Tour Summary

An action-packed photographic journey exploring some of the best Fall color locations in and around Kyoto. Accommodation in 3-star hotels, all dinners and all ground transportation included. This Tour is designed to arrive in Kyoto at or close to peak of fall colors. The schedule is based on predictions from Japan Railways for the given year. Tour is limited to 7 guests.


Tour Leader

This Tour is led by yours truly, Laurent Martrès, author & photographer of the popular Photographing the Southwest series of guidebooks and publisher of a number of other photography guidebooks. Tens of thousands of people have bought my books, which have been in print since 1998. My company has sold over 100,000 books the "Photographing" series worldwide.

I have lived 5+ years in Japan and I have personally researched and fine-tuned this Tour's itinerary four times over the past three years to provide the best possible photographic experience. 

I am a highly-experienced world-traveler, having visited 82 countries to this day, some repeatedly and I am comfortable traveling just about anywhere in the world. I am very accessible, patient, and eager to share my knowledge and enthusiasm for Japan, photography, and Kyoto in particular. My essential goal is to help you bring back memorable photos and memories of your trip.


Day 1 Thu Nov 21: Meet the group at our hotel in Osaka. Official start of our Tour (check-in starts at 3pm), rest, meet & greet, Welcome dinner 

Day 2 Fri Nov 22: Day in Osaka, visit Yodobashi Camera, Nipponbashi, Denden town, late afternoon shoot of Osaka Castle, evening shoot of Tsutentaku-hondori and Dotonbori district.

Day 3 Sat Nov 23: Transfer to our Kyoto hotel by train, shoot at Tofuku-Ji temple, walk and shoot inside grandiose Kyoto station evening shoot at Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine.

Day 4 Sun Nov 25 thru Day 8 Thu Nov 28: in & around Kyoto, each day’s itinerary to be decided by Tour leader. Among others, we will visit and photograph: Kiyomizu-dera, Sannen zaka, Ninen zaka, Yasaka-no-To Pagoda, Kinkaku-ji, Bishamon-do, Daigo-ji, Daitoku-ji Zen gardens, Pontocho Dori, Gion quarter, a morning in Arashiyama to photograph the Bamboo forest and Okachi Sancho residence, and an excursion to Nara.

Day 9 Fri Nov 29: final morning in Kyoto, official end of trip


Itinerary Variance

I reserve the right to make reasonable changes or substitutions to the above itinerary/visits as conditions dictate (weather, closures, ongoing construction, etc...)



To minimize transits with our luggage, we will only use two hotels during the Tour. One in Osaka and one in Kyoto. Both hotels are 3-star properties and are located in the city center, making it easy to find restaurants and shops of all kinds within walking distance. 

Note that Japanese hotel rooms are extremely small by North American standards, even in 3-star hotels. Bedding is generally good, but finding room for luggage is often a challenge. Bathrooms and showers are high-tech but equally tiny. In choosing our hotels, convenience, comfort, cleanliness, while keeping the price reasonable was my guiding criteria. You will be sharing your room with another participant. If you are used to plenty of space, you need to seriously consider this before signing up for this Tour. In our Osaka hotel (Namba Oriental Hotel), room size is 248 sq. ft. In our Kyoto hotel (The b Kyoto Shijo), room size is 215 sq.ft. If you are a seasoned traveler, accustomed to smaller rooms, you should have no problem with these otherwise very clean and modern western hotels offering lots of amenities and toiletries. I encourage you to look up our hotels online to make sure they are up to your standards before signing up for the Tour.


Directions to our meeting place

Our designated meeting place is the Namba Oriental Hotel, where we spend the first two nights of the Tour. The fastest and most convenient way to reasch the hotel from Kansai International Airport (KIX) is on a 'Rapit:t' Airport Express (pronounced Rapido) operated by the Nankai Airport Line. Namba is the last station on the line, and our hotel is just a couple of minutes away on foot. For information and schedule, please see:

Physical Condition

This Tour involves plenty of city walking. However, it is within the capabilities of most people in good physical condition. If you have concerns about your own capabilities and/or fitness as it relates to this trip, please check 'Health Considerations' in our Tour Policies and talk to me before reserving a space. Your most important item (besides your camera) is a great-fitting pair of shoes.


Know your Camera

Although I am relatively knowledgeable with a variety of digital cameras, I cannot possibly know the specific features and options of every camera model. To fully benefit from your trip, it is essential that you know and understand how to operate your camera. Don’t buy one at the last minute, expecting to learn in the field. Also, be sure to bring the camera's user manual or have a PDF available on a portable device or on the cloud. Tripods are almost never authorized in temples and zen gardens, but are essential for early morning and evening shooting, so be sure to take one. I recommend a small travel tripod, as long as it's strong enough to support your equipment.


