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This photography adventure takes us to the best winter wildlife locations in Japan, at exactly the right time to capture the images of a lifetime. We’ll visit the adorable Snow Monkeys in Nagano for the first three days of each tour. For the latter nine days we travel to Hokkaido to photograph the majestic Red-Crowned Cranes, Whooper Swans, Seller’s Sea Eagles, White Tailed Eagles, Ezo Deer and possibly foxes. There are also some Landscape photography opportunities during the tour, but if you want to photograph the incredible landscape in Hokkaido, also consider our Hokkaido Photography Landscape Adventure.
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We stay in four of the six hotels for two or three nights running, meaning you don’t have to uproot every morning. This also gives us the opportunity for a structured workshop session on digital photography workflow and color management, as well as group critique sessions as time allows.
The majority of our guests travel in from overseas, so we include the Sunday night before the tour starts in your package to ensure we’re all in town ready to start bright and early on Monday morning. For those that arrive early enough, there is an optional meet-and-greet dinner on the Sunday evening.
On the Monday morning, we start the tour by heading out to Nagano, north-west of Tokyo, for three days photographing the adorable Japanese Macaque, affectionately known as the Snow Monkeys. These amazing primates are one of the Japanese mainland’s biggest attractions for the winter wildlife photographer. By the evening of day three, we make our way to Tokyo Haneda airport where we spend one night, and then fly to Hokkaido early on the morning of day four. This marks the start of nine days in eastern Hokkaido photographing some of the most breathtaking winter wildlife in the world.
In Hokkaido, we spend two full days photographing the Red-Crowned Cranes, in a number of locations around Kushiro and Akan. We’ll also visit the Otowa “Sound of Wings” Bridge at dawn on two mornings, with fingers crossed for low temperatures and no wind, in the hope that we’ll get river mist and frosty trees on at least one of the two days.
We spend two days photographing the Whooper Swans at Kussharo Lake, as they warm themselves in the hot spring waters that flow into the lake. We’ll also aim to capture the swans taking off and landing, working on panning techniques, as well as environmental shots of the swans in their beautiful setting.
While at the location where we’ll shoot the Whooper Swans, we’ll head out for a dawn shoot at Bihoro Pass, looking down over the Kussharo Lake, and go to see if we can catch the swans flying in to the lake in the beautiful soft morning light. We also have a purposefully short shoot at Iouzan (Sulphur Mountain!) for some surreal landscape opportunities.
We head over to the Shiretoko Peninsula and the port town of Rausu, where we spend three days going out on a boat at dawn to photograph the awesome Seller’s Sea Eagles and White Tailed Eagles on the sea ice.
While we are staying in Rausu for the Sea Eagles, we’ll make time at least once to drive out to the Notsuke Peninsula to photograph the stark landscapes and Ezo Deer that we often find there. On one of the afternoons in Rausu, we also pay an optional visit to the local Shinto Shrine, where we receive a traditional Shinto blessing and have the chance to ask questions about the shrine and the Shinto religion.
Then on the way around to the Utoro side of the Shiretoko Peninsula, we will make stops along the way to photograph the landscape and birch tree groves. Just outside of Utoro we’ll make a stop at the Oshinkoshin Falls, and make our way into the Shiretoko National Park for a walk out through the woods in the hope of spotting some Ezo Deer and to capture the wonderful landscape there. After a steady morning of photography, we head over to Memanbetsu airport and fly back to Tokyo on the afternoon of Day 12.
Depending on weather and the group’s energy levels, at a number of locations, we set time aside for workshop sessions as well as a critique session for those interested in participating.
NOTE: You will receive a detailed itinerary and information to help you prepare for your tour shortly after making your reservation.
Your host and tour leader, Martin Bailey, is British born though now a Japanese citizen, having lived in Japan for over twenty-five years. A professional wildlife and nature photographer, Martin is also fluent in Japanese both written and spoken, and his knowledge of the locations we visit and subjects we photograph is unrivaled, making us the perfect choice for your Japanese photography adventure.
Martin has been visiting Hokkaido every year since 2003, and the 2018 tours take us into our eleventh consecutive year. We continuously refine the Itinerary and locations visited based on previous experience and feedback. These tours just get better and better.
We stay in a mix of traditional Japanese hotels and western style hotels, with great food, sometimes buffet style, though often meals prepared specifically for our group. We’ll note if you have any food preferences (allergies, vegetarian etc.) and make changes as possible to suit your needs. Many of the hotels have relaxing hot springs baths to relax after a day out shooting.
For the entire tour, we use a large bus with a professional driver that stays with us the entire time. The large bus provides every participant with a double seat, which means you can put your camera bag right next to you on the seat, for easy access to your gear when a photo opportunity arises. On occasion, we shoot from the bus windows, and the bus size provides everyone with an open window on either side as well.
To ensure that all of the tour logistics run like clockwork we travel with a full-time conductor on hand throughout the tour. This means we never have to wait for our keys at hotels, and all meals are ready for us when we arrive. We are also able to negotiate much better meals for western tastes that most Japan tours are able to provide. This frees Martin to concentrate on working with the group and gives you more time to concentrate on your photography and enjoying your Japan experience.
You do not need any special vaccinations for Japan, but you are strongly advised to ensure that you’ve had an influenza shot for that season by no later than two weeks prior to coming to Japan. These tours coincide with the flu season here in Japan, and we would not like you to lose valuable photography days in bed or risk infecting the rest of the group, if we can help it. Vaccinations are not 100% though. It’s good practice to wash your hands and gargle with water when you get to your hotel, especially after traveling on public transport.
After you sign up, you will receive a PDF document to help you with your preparations. This will contain details on recommended camera gear, cold weather clothing, and advice on Japanese etiquette to help make your stay in Japan as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. There is also a detailed itinerary, maps and hotel phone numbers etc. to leave with your loved ones while you’re away.
Note that the US dollar amounts displayed here are updated dynamically every hour, for your reference, but may vary slightly from what you pay due to varying rates used by credit cards and paypal during the conversion from Japanese Yen to your local currency.
Reservation Fee / Deposit – If you cancel up to one year before the start date of your tour, your deposit will be refunded. If you decide to cancel less than one year before the start of the tour, your reservation fee will be refunded only if we are able to back-fill your place (see notes below)
Tour Fees / Balance – If you cancel your reservation the following charges will be payable (see notes below)
Notes on Cancellation Fees and Notification Timing
Payment can be made in US Dollars ($) or Japanese Yen (¥) but if possible, please switch to Japanese Yen with the pull-down below before proceeding, as all expenses for this tour are payable in Yen. Any credit card payments will automatically be converted to your local currency by your credit card company. If you have any questions or problems with payment, please let us know.
NOTE: The shopping cart manages inventory. If you are able to pay the reservation fee, there are places available, and the tour cannot be over-booked.
If you are interested in coming along but want more information, please do not hesitate to contact us. We look forward to seeing you in Japan, for the photography tour and workshop of a lifetime!
— Martin Bailey.
If you are interested, you might want to check out the following blog posts and podcasts…
2016 Tour#2 Episodes
2016 Tour#1 Episodes
2015 Tour Episodes
2014 Tour Episodes
2013 Tour Episodes
2012 Tour Episodes
2011 Tour Episodes
2010 Tour Episodes
Note that these Podcasts and many others are also available in iTunes.