Day 1 - 3, Wed. - Fri., Jan. 28 - 30. We depart from North America and cross the International Dateline, thus losing one day. We arrive at Haneda International Airport in Tokyo (not Narita) on January 29. We will meet at 12 o’clock noon in the airport (specific place to be announced) and drive to Lake Yamanaka at the base of Japan’s highest mountain, Mt. Fuji. We will be able to photograph this beautiful symbol of Japan at sunset, taking advantage of the reflection in the lake. Overnight Hotel Mifuji Thursday and Friday nights, Jan. 29 & 30.
Day 4, Sat. - Mon., Jan. 31 - Feb. 2. After shooting sunrise on Mt. Fuji and breakfast, we depart Lake Yamanaka for Joshinetsu Kogen National Park where we will have up close and personal encounters with snow monkeys as they enjoy the natural hot springs of the area. After we check in to our guest house, we start our one mile walk from the parking lot to the hot springs. The only reason the snow monkeys, or Japanese macaques, can live in the cold climate of Japan is because of the warmth the hot springs provide. We have three days here because this should afford ample opportunity to get the best shots. It is an area of heavy snowfall, and the snow mixed with the hot steam makes dramatic pictures. Our place of residence for these three days offers hot springs for its guests, and after a focused day of photography this is a very relaxing experience. Don’t forget to bring a bathing suit. Overnight Hotel Senshinkan Matsuya.
Day 5, 6, Tue, Wed., Feb. 3, 4. We depart for Matsumoto Castle in the late morning after getting in some additional time with the snow monkeys. As we enter the world of the Samurai, we spend two days exploring shrines and temples that date back 1000 years, and the castle itself whose origins date from the 16th century is one of Japan’s premier historic castles. It is particularly unique because of its black exterior. We will be able to photograph the castle’s interior as well, and this is a good chance to practice low-light photography techniques that Jim will explain to you. Overnight Hotel Shoho.
Day 7 - 9, Thur. to Sat., Feb. 5 - 7. Today we transfer to the airport and fly to the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. It is here that we photograph the spectacular sculptures that are created from huge mounds of snow brought down in truck loads from the local mountains. The annual Snow Festival takes place in the center Sapporo, and the artistry and skill of the crews of people working on the sculptures is amazing. During the day, the huge works of art are beautiful to photograph, but at night they are incredible. You might see a locomotive (built to scale), a huge samurai, the White House, and many other familiar shapes and themes are brought to life. Your photographs will be truly fantastic. Overnight Mitsui Garden Hotel.
Day 10, 11, Sun. to Mon., Feb. 7, 8. We take a domestic flight to Nemuro today so we can focus our attention on Stellar sea eagles. These huge birds (this is the heaviest eagle in the world) thrive on the pack ice that forms in winter, and they use this as a base to take advantage of the abundance of fish. We charter a boat so we can get very close to the eagles, and this allows you to get spectacular pictures of the majestic eagles in flight. Overnight Grand Hotel.
Day 12, 13, Tue. - Wed., Feb. 9, 10. We drive to Kushiro today so we can photograph the beautiful red-crowned cranes (also called the Japanese cranes). It is the second rarest crane species in the world, and the males can be as large as 4 or 5 feet with an 8-foot wing span. Despite the large size, the birds are very graceful and stunning to photograph. Adults usually pair for life, and these bonds are reinforced in a breathtaking synchronized courtship dance. In Japan and throughout Asia, the birds are seen as a symbol of fidelity, good luck and long life. Overnight Grand Hotel.
Day 14, Thur., Feb 11. Today we transfer to the airport for our return flight home.
TOUR COST: $7595 based on double occupancy. Tour cost includes all ground transportation, all breakfasts and two dinners, entrance fees to Matsumoto Castle, the Monkey Park, and the Ainu Museum, the train from Nemuro to Sapporo, the train from Sapparo to the Ainu Museum, photo instruction and local guide.
Does not include international airfare, internal airfare, laundry, and other items of a personal nature.
Internal airfare: The two flights inside of Japan are approximately $250 and $350. These will be booked for you since we have to travel as a group, and Jim will let you know what the exact cost is. Airfares fluctuate, and Jim will try to get the best rate possible.
Single supplement: $1365