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Author Topic: January in Japan...Advice?  (Read 4900 times)

rmfagan

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January in Japan...Advice?
« on: October 22, 2013, 04:38:54 PM »
Hello All-

I racked up enough miles to cover flights and hotel for a trip to Japan from Jan 9-18, 2014. I'm flying into Tokyo. The main draws for me are the snow monkeys near Nagano and Tokyo itself. I plan to spend 2-3 days on the monkeys, and other than flying into and out of Tokyo I am flexible. Is Hokkaido even doable in this time frame? I considered Kyoto to fill the time not used in Nagano or Tokyo. Is there much to see in Kyoto at this time?

Also of interest to me is whether I should rent a lens. I will be bringing my 16-35II, 70-200II, and nifty 50 on my 5D3. I may own a 24-70II by then. Should I rent the 85 1.2 for the trip? Monkeys are like people, so portraits, right? Worth it to bring my 600EX-RT and ST-E3 RT to do a little off-camera flash? Or do you think the monkeys will flip out if I pop them with a speedlight?

How useful might a macro be on a Japan trip? I'm thinking markets, sushi, possibly even a tight shot of the monkeys' eyes.

I'll likely bring either a 1.4x or 2x bc why not, and of course my tripod.

So, what say you collective CR intellect?


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January in Japan...Advice?
« on: October 22, 2013, 04:38:54 PM »

rmfagan

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Re: January in Japan...Advice?
« Reply #1 on: October 22, 2013, 08:19:03 PM »
I could have sworn I saw some shot of the snow monkeys on this forum before. I'd love to hear what you used and recommend. I also wish I remembered who that was that posted it.

vanshyosaka

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Re: January in Japan...Advice?
« Reply #2 on: October 22, 2013, 08:40:46 PM »
i am no pro photographer so i will focus on the japan part since i live there.
visiting hokkaido in January gonna be great if you have no problem with freezing weather.
if you care about history and traditions, give kyoto a visit, if not just dont bother.

just google hokkaido winter festival to see if you like it .
googling photos of places in japan gonna give you a good idea.

 welcome to my planet .

rmfagan

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Re: January in Japan...Advice?
« Reply #3 on: October 23, 2013, 01:49:26 AM »
If by history and traditions you mean some of the serene temples and buildings, yes, I am absolutely interested. I've always wanted to go to Kyoto for the blossom in the spring, but I just wasn't sure if the same splendor is captured in winter.

Any weather is fine with me. I served in Iraq and I've lived in the mountains of Montana so I can handle it all.

Do you think Hokkaido is doable in 2-3 days? If I do 2 days in Tokyo, a day in Kyoto, 2-3 days in Nagano (monkeys), that leaves 2-3 for Hokkaido or something else. If I make the trip all the way north, I'd hope to see the red crowned cranes and whooper swans. Think that's doable in 2-3 days? Are there local tour operators to facilitate this or is it possible "self-guided" so to speak? Are there any particular places or "spots" you can recommend for either of these?

Smurf1811

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Re: January in Japan...Advice?
« Reply #4 on: October 23, 2013, 03:49:43 AM »
I've spent two weeks in Japan this year (not in the winter-time  :'(). I think one day is enough for the monkeys. The monkey-park is not so big. The best lens for shooting them will be the 70-200mm (for me). Also i think you don't need the 85mm 1.2 and a Flash.

