Sunday 10th, Around the Hotel

Monday 11th, Shrine and Temple Tour

Tuesday 12th, Salary Men and Anniversary

Wednesday 13th, Touring and Gardens

Thursday 14th, Sumo Wrestling and Ginza by Night

Friday 15th, Mt. Fuji and Traditional Dinner

Saturday 16th, Bullet Train, Kyoto and Traditional Dinner

Sunday 17th, Largest Buddha and Golden Pavilion

Tuesday 19th, Philosopher's Walk and Golden Gates

Wednesday 20th, Geishas and Gion at Night

Interesting People

Interesting Architectural Details

Japan Photo Trek - May 2009

Geisha Golden Temple Geisha

Kathy had always wanted to explore Japan and I like photography trips. So when we saw an ad for a "Mentor Series" photography trip to Japan, we decided to go. The trip was sponsored by Popular Photography magazine and Nikon cameras. The trip was actually organized by the magazine. And therein lies the problem - they know how to run a magazine but not necessarily a trip to Japan. It took us weeks to get in touch with them so we could add some days to the start and end of the trip. But everything was finally worked out and we enjoyed the trip.

If you want to read the day by day details of the trip, you can download the journal that I kept while we were there. But the document is large because of the embedded pictures. A brief day by day description is given below with links to a slide show for each day.

We flew from Austin to Los Angeles on Thursday, May 7th. We spent the night in a hotel near the airport and flew to Japan the next day.

Below are descriptions of what we did during the next two weeks. For each day there is a link to pictures. Note that as with the other links to pictures, a slide show is available that is controlled by using the buttons at the bottom of the screen.

  • When we got to our hotel in Tokyo Saturday night we were dead tired so we just had a snack and went to bed. On Sunday we explored the areas around the hotel. There were interesting sky scrapers, a park with a waterfall and the busiest train station in the world (about 2 million people a day pass through it).

  • On Monday we took a bus tour of Tokyo where we went to a Shinto shrine, a Buddhist temple and the Ginza shopping district. We saw a Shinto wedding (now somewhat rare), a geisha with a professional photographer and some interesting statues. After lunch we took the subway back to the hotel (just try buying tickets when the instructions are in Japanese).

  • By Tuesday we were over the worst of the jet lag. We explored on our own and took pictures. Right after breakfast, I went to the nearest corner to watch the "salary men" on their way to work. Then it was on to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government offices to see the interesting architecture. At night we had our 5th year anniversary dinner at a "Soba" restaurant in the hotel. The food was good and the sake delicious. Kathy really loved the sake in Japan.

  • On Wednesday we finally met up with the group that were part of the Mentor Series program. They had arrived in Tokyo the night before. We went on a tour with them to the same Shinto shrine. In addition to the sake containers, I took pictures of barrels of brandy that had been given by the vineyards of France. I also took pictures of the water and cups that are used to purify yourself before going into the shrine to pray. In the afternoon we walked to the Shinjuku Gyoen National Gardens. They were peaceful and serene.

  • Thursday morning the group left for the famous fish market at 4:15 am. We stayed in bed. Later we all went to the Sumo Wrestling stadium (think large basketball arena) and watched the very interesting matches for a couple of hours. In the evening we went to the Ginza district and took long exposure photos of the traffic at dusk. At night we put some clothes into a small bag and got ready to give up our luggage for two nights (it was too large for the bullet train).

  • Friday at 9:00 am we boarded the bus for Mt. Fuji. We could see it in the distance before we got there, which is unusual since it is usually in the clouds. We took pictures, then went up to the snow line. In the evening we checked into a hotel in the resort town of Hakone. Kathy had a traditional public bath (I took a shower in the room). Then we had a traditional Japanese dinner with the group. We were served and entertained by 2 geishas. All in all, it was an interesting day.

  • Saturday we boarded the bus that would take us to the bullet train for Kyoto. Because of some mistakes at the train station, we had time to take pictures of the bullet trains flying by. Finally we got on the correct train and got to Kyoto about 1 1/2 hours late. Then we went to our traditional Japanese inn (a "Roykan"). This one was built in 1747 in the "Gion" (old town) district of Kyoto. We wandered the streets of Gion spotting geishas and then had another traditional Japanese dinner. Afterward, we slept on the floor on thin, hard futons.

  • Sunday we checked out of our Roykan and took a bus to Nara, the ancient capitol of Japan in the 700s before Kyoto became the capitol. We visited the Todai-ji Temple, the largest wooden building in the world. It contains the world's largest bronze Buddha. We also went to the Kasuga Grand Shrine where there are over 3,000 stone lanterns. Back in Kyoto we visited the grounds around the Nijo Castle and then went to the Rokuon-ji Temple where we took pictures of the Golden Pavilion. At every stop we saw interesting groups of school children who liked to have their picture taken. When we finished the day's tour, we checked in at our last hotel (a modern one) and were reunited with our luggage.

    On Monday we didn't do any sightseeing. In the morning we edited our pictures on the lap top computer. After lunch Tom, the photography instructor, critiqued 5 photos for each of us. Later we submitted 10 pictures and the group leader displayed everyone's photos in a slide show. They will use some of our pictures later to produce an MPIX book. We will each get a copy.

  • On Tuesday the rest of the group flew home. For the next two days we explored Kyoto on our own. We took a taxi to the north-eastern edge of the city and hiked on the "Philosopher's Walk". It is a peaceful path by a canal with some craft shops along the way. We found a small local restaurant and had rice bowls for lunch. We walked among the golden gates of the Fushimi Shrine - it is a fascinating place (check out the pictures for today).

  • Wednesday was our last full day in Japan. In the morning Kathy packed and did some shopping. I explored some nearby temples and gardens. In the afternoon we went to the Gion area (near our old hotel) and did more shopping. Towards evening we wandered around and spotted geishas on the streets. Then for our last dinner, we found a traditional Japanese restaurant that overlooked the river. We ate sitting on the floor for the last time of the trip.

    On Thursday we took a bus to Osaka and flew overnight to San Francisco (arriving late morning on Thursday again). We had dinner with Holly and saw her new apartment.

    Friday we flew home to Austin. We were exhausted.

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In addition to the pictures of our daily activities (accessible from the links above), Kathy enjoyed taking pictures of the people and interesting architecture (both traditional and modern) of Japan. Click on the links to see some of the pictures. Most of the pictures are Kathy's; a few are Brandon's.

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C. Brandon Jones
email: Brandon "at" cbjones.info
updated June 12, 2009