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Avid photographer Paul Rose recently joined InsideJapan’s Hands On Japan small group tour with his wife Claire. Here he shares some of his favourite photographs from his trip.
Tales from a photographer in Japan
We are fortunate enough to have visited several places around the world for our holidays and work, but Japan has always been on our list of places to visit. We decided to visit this year for our 10th wedding anniversary – we wanted to go somewhere special. I can’t pinpoint a particular reason why Japan was our choice, but the fact that it is so different was a big attraction. And of course, the scenery was a big draw for me as a keen photographer.
We’ve been on small group tours before to such places as Namibia, Pakistan and Mongolia but we had never been with InsideJapan. My wife did a lot of research before we made the decision, but InsideJapan came recommended and the Hands On Japan really appealed to us. We were particularly looking forward to experiencing Tokyo as a city, the countryside (Togarinozawa Onsen) and the Takefu knife village.
This is where our tour began, and we were a stone’s throw away from the magnificent Sensoji Temple. I really liked the fact that we were so close as it allowed me to head out at night and get some photos of the temple when it was lit up and fewer people were around.
It was also during this part of the trip that we experienced sumo wrestling first hand! I have a new-found respect for this sport, and whilst it won’t be something I follow religiously now we are home, I wouldn’t hesitate to go to another sumo tournament in Japan.
Togarinozawa Onsen (via Nagano)
Next we took a high-speed trip on the famous Shinkansen to get to Togarinozawa Onsen. We have always wanted to travel on one of these and we were not disappointed. The only downside is that it makes the train journeys back home seem rather dull in comparison!
Helping with the rice harvest in Togarinozawa Onsen was great fun and I could have easily stayed out all day. Our hosts here were brilliant and seemed to really enjoy having guests visit them. I also made the effort to get up at 5am one morning to see the sun rise over the valley, which was beautiful!
Of course the highlight of this segment would have to be Matsumoto Castle itself. It is an imposing looking building and worth the tour inside it, although it can be a bit tight if you are tall like me!
I also enjoyed visiting the castle after hours – again there were less people and it looked magical at night. But be warned, the lights are turned off at 10pm sharp!
I cannot forget to mention that this is also where I discovered Japanese Soufflé pancakes! They are divine and my mouth waters at the mere thought of them!
Between the Sanjusangendo Temple, pottery making, roketso cloth dyeing, tea with a Maiko, kimono dressing and Fushimi Inari there was no shortage of amazing sights and experiences.
It was also cool to see all the ladies dressed up in kimono wandering around the streets and temples of Gion.
We had a day off in Kyoto so we decided to take the Shinkansen to Miyajima and Hiroshima. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate, and it rained quite heavily for a large part of the day. However, it was still a very worthwhile visit and a ‘must see’ part of a Japan visit. We particularly enjoyed the Peace Memorial park and museum.
The final part of our tour took us back to the bright lights of Tokyo. This was the Tokyo we’re used to seeing on the TV – bright lights and busy streets!
We took a trip out to Akihabara (electric city) to see the bright lights and vast array of electrical merchandise. We also took a trip up the government buildings; a nice way to conclude the tour as it gave a bird’s eye view of this vast city. And it is free!
Japan is undoubtedly an amazing place to visit and we will be back! The Hands on Tour really does give a unique insight into Japanese life and culture, which was exactly what we wanted. We feel privileged to have experienced what we have and would recommend it to anyone who has a passion for trying new and different things.
If you’d like to join the same trip as Paul, visit our Hands On Japan small group tour page to find out more.