Here are some of mine:

http://500px.com/photo/34170658
http://500px.com/photo/34178694
http://500px.com/photo/34181308
http://500px.com/photo/34298678
http://500px.com/photo/40367860

But Tokyo is such a great place to be. I could have spent my two weeks only in Tokyo. In Kyoto there are a lot of temples and the Samurai-action-park  ;D.
Before: Canon-Fanboy with 16 Lenses
After: Nikon D4, Nikon D800, Nikon D610, 10,5mm f 2.8 DX, 14-24mm f 2.8, 16mm f 2.8, PC-E 24mm f 3.5, 24mm 1.4, 24-70mm f 2.8, 28-300mm f 3.5-5.6, 35mm f 1.4, PC-E 45mm f 2.8, 50mm f 1.4, 58mm f 1.4, 70-200mm f 2.8 VR II, 85mm f 1.4, 105mm f 2.8 VR, 2 x SB-910

eml58

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Re: January in Japan...Advice?
« Reply #5 on: October 23, 2013, 04:42:11 AM »
I was in Japan late December 2012/January 2013 for 3 weeks.

Tokyo was Cold, not exceedingly, but Cold, around +5 or 6 Celsius during the Day, we spent 6 Days there, could spend another 60.

Kyoto is worth doing, it's a lot more interesting if it's been snowed in, or if it's Autumn with all the Colours of the Leaves  to add, but it's still quite Beautiful.

Snow Monkeys are worth spending at least 2 days on, we had 3 days, one day snowed quite a bit which gave us our best shots, snow sitting on the Monkey's heads, it can be well below freezing so absolutely go ready for Cold, minus 10 celsius the day it snowed for us. You have a bit of a Hike to get in, not serious, but be aware of what your carrying in the Gear department, I took Tripods etc, never used them.

The monkeys you can get within a meter so the majority of my own shots were with the 70-200f/2.8 L II, 135f/2 L & 85f/1.2 L II, my best shots I feel came from the 85. But if it's snowing heavily, the 70-200f/2.8 is the go, weather sealed.

Hooping Cranes and Sea Eagles are a long way further North, you may not get the time to fit these in, always a good reason to go back, Love Japan, Beautiful Country, amazing Food and just about the nicest People you could Imagine.
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Ben Taylor

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Re: January in Japan...Advice?
« Reply #6 on: October 23, 2013, 06:17:28 AM »
I was in Japan in January this year, mind you I only made it to Tokyo and up to Niseko for a snowboarding trip. In saying that, Tokyo is sensational and you could spend weeks there and never get bored. I wrote a blog post about Tokyo that might give you some ideas on photos or places to visit. Here's the link: http://methodicallymuddled.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/tokyo/

Here's my two hottest tips for Tokyo in January:

1 - If there's a sumo tournament on, go to it.

2 - Take a jacket.

I don't think you'd need to rent any gear, you'll go ok with what you've got.

Have fun, Japan's a fantastic country.
5D Mark III  | 5D Mark II  |  Samyang 14mm f/2.8  | Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L  |  Sigma 85mm f/1.4L  |  Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II  | Canon 2X Extender III  |  Canon 580 EX II  | RRS TVC 34L + RRS BH55 LR                            http://www.flickr.com/photos/ben_taylor_au/

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Re: January in Japan...Advice?
« Reply #6 on: October 23, 2013, 06:17:28 AM »

ZiggyDeath

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Re: January in Japan...Advice?
« Reply #7 on: October 23, 2013, 07:59:11 AM »
Is there much to see in Kyoto at this time?
There are so many major temples and complexes in Kyoto that it would take at least a week to cover if you did 2 a day.

Quote
Also of interest to me is whether I should rent a lens. I will be bringing my 16-35II, 70-200II, and nifty 50 on my 5D3. I may own a 24-70II by then. Should I rent the 85 1.2 for the trip? Monkeys are like people, so portraits, right? Worth it to bring my 600EX-RT and ST-E3 RT to do a little off-camera flash? Or do you think the monkeys will flip out if I pop them with a speedlight?
Can't comment about the monkeys but be ready to haul all your gear around with you on foot. Public transportation is great in Japan, except during rush hours - you'll probably get some nasty stares if you're bumping into people during this time with a bag full of camera gear.

