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Japan is a landscape photographer’s paradise, from Tokyo’s bustle to peaceful shrines, bamboo forests and the splendour of Mount Fuji.

My first impressions of Japan were probably not the best, as it was rush hour on the subway train in Tokyo with luggage. I had seen videos of men in pristine suits wearing white gloves pushing people into the subway cars like sardines in a can, just so the doors would close; but now I was one of those sardines! In comparison, London tubes at rush hour is pure pleasure, at least extreme body contact is avoided by the Brits, but in Tokyo I had several intimate relationships against my will. It’s hard to think that people subject themselves to this level of stress everyday.

Tokyo Tower at Night, Tokyo, Honshu, Japan

After being here in Japan for a couple of weeks now, it does seem to go against the very organised and respectful characteristics of the Japanese. Outside of Tokyo the peace and normality returns. I’m travelling with my Australian client and friend, Alistair Wilson and what we’ve experienced with the Japanese culture has been enlightening. It’s very clean without being sterile and everyone has a great sense of pride in keeping their space clean. Wearing white gloves is very popular especially in the service industry. For our first taxi ride we were greeted by the driver dressed in a smart uniform, hat and of course, white gloves. London cabbies could take a page from their book, but I doubt if they would fit into a uniform! Whenever we needed a taxi, one strangely appeared out of the blue as though they could read our minds. Taxi doors open automatically and we entered a clean, white cloth covered seat and were whisked away to our destination for a very reasonable fee. It’s not in the Japanese culture to rip off tourists. I’m really loving this place.

Mt. Fuji Reflecting in Lake Tanuki, Fujinomiya, Shizouka, Honshu, Japan

All that I’ve heard about the 5 lakes area, we would be lucky to see Mt. Fuji was dispelled as we photographed Fuji from just about every angle over 2 days. Seeing Fuji is an awe-inspiring experience, it just doesn’t seem real. It’s so large that wherever you are in the 5 lakes area, it’s makes its presence towering over the landscape. Even though this is peak autumn colour season for this area, photographing most locations at dawn and dusk were relatively peaceful. Even at the Chureito Shrine we were surprised to see so many people there before dawn and yet everyone was quiet and respectful of the location. Do you ever wonder after seeing hundreds of photos of a location, what it will be like in person? Do you drive up to a car park, get out and there’s the spectacle? I wish that were the case on this occasion, as there was probably a 1000 steps up a very steep climb to the viewing deck. There were people running up and down the steps just for their morning exercise! The fact that I was carrying a 12-kilo photo backpack didn’t help. The Japanese seem to build their temples and shrines on the top of hills, so I’ve been getting my workouts on a daily basis hiking up and down doing an average of 10K a day. 

Rurikoin Temple Garden Reflection, Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto was a fascinating mixture of modern and old traditional culture and architecture. It was surprisingly warm in Kyoto, but the Japanese make sure you will never go thirsty as there are at least 2 or 3 vending machines wherever you go even in the most unlikely places, like at the top of a hill next to a shrine. I feel sorry for the person who has to stock the machine. We spent 5 days photographing in and around the Kyoto area, as there is so much to see here. Many of the locations in Kyoto tend to get over crowded during the day, so we went out every day before sunrise which was more relaxed, though it seemed like everyone else had the same idea with the bamboo forest.

Bentendo Hall & Bridge in Autumn, Daigo-ji Temple, Kyoto, Japan

We ventured just outside the city to the beautiful Diago-ji Temple where the autumn colours were stunning. It was tough to get a tourist free image as everyone wanted to have their photo taken standing on the bridge. It is possible though either through patience or using the ‘tourist removal tool’ in Photoshop. You may think I’m joking, but it’s possible by shooting multiple images and as long as people don’t stand in the same place in each frame. This technique is also great for removing cars from busy street scenes. Here it is step-by-step.

Tourist Removal Tool

  • Shoot a series of images using a tripod. Enough so that anything moving will not be in the same place in each frame.
  • Put all of the images in one folder.
  • In Photoshop choose File>Scripts>Statistics
  • Choose Median as the stack mode.
  • Select all of the images from your folder. (Cmd/Ctrl+A will select all)
  • Tick the box: Attempt to Auto Align Source Images.
  • Click OK and that’s it, tourists removed.

It was great seeing places as the sun came up, now I know why they call this the Land of the Rising Sun. In the time we’ve been here, I haven’t heard anyone say or act in a negative manner towards us. Even a security guard bowed and apologised when we had to leave the grounds when waiting for the lights to come on a shrine at blue hour. If I had to sum up the Japanese I would say very friendly, respectful and extremely organised. Japan is high on my list of favourite countries so it would seem fitting to go back again. If anyone would like to join me, I will be going back in mid-November 2024 for the autumn colours. Book your place now. If you would like to see more of my photos from Japan, have a look here. Sayōnara

Japanese Torii Gate at Sunrise, Lake Biwa, Takashima, Shiga Prefecture, Japan



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