2015 Classic Japan Autumn Tour Report

13-28 November 2015

Tour Report – Part 1

Our first international tour, the Classic Japan Autumn Tour, launched late last year and three amazing clients joined us for this inaugural trip – Mark and Lien from Melbourne; and Jan, travelling all the way from the UK.

Over our 16-day journey, we explored the best autumn landscapes and photography sights between Tokyo and Hiroshima, with our tour members capturing fantastic images freezing memories for a lifetime.

Here’s a summary of the locations we visited and some new snaps I have added to my personal collection. We will visit many of these amazing locations again in our 2016 Classic Japan Autumn Tour.

I would like to extend my thanks to Mark, Lien, and Jan for their enthusiasm and friendship during the tour!


Our autumn tour started off with 3 days in Japan’s capital city, Tokyo (東京), home to 37 million people, making it the largest metropolitan area in the world.

It’s not a surprise there are endless things to do in the city, and it is also currently undergoing even more development as the host city for the future 2020 Olympic Games.

We based ourselves in the Asakusa district, famous for Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple, Sensoji, and near Tokyo Skytree, the second tallest building in the world. After visiting both these landmarks on the first day, we started Day 2 off at Tsukiji Market, the largest fish market in the world. It was a hive of activity inside the market with a seemingly endless variety of seafood on offer for sale.

Day 3 started off with a visit to Showa Memorial Park, where its famous ginkgo trees were at their peak autumn colours. Shichi-Go-San (七五三, Seven-Five-Three) also fell on this day (Nov. 15), a traditional rite of passage and festival day for 3 and 7-year-old girls, and 3 and 5-year-old boys. We were able to witness many families celebrating this day with their children at Meiji Shrine, all dressed beautifully in kimono, as well as several traditional Shinto wedding ceremonies, making for a colourful sight and a wonderfully rare photographic opportunity for our tour guests.

“God-sized” straw sandal (大草鞋, owaraji) at Sensoji (浅草寺)

Tokyo International Forum (東京国際フォーラム)

Tokyo Skytree (東京スカイツリー)

Tour members shooting in Tokyo Skytree

View from Tokyo Skytree

Tsukiji Market (築地市場)

Mark shooting in Tokyo International Forum (東京国際フォーラム)

Ginkgo (銀杏) in full bloom at Showa Memorial Park (国営昭和記念公園)

Young boy at Shichi-Go-San Festival, Meiji Shrine

Young girl at Shichi-Go-San Festival, Meiji Shrine

Bride and groom at traditional Shinto wedding ceremony at Meiji Shrine


After Tokyo we made our way down to Hakone, a famous onsen (hot spring) area in Japan with views of Mt Fuji. It also has the unique distinction of requiring 5 different modes of transport to get around – train, cable car, ropeway, ship, and bus.

Hakone’s highlight in autumn is undoubtedly the Hakone Museum of Art. This museum features one of Japan’s finest gardens, featuring beautiful maple trees and moss everywhere.

Moss and maple trees, Hakone Museum of Art (箱根美術館)

Koi pond, Hakone Museum of Art (箱根美術館)

Hakone Museum of Art (箱根美術館)


Our next destination was Himeji to visit Himeji Castle. The castle reopened in March 2015 after many years of cleaning and restoration work. The result is a much cleaner and whiter exterior, reflecting its nickname of White Heron Castle (Shirasagijo).

One of only 12 original castles in the country, Himeji Castle is widely considered Japan’s most beautiful castle and has survived for over 400 years.

We visited Himeji Castle during some unseasonally rainy weather but that didn’t deter us, nor hundreds of other tourists, from checking out this amazing landmark.

Himeji Castle (姫路城)


Nara was established in 710 and was Japan’s first permanent capital. Not surprisingly, it is a very important place in Japan and features some of the oldest temples in Japan.

Its major landmark is Todaiji (東大寺), a Buddhist temple that is over 1200 years old! Until 1998, the main hall of Todaiji – called the Daibutsuden (Great Buddha Hall) – was the world’s largest wooden building.

Nara is also well-known for its free-roaming and friendly deer – and are often most attracted to the tourists carrying oodles of food! The autumn colours were fantastic around Nara Park and there were many school groups taking part in their annual cultural trip while we were there.

Deer oh dear…

Great Buddha of Nara statue in Todaiji (東大寺)


From Nara we made our way to Fushimi, an area in southern Kyoto and home to Kyoto’s #1 tourist destination, a Shinto shrine called Fushimi Inari Taisha.

Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社) is the head shrine of Inari, the Shinto kami or god/spirit of rice and prosperity. Inari’s messengers are white foxes, and there are many fox statues in the shrine area.

Fushimi Inari Taisha is best known for its thousands of red torii gates that snake their way up Mt Inari, forming a seemingly endless vermillion tunnel. Fun fact: each of the torii are donated by a business in the hope of great prosperity!

Two particular torii tunnels draw all the tourists due to their density and elegance. Both are parallel to each other and start and finish at the same points. We saw many tourists dressed up beautifully in yukata (a type of traditional Japanese garment) with geta slippers. The torii and yukata-wearing visitors made for some images.

Torii gates at Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社)


Autumn Illuminations

After visiting Fushimi Inari Taisha our group checked into our hotel and had dinner before heading out again to visit Eikando Zenriji (永観堂禅林寺), a temple in eastern Kyoto famous for its autumn foliage.

During autumn, many temples in Kyoto offer evening illuminations. Eikando’s autumn illumination is one of the best and only further enhances its fantastic autumn foliage.

Autumn illumination at Eikando (永観堂)

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