Quote
How useful might a macro be on a Japan trip? I'm thinking markets, sushi, possibly even a tight shot of the monkeys' eyes.
Great for food, there's tons of food in Japan that is photo worthy. But unless you need to have macro, a 24-70 lens will do in a pinch. There's a fish market in Tokyo which has auctions and many street vendors, you can even try whale there if you want to do so.

Quote
I'll likely bring either a 1.4x or 2x bc why not, and of course my tripod.
In Kyoto, the use of tripods in many temple complexes are forbidden, some even forbid the use of monopods - yes, there are "no monopod" signs. If museums are your thing, most disallow the use of photography anyways (the Edo-Tokyo museum being an exception).

gfoulk

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Re: January in Japan...Advice?
« Reply #8 on: October 23, 2013, 09:18:53 AM »
Awesome, you'll love Japan!

Hokkaido is technically doable in your time frame, but I wouldn't recommend it - you're going to spend 2 of your 3 days just getting there and back. Not saying Hokkaido isn't worth going (actually going there in February myself,) but with your tight schedule I think you should focus on the many great places closer by.

Kyoto on the other hand, I would definitely recommend. It's less than 3 hours from Tokyo by shinkansen. There are some really spectacular temples and shrines. I've been there many times but never in winter; I bet it would look fantastic if you're lucky enough to have snow coverage (I've got my fingers crossed for February.)

If you want to check out a castle, go to Matsumoto Castle, near Nagano. Most castles in Japan are post-war concrete reconstructions - still pretty cool, but not quite the same thing. Matsumoto-jo on the other hand is one of the few remaining originals and considered one of the most beautiful.

Nara and its Great Buddha is within spitting distance of Kyoto, though Kyoto might give you your fill of temples.

Nikko is a great day trip north of Tokyo. It holds the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the 300 year long Tokugawa Shogunate and the most powerful man in Japan's history. It's ridiculously over the top.

Get a JR Pass. If you're doing any traveling it's an incredible deal.

Around Tokyo, I recommend the Tokyo International Forum, something you won't find highlighted in most guidebooks but is photography candy. Go at night.

I also recommend riding the Yurikamome line - it's a driverless elevated monorail, which means you can sit up front and shoot directly out the front windshield, which gives you a really unique view of the city. Also better at night, though since they shut down all the nuclear plants there aren't nearly as many lights on in the office buildings (great for conservation, not so great for photography.) The Yurikamome takes you across Tokyo Bay to Odaiba, which was mostly developed in the last 20 years and looks like The City From The Future (by which I mean big buildings surrounded by lots of parks and open areas - almost no low rise sprawl at all.) There's also a life-sized Gundam there :)

I would say check out GCANS, the Tokyo municipal flood control system which has incredible mega-architecture, but they require you to have someone who can speak Japanese with you so that might not be an option.

Go to Tsukiji, the huge wholesale fish market. Take advantage of your jetlag at the beginning of your trip and go at 4am to catch the auctions.


davidcampbellphotography

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Re: January in Japan...Advice?
« Reply #9 on: October 23, 2013, 09:27:06 AM »
I don't think you need the 85/1.2 for the snow monkeys. 70-200 and 50mm will be fine for portraits. Especially if they are on the far side of the onsen. 16-35 will be good if they come up close.

Depending when you will be in Japan during January, you may be able to time your visit to see the winter illumination festival in Shirakawago (Gifu Prefecture). I highly recommend it.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidcampbellphotography/4343813400/#in/set-72157623535422839
This image is a stitch 2 rows x 3 shots at ~135mm then cropped. 20sec exposures.

Info about the location, festival dates, how to get there etc.
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e5956.html

Nearby Shirakawago is a town called Takayama which is also nice.
If you are travelling through Nagano for the Snow Monkeys, Matsumoto has an original Castle that was not destroyed during the Meiji Restoration. I never managed to see it covered in snow but its black colour would look amazing with snow covered roofs and the red foot bridge hand rails.
This town also has a wood block print museum which has a rotating display. They also sell hand made reproductions of some of the famous Hiroshige and Hokasai series which make for nice souvenirs.
The mountain range in Hakuba from the top of Happo One ski resort is impressive. (you can get the gondala to the top with out skis/snowboard with a return ticket rather than all day)

If you are willing to travel north from Tokyo, there is the temple complexes at Nikko that have intricate wood carvings that are colourfully painted. South West is Kamakura. Here there is also a Great Buddha bronze statue (Outdoor).

