Japan in winter is one of the most majestic locations you could ever imagine. A slight dusting of snow turns the regularly bustling streets into a proverbial winter wonderland. The colder temperatures also tend to cut down on the amount of crowds, which makes photographing the iconic sites much more appealing.
We will embark on an eleven-day intensive photography workshop covering the most photographic sites, from buzzing cities to the calm atmospheric landscapes, stretching the length of Japan. Lead by award-winning photographer Wolfe, and accompanied by long time friend and travel companion Gavriel Jecan, this tour will push your photography to the next level. The intimate group size is designed for personal attention to develop your photographic vision.
First we’ll visit the snow macaques that live in the mountains about two hours west of Tokyo. Here in an isolated steep cut valley with an amazing mountain lodge are three extended families of macaques, numbering around 50. Because they are the most northern primate on earth, they have the longest, luxuriant fur of any primates, particularly in the winter months. They come down from the pine and oak forests and for a couple of hours a day they hang around a natural hot spring. They have been habituated to people visiting them there, so you can photograph from within inches without interrupting their behavior, which is very animated and fun. It is a photographic bonanza.
After visiting the macaques, we will travel to the northern island of Hokkaido. Hokkaido reminds me a bit of Alaska, full of forests of birch, pine and fir with a back drop of beautiful volcanic mountains. There are also large lakes and wild running rivers, and hosts three species of bird wildlife that are extraordinary to photograph. The Japanese Crane has been symbolized in Japanese culture for thousands of years due to its grace and beauty. Giant whooper swans come in the winter months from nesting in Siberia. They have been fed by locals for years, helping them sustain thru the winter, as well as creating an easy and wonderful photographic opportunity for us! And often Steller’s sea eagles will swoop around the same area. They are massive black and white raptors that winter over on the icy shores of Hokkaido.
The days are short in February on Hokkaido, but the beautiful hues of sunrise and sunset are protracted allowing us hours to capture quite stunning images. After sunset we will have time for a hot bath at the lodge before eating a traditional Japanese meal. After dinner we will have time for lectures and critiques before calling it a day. With the abridged daylight, it really allows for a nice schedule to fit everything in and still have enough hours for a good night’s sleep! Since we travel in and out of Tokyo, you will get to experience the surreal and wonderful contrast that Japan has to offer, not only the very modern and bustling city, but the natural and beautiful countryside.
Led by Art Wolfe
Limited to 10 participants
Transportation and Accommodation
All meals, lodging, and transportation specified on the itinerary are included. You will be responsible for your flight to and from Tokyo. You are encouraged to arrive one day prior to the workshop so that there is no worry of flight delays causing any problems.
Shooting schedules have the ability to be altered to effectively cater to the photographic desires of the group, as well as to adapt to changeable weather conditions.
Day 1 Feb 8 Tokyo-Nagano
Arrive Tokyo International Airport. Transfer to designated hotel by 11am. From there the group will travel together to Nagano. After arrival in Nagano the group will visit one of Japan’s oldest and most important Buddhist temples. This evening there will be a welcome dinner with Art Wolfe and his assistant instructor Gavriel Jecan. (D)
Day 2 Feb 9 Nagano
In the morning, the group will take the Shinkansen bullet train to transfer to Nagano. Upon arrival, head up to Yaen Koen (Snow Monkey Park) by a taxi. After checking in to hotel, start with a walk up the trail to the park entrance gate, with your camera gear and other equipment.
**To see the snow monkeys, visitors must walk 2 km (1.2 miles) one way along a path that can be slippery and muddy in winter. (B, D)
Day 3 Feb 10 Nagano
In the morning the group will depart for Yaen Koen (Snow Monkey Park). The entire day will be spent photographing the Snow Monkeys. (B, D)
Day 4 Feb 11 Nagano-Tokyo
After breakfast, we will make our way to the train station for our bullet train ride back to Tokyo where we will spend one night. With free time in the afternoon, the group will explore more of Tokyo’s diverse districts. (B)
Day 5 Feb 12 Tokyo-Hokkaido (Tsurui)
This morning the group will depart for Haneda Airport for a flight to Hokkaido. They will be transported via private car to Tsurui Village. There will be an opportunity for a sunset photography session to photograph the Japanese cranes as they return to the roost. (B, D)
Day 6 Feb 13 Hokkaido (Lake Kussharo)
Early morning photography session to photograph the Japanese cranes as they sleep in the river. Following that the group will photograph wildlife and scenic landscapes around the Tsurui Village with a potential possibility to photograph the Ural owl that lives in the forest.
In the evening there will be another opportunity to photograph the majestic Japanese cranes at sunset as they return to roost. (B, D)
Day 7 Feb 14 Hokkaido (Lake Kussharo)
We spend the early morning photographing the swans on Lake Kussharo, by lunch, make our way over to Furen Lake. We will also stop for other wildlife on the roadside. (B, D)
Day 8 Feb 15 Hokkaido (Rausu)
In the morning, take photographs of Steller’s sea eagle & white-tailed eagle at Lake Furen. By noon, head to the Notsuke Peninsula. The afternoon will be spent photographing some herds of the Ezo sika deer and red fox in the snow fields. (B, D)
Day 9 Feb 16 Hokkaido (Yoroshi)
In the morning we will take a Drift Ice Cruise, see the sunrise from Kunashiri Island, and observe and photograph the Steller’s sea eagle & white-tailed eagle. After lunch, the group will transfer to Yoroushi. On the way we will stop by Kunashiri view point to see the Nemuro Strait. Throughout the day the group will enjoy the delicious local food and hot springs at Yoroushi. (B, D)
Day 10 Feb 17 Hokkaido-Tokyo
After breakfast, the group will head to Memanbetsu, Nakashibetsu or Kushiro airport. With free time in the evening in Tokyo, opt to explore more of Tokyo’s diverse districts on your own. (B, D)
Day 11 Feb 18 Tokyo-Departure Day
Participants can catch flights back home this day. Transfer to airport by airport limousine bus. (B)
- Accommodations (twin sharing basis) as indicated above in the itinerary.
- All meals noted on the itinerary.
- Services of Air Conditioned Van
- Services of English speaking guide escort accompanying the trip
- Entrance fee to visit monuments.
- Services of local English guides during city sightseeing (as required)
- Mineral water during all meals, transfers, drives and sightseeing (available in vehicle)
Services Not Included
- Any international Airfare, travel insurance or medical insurance. (health insurance is mandatory and travel insurance is highly recommended)
- Anything not mentioned in inclusion above.
- Tipping to accompanying escort is not included in our quote.
- Any expenditure of personal nature like alcoholic drinks, Fruit shakes, sodas, laundry, telephone calls, or internet
- Anything ordered from room service at any hotel including mineral water (other than what being offered by the hotels on their compliment).
- Any sudden increase in price due to steep hike in fuel cost, change in government tax policy or for any reason beyond our control like acts of god, natural calamity, law and order situation, riots etc and any forced change in itinerary for any unforeseen situation or reason beyond our control.
- To keep our instructors and clients safe and healthy as well as streamlining the process of acquiring destination venues and accommodations, we are asking that all workshop participants be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.