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Going to Tokyo, Hiroshima, Kyoto, Osaka on 20th of March. What to photograph?

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by T N Args, Feb 6, 2015.

  1. T N Args

    T N Args Agent Photocateur

    Dec 3, 2013
    Adelaide, Australia
    call me Arg
    My first visit to Japan. On holiday, complete with wife and two adult daughters (poor me -- or lucky me).

    14 days, about 3 or 4 in each city.

    My mind is completely open to suggestions re photography. Or tourist activities for that matter. :tongue:
     
  2. sushi

    sushi Mu-43 Regular

    101
    Feb 28, 2013
    Brunei
    Syukri
    There's an Anime Fair in Tokyo on the 21st and 22nd [emoji16] would be interesting to see all the Cosplays. If you are in Tokyo on Sunday, Harajuku will be an interesting place to visit.

    Arashiyama (Kyoto) is amazing for photo opportunities! When I went there, it feels as if I am in an anime.

    Also, you must try Pablo Cheesecake in Osaka (Dotonbori) hehe
     
  3. T N Args

    T N Args Agent Photocateur

    Dec 3, 2013
    Adelaide, Australia
    call me Arg
    Uh oh, better not tell my daughters :biggrin:. But yes, great for photos.

    Thanks! will check it out.

    My goal is to gain 3kg while there because of all the good food!
     
  4. Jfrader

    Jfrader Guest

    Cherry blossom (sakura) season starts end-of March or early April for the areas you will visit. I hope you have hotels locked in for Kyoto as it will be completely booked out for the best viewing times from March 28 - April 20. My favorite places to see and photograph in Kyoto during that season are around Nijo Castle, the Imperial Palace Park, Rioan-ji Temple and Maruyama Park on the east edge of the city. Really, virtually every temple or shrine will have some on display. Get out early for best photos. The tour bus crowds start arriving at the best sites by 9:00 am and for hanami (blossom viewing) the crowds will be incredible. For blossoms in Osaka, try along the river park and near Osaka Castle. In Hiroshima, the Peace Park is pretty much on everyone's list and the riverside walk will have blossoms in large masses. At any of the big parks, the blossom-viewing parties will start laying down tarps and blankets everywhere by mid-afternoon so again, best bet is early.

    I assume you will be using a Japan Rail Pass, either the country-wide Pass or a Kansai Area Wide Pass. Between Osaka and Hiroshima are a couple of nice photo-worthy sites - Himeji Castle in Himeji and Korakuen Park (Japanese Garden) in Okayama. The famous Okayama Castle (the Black Crow Castle) is right across the river via pedestrian bridge from Korakuen, an equally famous site known as one of the 3 best Japanese Gardens in the country. Also, if there is time, a 10-minute ride on a local train from Okayama Station gets one to the partially preserved, feudal era town of Kurashiki. During cherry season, the old river-canal that was used to ship rice is covered in blossoms and old pole-boats for atmospheric photos.

    Aside from sakura blossoms, I recommend first-time visitors to Kyoto see the usual "best" sites. Nijo Castle, Kiyomizu-dera shrine, Nazen-ji, Sanjusangen-do, Ginkakuji (the Silver Pavilion), Heian-Jingu Shrine (will be swarmed so go early), Kinkakuji (the Golden Pavilion), Ryoan-ji (the "Zen Rock Garden" temple) and a host of others. The Imperial Palace tour is a bit disappointing as you can't go inside. The grounds around the palace are nice, though. Get a guide book and cherry pick as there are far more good places than you will have time for. I like to get an ICOCA pre-paid transit card and ride the subway and bus system around town but if time is limited, you may find cabs are easier and quicker on occasion. They are everywhere and the drivers know all the sites. NO tipping, please. Just pay the amount on the meter. Drivers are competent and honest. Generally, there is no tipping anywhere in Japan. You can actually give offense if you try to insist on tipping.

    Kyoto Station is an architectural marvel that is worth some photo attention. Take the escalator all the way to the top for sweeping views over the city. Sadly, you will be shooting through safety glass. As an aside, the Tourist Information Center on the 9th floor is a good place for maps, guides and advice. Another view out over the city can be found at the top of the garden trail in Ginkaku-ji park.

    Take some fast glass as several temples, shrines and other places will not allow tripod or flash. Some don't want you taking pictures at all but a small pocket camera with fast glass may still get you a shot. For the giant Buddha in Nara, I had to shoot at ISO 1600, f/1.8 and still lean against a pole for stability.