Have a look through my old Flickr collection, it is organised in sets of the locations.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidcampbellphotography/collections/72157608783712689/

I also have most of the places on this google map. If you click the pins, it will show a photo of the location Red are missing photos, green are castles.
http://goo.gl/maps/6sT90

Hope this helps, enjoy your trip.

David
www.davidcampbellphotography.com.au

shashinkaman

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Re: January in Japan...Advice?
« Reply #10 on: October 23, 2013, 10:25:09 AM »
Don't be such a Pixel Peeper!

rmfagan

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Re: January in Japan...Advice?
« Reply #11 on: October 23, 2013, 10:59:28 AM »
Wow! I'm so grateful to everyone! You guys should collectively start a site on Japan or host photo tours. Thanks so much for all the guidance!

lion rock

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Re: January in Japan...Advice?
« Reply #12 on: October 23, 2013, 11:11:17 AM »
The first week of January is a celebratory and vacation time for the Japanese, and just about every business, including shops and restaurants are closed.  The time you choose is fine.

One time when I visited Tokyo, we had a few hours to kill in the airport for family members who flew in later in the evening.  We took a transit ride to the small town of Narita (there was a space set aside in the airport to check in your luggage for a fee for a short while.) for a short visit. It was really enjoyable.

As for Kyoto, there are places to visit; places where modern geisha works, old temples and parks and even shops that sell antique katanas ($300 thousand for one!) and silk kimono stores.  One day there is probably not enough, especially considering the cost and time on the ride on the Shinkansen. A night at the traditional hotel is nice and an experience.

As for Hokkaido and Tanchos (red head cranes), it is highly recommended.  But, you'll either have to fly north of take the train there.  Once there at Sapporo, you'll have about 6 hours of car ride on snow and ice covered hilly highway (part of the highway is heated) to reach the Tancho village to see the congregation of the cranes.  And a couple of hours ride to see sea eagles.  I spent 5 days in Hokkaido and it was not enough, I want to stay longer.

While in Japan, be sure to have sushi.  I would not hesitate to try every street food. It is very good.  The Japanese are extremely clean.  Even those little food places inside the local subway stations in Japan (JR) are fantastic.

Hope you will have a grand time there.  I'll go back.  Definitely!

<pictures included --- Town of Narita - main street, Sushi House in Tokyo, sushi, and traditional hotel in Kyoto>

(a few more photos on the next post.)

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Re: January in Japan...Advice?
« Reply #12 on: October 23, 2013, 11:11:17 AM »

lion rock

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Re: January in Japan...Advice?
« Reply #13 on: October 23, 2013, 11:15:01 AM »
A few more photos .
<Temple in Kyoto, map of Hokkaido (Google image), snow covered highway in Hokkaido, and Tancho in Hokkaido.>

lion rock

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Re: January in Japan...Advice?
« Reply #14 on: October 23, 2013, 11:36:18 AM »
As for camera gear, I went to Japan in 2005 and later in 2006 with a Rebel and kit lens   :-\.
In subsequent visits, it was with 40D, 24-70 f/2.8 and 70-200 f/2.8 II.  In 2012, I use 5DIII, same lenses plus 2XII.  The zoom telephoto with 2X TC was barely enough for Tanchos.  A longer lens would be welcomed.  My desire is the 200-400 from Canon  8).
<photo: cranes in flight>
-r

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Re: January in Japan...Advice?
« Reply #14 on: October 23, 2013, 11:36:18 AM »