To improve the appeal of our Japan Private Photo Tours, we at Japan Dreamscapes (JDS) are consistently researching new areas to offer our clients an even better Japan Photo Tour experience. Recently, our lead photo workshop leader spent the spring season chasing cherry blossoms across this nation. Chasing the perfect sakura took him from Kyoto all the way to Aomori with thousands of pictures to document his travel.
As part of his exploration, he ventured in Akita Prefecture, and he has already started to consider the best paths for maximizing brilliant photography and an all-inclusive photo tour experience. Three locations in close proximity to each other caught his attention.
The first is Matsumine Shrine in the Odate region of Akita prefecture. Dating back to its completion in 817 during the Heian Period, the shrine is encircled with giant cedar trees emitting a calming aroma akin to popular incense used for meditation. And although you will be entranced by all the natural photo ops around you, you will also feel an overwhelming sense of calm and peace around you. Once you pass through the「とりい」or outer gate, you are treading on holy ground, ancestral paths that samurai, merchants, geisha, priests and other walked before you. Steeped in history, the main shrine will beckon you and camera to take commemorative photos. And although anyone can find the shrine, your JDS Photography Workshop Leader will help you uncover the hidden spots and suss out the best vantage points for your Japan Photo Tour experience. While you are exploring the shrine’s grounds you may feel as if you’ve been ‘spirited away’ to a fantasy world.
Nearby are the Nagabashiri Wind Caves, and the caves and the surrounding flora will make you sit up and take notice. The wind caves occupy the slope of Mt. Kunimi. Due to the area being naturally cooled to between 0 - 5 degrees Celsius (32 - 41 F), very unique alpine plants flourish below their established growth range due to the constantly cold temperature supplied by the caves, almost 1000m below! Just beyond the reaches of the cave’s cooling powers, an entirely different vegetation profile exists, and the interplay of the two makes for breathtaking natural landscape photos. Some of the lovely flowers that can be seen in the area are the flowering lingonberry, the prickly wild rose, and the creeping dogwood blossom.
The piece de resistance is the final stop on this Akita inspired itinerary, the Torigata Estate. The estate represents a rare opportunity to enjoy traditional Kyoto style architecture outside the Kansai area. The Torigata Estate is more than 300 years old and spans several generations of the lineage for which the estate carries the name. Beyond the architectural marvels at the estate are the perfectly tended gardens that surround the main buildings. In any season you visit, the garden has something to offer you. Cherry blossoms in the spring, lush greenery of all varieties during the summer, autumn leaves, and finally, snow that almost politely coats many of the garden artifacts with chilly, monochromatic caps. All of the accoutrements of traditional Japanese gardens are present for you to photograph. There is even a koi pond teeming with koi hoping you’ll provide something edible while you snap photographs of their shimmering golds, reds, oranges, blacks, and whites. Near the main house is a tea room, also built in the classic style. If you are lucky, you may be able to photograph Japan’s rich matcha being made by an artisan with decades of experience. In short, you will be experiencing culture and natural beauty over the span of your Private Photo Tour in Akita.