    Wear heavy socks as you will have to remove shoes to enter many temples and such and floors are hard and can be cold. They usually offer slippers but I have never found any I could get on my size 13s.

    At Hiroshima, if you allow enough time, a day trip down to Miyajima Island is worth a half- or full day. A Rail Pass will get you on the local train to Miyajima-guchi where you catch a JR ferry (also covered) to the island. Go beyond the big, famous temple with the "floating" torii gate to take the walking paths and rope-way to the top of the island for great views.

    Himeji Castle has been under renovation but will be reopened for visits by the time you arrive. It will probably be swarmed because it has been unavailable for several years. If you can get in, the gardens should be gorgeous in early April. If that doesn't work, a day trip on local trains from Kyoto will take you to the little town of Hikone on the shore of Lake Biwa. Hikone Castle is one of the last remaining original-construction feudal castles and a nice visit. From the castle keep picnic area you can get nice shots out over Lake Biwa.

    Another must-do day trip from Kyoto or Osaka is ancient Nara, the capitol before Kyoto took over in the late 8th century. It will also be awash in sakura and a walk around the extensive Nara Park will give you hundreds of shots of ancient structures and holy sites. I have actually chosen to stay in Nara instead of Kyoto a couple of times just so I could get early starts on the historic sites.

    Your arrival in late March may be a bit early for cherry blossoms, at least for the first week. If so, look for nice plum blossom displays at many of the temples. I actually like plum blossoms better than the more famous cherries.

    In Tokyo, the most commonly recommended sites for sakura tend to be Ueno Park and Yoyogi Park. They are fine but my favorite spot is the Hama Rikyu Imperial Garden. I also like the older Asakusa neighborhood around Senso-ji temple. The river-walk park along the Sumida River is very pretty and gives you an iconic shot across the river of the truly ugly Asahi Brewing Company building, called the "golden turd" for obvious reasons. A fun way to visit both Asakusa and Hama Rikyu is to take the water taxi from the Asakusa river park down to Hama Rikyu for an interesting "back side" view of the city. From Hama Rikyu you can either walk to Tsukiji Market or Ginza or just take the boat back to Asakusa.

    Also in Tokyo, the Akihabara (Electric Town) area can give some interesting street photography. One stop further on the train to Ryogoku (Sumo Town) gets you to the excellent Edo-Tokyo Museum. More fast glass opportunities.

    I am getting carried away. :) I have traveled and photographed all over Japan during over a dozen visits on all four major islands and like talking about it. My last trip was 12 days wandering around Hokkaido in fall. Feel free to ask further.
     
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  5. Ian.

    Ian. Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 13, 2013
    Munich
    Ian
    All I can add is:
    Hiroshima: Peace Memorial Museum and the A-Bomb dome and Aioi bridge.
    4550168421_e475107533_n. The A Bomb dome by ianp5a, on Flickr

    Tokyo: City views from the World Trade center observation lounge.
    4550742422_645885706e.

    Shibuya Crossing
    4550181945_8c7cdc07fe.
     
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  6. Jesse_S

    Jesse_S Mu-43 Regular

    73
    Jan 7, 2013
    Seattle, WA
    Don't forget Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. You have to get there real early to see the best stuff (like 3:30-4:30 early) but it's a side of Japan you won't see anywhere else. I had heard that parts of it are now off limits to tourists (the Tuna auctions, I think) but it should still be worth the early morning. You'll never see so much seafood in all your life!
     
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  7. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    Arg

    I did a solo trip to Tokyo in 2013.

    I put up a blog about my experiences of Tokyo... it may or may not of be of interest to you... I am not a conventional tourist -)

    http://ginoux.blogspot.be/2013/04/tokyo-arrival_21.html

    have a good trip... Tokyo is definitely an experience!

    K
     
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  8. T N Args

    T N Args Agent Photocateur

    Dec 3, 2013
    Adelaide, Australia
    call me Arg
    Oh wow. I wake up to find all these helpful posts! Many thanks to everyone, especially Jfrader who made so many suggestions. :2thumbs: I'm going to have to pick out a few and save some others for another visit. I have wanted to visit Japan for decades, finally making it happen, but definitely expect other visits to follow. Not a one-off.

    It didn't click that cherry blossom season means peak tourist season, silly me. :rolleyes: After my experiences with crowds at Angkor Wat last February, I know what I'm in for. I personally prefer quiet and open places, but that is not reasonable when visiting Japan's cities, and I will gear up to enjoy the bustling life. :)
     
  9. sushi

    sushi Mu-43 Regular

    101
    Feb 28, 2013
    Brunei
    Syukri
    Check out www.japan-guide.com for more info on Japan, a very good resource and probably one of the best guide for Japan.