Instruction and Portfolio Review

Although this Tour is not a workshop “per se” and we will be busy shooting many locations, there will be time each day for instruction on topics such as composition, blue hour, golden Hour, reflected light, nightime photography, light painting, perspective compression, focus stacking, post-processing, etc... Instruction may be dispensed on-demand in the field or during slack time. 

I have a vast experience in constructive analysis of images. I have been on the jury of the #1-ranked La Quinta Art Festival for eight consecutive years, and I am regularly asked to jury other shows and photo club competitions. Should you be interested in my expertise and guidance for a portfolio review,  you can be assured of receiving a useful, and honest private critique.



Use of a laptop or tablet is optional and guests will be instructed on basic post-processing of their images only as time permits. This Tour’s emphasis is on shooting locations in the early morning or at opening time to avoid crowds. Plenty of rest time will be allocated after a usually full morning shoot, before going out again in late afternoon.


Cell phone

it is essential that participants have a working cellular connection while in Japan, either through their regular provider, or via a local Sim. We need to be able to communicate at all times, while in large venues such as temples and gardens, when in different taxis, and especially when in the presence of crowds when it's easy to get separated. Be sure to do your reserach before the trip.



You may be interested in reading some basic Japanese Do's and Don'ts in social contexts. A web search will bring up a plethora of informed articles on the topic. I will also broach the subject of Japanese etiquette briefly during the Tour. By and large there is nothing to worry about as we will have little contact with the population outside of tourist areas. On cardinal rule is that there is no tipping in Japan. You’d make people very uncomfortable if you tried to leave a gratuity! It is customary to remove your shoes before entering shrine, temples and tatami matted areas, be sure to have a pair of shoes you can easily remove and put on, as we will encounter this situation repeatedly. Also, don't wear shorts, it's not done in Japan and it will be too cold in the morning and late evening.



No particular vaccinations are required for Japan, but I suggest that guests have their flu shots before leaving for the Tour. This is both as a courtesy to other guests, and to protect yourself from catching a bug during the Tour. Japanese people make it a point to wear a mask if they feel they could transmit or catch a cold or the flu.


Theft & lost items

Japan is known for its extremely low petty crime rate and theft is not an issue. This doesn't mean you shouldn't be vigilant, but forgetting your camera bag or tripod in a restaurant or taxi is is a much higher risk than having it stolen.


Street smarts

Remember that traffic in Japan runs on the left side of the road (aka ‘the wrong side of the road’ for north-Americans and continental Europeans). Always wait for the proper signal to cross a street, it’s the best way to avoid accidents. In the absence of signals, be sure to look to your right first before crossing.


About taxis

We will almost exclusively travel in standard taxis during our visit as most minivans are limited to 6 passengers (many streets are too narrow for large vehicles). Japanese taxis are extremely clean, drivers wear white gloves and are universally polite and helpful. It will probably take you a few times before remembering not to close the taxi door behind you. Yes, Japanese taxi doors close automatically once you've exited the vehicle. They also open automatically for you as you approach. All taxis will be managed and directed by me and all fares are included in your tour. This doesn’t cover your own private trips around town. Uber has a small local presence, but there is a local equivalent with a much larger fleet of vehicles. I will use a cab hailing app to facilitate our transits.


Other ground transportation

We will travel by rail between Osaka and Kyoto as well as from Kyoto to Nara and back. We may occasionally take a subway or train outside of rush hour in Kyoto if taxis are not available or less convenient. 


Price of Tour

The price of the Tour is US$4,350 with an exceptional Early Bird Tour fee of US$3,975 prior to May 15, 2019. It includes 8 nights in 3-star accommodations in downtown Osaka and Kyoto. This is a very agressive price for Japan. It includes all dinners, all ground transportation during the Tour, as well as all entry fees to the numerous sites we'll be visiting. You’ll be sharing twin rooms in Osaka, but I have also optioned a couple of single rooms in Kyoto. There is a single supplement of US$750. Double rooms are not available on this Tour.


What’s included in the Tour

All tour planning and coordination

All ground transportation from official start of the tour at our hotel in Osaka until the morning after our last night in Kyoto

All dinners in Osaka and Kyoto, with the exception of drinks.

Entrance fees to all sites

Professional photographic coaching during or after shoots as well as a constructive private critique (upon request).


What's not included

Round-trip flight and land transportation from your home to and from our hotels

Meals other than dinners. Both hotels on this trip offer buffet breakfast for a fee, however we will often be in the field before breakfast hours. All breakfast and lunch will be at participant's discretion. There will be plenty of restaurants and fast food places near the hotels and at or near the venues where we will be shooting. There is a convenience store close to our hotel in Kyoto.

Dinners outside the group.

Drinks, snacks and/or beverages from minibar, room, service, or hotel bar, items of a personal nature.

Telephone calls, laundry, in-room pay-per-view entertainment.


If you are interested in joining me but need more information, please do not hesitate to contact us by eMail at [email protected] or by calling (909) 987-1921. Also, be sure to read the Tour Policies. We look forward to seeing you in Japan, for a great photography tour!


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