.
  • Meals as indicated in the itinerary.
  • Accommodation in deluxe hotels and lodges chosen for location, comfort, and local character. In more remote geographies accommodations may be best available.
  • All gratuities on trip.

What's Not Included

  • Airfare to and from destination
  • Travel insurance
  • Visas
  • Optional activities
  • Meals on your own
James Whitlow Delano
Photographer
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Photographer and documentary storyteller James Whitlow Delano has made Tokyo his home for over two decades while pursuing his passion for the environment, human rights, and indigenous cultures. James has traveled and photographed extensively throughout Japan, from Kyoto to the famous pilgrimage route in Shikoku, to the northern wonderland of Hokkaido, and beyond. Since 2011, he has documented the aftermath of the Great East Japan earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster, resulting in his fourth book, “Black Tsunami: Japan 2011.” His photography series documenting the 1.5 million sacks of radioactive soil in Fukushima Prefecture on the fifth anniversary of the disaster, was featured by National Geographic. Recently, his work for National Geographic has also focused on documentary projects around the United States\/Mexico border. In 2015, James founded the @EverydayClimateChange Instagram feed, where photographers document global climate change on all seven continents. The project has been exhibited around the world. Delano is a grantee at the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting, and his award-winning work has been featured in numerous publications including National Geographic and National Geographic Traveler magazines, The New York Times Magazine, Time, The New Yorker, and Foreign Policy.

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  • Oct 29-Nov 8, 2020
Karen Kasmauski
Photographer
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Photographer Karen Kasmauski has produced 25 stories for National Geographic magazine on topics ranging from earthquakes in Japan to oil exploration in Alaska. She finds the personal stories behind the headlines, blending a warm human sensitivity with a photographer’s eye for detail to distill global issues into resonant images. As a senior fellow with the International League of Conservation Photographers, she also specializes in looking at how the health of the land affects the communities on it. Karen's book Impact: From the Front Lines of Global Health, published by National Geographic, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and she received an inaugural Getty Images Grant for Good to develop compelling new imagery for the non-profits she supports. Another book, Nurse: A World of Care, tells stories of dedicated medical professionals—“frontline soldiers” in the war against suffering and disease—from the frozen rivers of Alaska to the slums of Nairobi. Karen has photographed in numerous destinations all over the world—from Japan, Vietnam, and India to Africa and the Arctic. Kasmauski also serves on the board of The Park Institute of America.

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  • Mar 26-Apr 5, 2020
Chris Rainier
Photographer
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Acclaimed documentary photographer Chris Rainier specializes in highlighting endangered cultures and traditional languages around the globe. In 2002, he received the Lowell Thomas Award from The Explorers Club for his efforts in cultural preservation, and was elected in 2014 as a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society of London. Rainier has been a National Geographic Fellow as well as co-founder and co-director of National Geographic’s Enduring Voices Project and director of the All Roads Photography Program, both designed to support indigenous groups desiring to document their traditional cultures and create sustainable solutions to preserve the planet in the 21st century. Chris also served as a cultural editor and photographer for National Geographic Traveler magazine for over 18 years. Today he directs The Cultural Sanctuaries Foundation, whose mission is to create legally protected cultural zones around the globe that protect both traditional knowledge as well as the local biodiversity. In the early 1980s, Chris served as the last assistant for famed photographer Ansel Adams. The two worked together to amplify the use of art photography as a social tool, ultimately helping to preserve threatened wilderness areas and national parks. Rainier has deep passion for teaching photography, and for the past 20 years has been leading photographic expeditions for National Geographic around the world.

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  • Oct 31-Nov 10, 2019