    As someone above mentioned, if you have the time, take a half day trip to Nara from Kyoto, it only takes about an hour or so. Nara park is full of friendly deers that you can feed and Wakakusayama is breathtaking, literally (because you have to hike a bit haha) and also in terms of scenery, you get an amazing panoramic view of the city!

    If you need to check out train times www.hyperdia.com is your friend.

    If your aim is to gain weight in Japan, then you don't need to worry, it's food heaven over there [emoji106]
     
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  10. Zee

    Zee Mu-43 Top Veteran


    P!$$ alley in Toyko, near Shinjuku station - excellent food in the little stalls.... Just google it, you'll find it easily enough.

    Z...
     
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  11. hazwing

    hazwing Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 25, 2012
    Australia
    Wow, that was a pretty informative post. Speaking of hokkaido, how did you find it? Any recommendations on what to do there? Hokkaido, might our next travel destination, when work/life permits...
     
  12. Canonista

    Canonista Mu-43 Top Veteran

    563
    Sep 3, 2011
    L.A.
    You're getting some excellent advice here.

    I agree with Jfrader about Himeji Castle. It's a bit of travel from Osaka (1.5 hours west by train), but it is truly a sight to behold as the most magnificent, and most original of Japan's many castles, and has been used for location filming in many movies, including the Last Samurai.

    In Tokyo, the Skytree has become a landmark building taking over from the original Tokyo Tower, and you'll get a terrific view of the city from above.

    Japan is said to have more star restaurants in the Michelin Guide than Italy and France combined, and you won't be disappointed. In addition to restaurants, be sure to visit the underground food courts in major department stores. The variety and quality is staggering.

    Last but not least, don't forget to stop by the electronic megastores like Yodobashi Camera. Every type of photography gear is on display for you to handle, which may or may not be a good thing. :smile: Just be sure to ask for a sales tax waiver; your passport will suffice.
     
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  13. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    I haven't been overseas for a long time, but even when travelling locally, the last places that I want to visit are the usual tourist traps/destinations. Show me one thing in these places that hasn't been photographed a million times before. The best trip I ever did was years ago passing through Barbados; we went away from the usual tourist areas and visited the out of the way spots, met an ex-pat that ended up showing us places tourists never saw. We then did the same in Tahiti, booking a cab for the day and asking the driver to take us to place tourists never go. We saw the other side of the island and plantations and had a brilliant lunch in a café/shop on the other side of the island.
     
  14. T N Args

    T N Args Agent Photocateur

    Dec 3, 2013
    Adelaide, Australia
    call me Arg
    I know, I know, but this is a holiday with family, and I know what will happen! :help: And I'm going to make the best of it being that way. I got the clear message from jfrader that it's peak tourist season too. My daughter mentioned this morning it is just as well we are booked in at Kyoto, as jfrader mentioned, because there is only one hotel with room to accommodate us for our dates. One! And $3000 for 3 nights. Ahem. Crowds, here we come, elbows first!
     
  15. T N Args

    T N Args Agent Photocateur

    Dec 3, 2013
    Adelaide, Australia
    call me Arg
    I hadn't considered this. I assumed prices would be high. Are there bargains? How much is the tax waiver?
     
  16. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    :eek: That would give you a month in a top class hotel in Bali, with full breakfast.
     
  17. Canonista

    Canonista Mu-43 Top Veteran

    563
    Sep 3, 2011
    L.A.
    You can check out the local prices at the sites below by typing in the product name in the search window:

    http://kakaku.com/camera/

    http://www.yodobashi.com/カメラ/ct/19055_500000000000000301/?query=&cate=19055_500000000000000301

    Prices can be quite competitive depending on the item and the exchange rate with your home currency. For Americans, during the last 18 months, the Yen has dropped 50% in value to the dollar (from 80 yen down to 120 yen), so shopping there has become much more affordable.

    Local sales tax now is 8%, so the waiver gives you an effective discount of 8%, so it can be quite meaningful on a larger purchase. I'll probably pick up a lens during my next visit in the Spring. You can read about the waiver here: http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/attractions/shopping/05.html
     
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  18. hazwing

    hazwing Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 25, 2012
    Australia

    Sometimes the usual tourist spots are popular for a reason. They're usually somewhere iconic and special. e.g. I feel like it would be a shame to go to Paris and not see the Eiffel tower. Sure, sometimes these tourist spots are crowded and often have overprice inferior food... but I don't think you should miss it, simply because everyone else is doing it too. Sure it's been photographed many times, but that shouldn't stop you from taking your own photos, to refresh your memories of your time there.

    Don't get me wrong though... it is also fun getting off the beaten track. One of our most enjoyable moments in japan was when we went out past Nikko, to the yumoto onsen area. We got slightly lost during a hike and ended up walking a lot longer than we anticipated. We got to our desired destination, there just happened to be an ashiyu (hot spring foot bath), which we happily soaked our tired feet in.
     
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  19. hazwing

    hazwing Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 25, 2012
    Australia
    Ouch... that is expensive accommodation... You could buy a lot of camera gear for that price!
     
  20. Jfrader

    Jfrader Guest

    How did I find it? Well, I just hopped on a train headed north and eventually bumped into it. ;-) Sorry, couldn't resist. In short, I loved it.

    Hokkaido is very different from the rest of Japan. It has only been settled by the Japanese for a few hundred years and Hakodate was one of the few ports permitted to westerners during the late Edo Period. Consequently, the city is very European in some neighborhoods. Being further north, the whole island tends to be much cooler, more rural and more agricultural. There are also some world class national parks up in the mountains. Winters are very cold and snowy. Sapporo hosts a large ice sculpture festival in February. I think of Hokkaido as being the Japanese version of Alaska or northwest Canada.

    I was there in late September/early October and was specifically in search of fall color. Although I spent some wonderful days in coastal areas like Hakodate, Sapporo, Abashiri and Kushiro, the fall color was to be found up in the mountains. Most people spend a few days in Sapporo and think they have seen Hokkaido. The reality is that for my purposes, Sapporo was almost boring and the real sights and photo ops were further afield. I loved Hakodate with the morning seafood market right on the harbor (fresh seafood and crab for breakfast - mmm), the photogenic old European Quarter, the ropeway to the top of Mt. Hakodate for sparkling nighttime views out over the city, the Ainu culture at the Museum of Northern Peoples, a wonderful old tram for getting around and the most beautiful Japan Rail Station I have seen. Abashiri was interesting with the old, storied prison of song and movies, the ice flow museum with actual sea ice room (during hard winter they run ice breaker tours out into the Sea of Okhotsk), the Koshimizu wild flower park and the views out over the sea to Russian-held territory. Kushiro is reputed to be the "foggiest spot in Japan." While I was there, it was spectacularly clear and I got the best sunsets of the entire trip, out over the harbor and river mouth. Kushiro is also the jumping off point for the nearby wild crane reserve with thousands of Japanese Cranes and other migratory birds. Asahikawa is reputed to be the coldest spot in Japan (in winter) but is also the jumping off point for several national parks and some of the best mountain hiking in Asia. I took a local bus up to Asahidake Onsen resort area and continued up the mountain on the cable car. At the top it was cold enough for jacket, mittens and hat but the foliage was ablaze in red, orange and yellow. You can hike the trails as far as you want, shooting photos every other step, before returning to the cable station for a hot meal to warm up and the cable car back down to civilization. I was in heaven until I realized I was having trouble feeling the shutter release with numb fingers.

    If I go again, I will probably go in summer when the extensive lavender fields are in bloom and agricultural fields are all photogenic, or winter for the ice sculpture festival and the ice breaker trip. We'll see. The best way to see Hokkaido any time other than winter is probably to rent a car and drive. That said, I did most of my travel on local trains and buses and got everywhere I wanted just fine, with the added bonus of being able to watch the scenery rather than the road. I hasten to add that I speak some Japanese and get along fine in rural, out of the way spots where western tourists are relatively rare. Many a day in the northeast part of the island I was the only westerner on a bus, train or even in whole stations. Sapporo is much like Tokyo or Osaka, Hakodate is a wonderful blend of modern Japan and the older, small-town Japan with some European atmosphere mixed in. Abashiri and other towns further afield are not much like Tokyo or mainland Japan at all.

    I encourage visits to Hokkaido. Get a JR Hokkaido Rail Pass and explore beyond Sapporo. I think you will enjoy it.

    Some info: http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/regional/hokkaido/

    Most of my better images are restricted copyright but I share some of the others on various forums and Facebook. Here are a few.

    DSC1545-M.

    DSC1676-M.


    DSC1914-M.


    DSC2175-M.


    DSC2388-M.
     
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