Itinerary Inspo: Tokyo and Kyoto
Finding the most scenic and memorable destinations is second nature to photographers Chelsea Mealo and Rod Trevino. Those looking to immerse themselves in the natural beauty of Japan may find inspiration in this creative duo’s itinerary. Focusing on the areas surrounding two of Japan’s most iconic cities — Tokyo and Kyoto — Chelsea and Rod have fine-tuned their destination list to capture some of the most stunning locations.
As the tallest mountain in Japan, Mount Fuji stands as its sacred symbol and is one of the most sought-after destinations for Japanese and international travelers. Despite being classified as an active volcano, its last eruption was in 1707. Just 60 miles from Tokyo in the Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures of central Honshu, it is an impressive destination for both those seeking to hike its summit and those who wish to take in its beauty from the ground. Explorers can begin their journey at the Fujisan World Heritage Center to learn about the nature, culture and climbing of the volcano.
Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park
Dubbed “the paradise of the monkeys,” the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park is home to a truly unique sight — wild Japanese macaque, also known as snow monkeys, casually bathing in natural hot springs. While beautiful year-round, the region is covered in dense snow for nearly a third of the year. This incredible cold is what sends the monkeys into the water, where the hot springs are a warm respite from the winter temperatures. This is a popular destination among photographers, nature enthusiasts and ecologists alike. After a day of hiking and exploring the park, take inspiration from the macaque and soak in the nearby onsen.
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
Stroll a path lined with a seemingly endless amount of bamboo, all stretching wildly towards the sky. Located outside of Kyoto in the village of Sagano at the base of Mt. Arashiyama, this free-of-charge experience is one for the books. Listen as the bamboo stalks sway in the wind and experience the beauty of one of Japan’s most photogenic destinations. Walking tours are available, and it is recommended to visit the Tenryu-ji Temple just south of the grove as well. Buses depart every seven minutes from Saga-Arashiyama Station, or travelers can walk about 15 minutes from the station to the grove.
Soaring rocks and a 55-foot waterfall make for incredible scenery. A trip to the Takachiho Gorge means experiencing the Gokase River in all its powerful beauty. For a truly immersive experience, visitors can navigate the calm waters by renting a rowboat at the south end of the gorge. Otherwise, a walking path leads to the waterfall’s peak and offers breathtaking views throughout the approximately half-mile journey.
KAWAZU SEVEN WATERFALLS
Known as the “Roof of Japan,” the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is an impressive sight throughout the year, but it is the region’s heavy snowfall that makes it an icon. Getting up to 23 meters of snow that often holds its ground into early summer, the road has to be cleared to make way for the pass’ buses. The result is soaring walls of snow along the road, which brings countless visitors. Hiking trails abound but the journey through the pass is an experience all its own. Requiring a series of buses, cable cars, trolley-buses and even a ropeway to cross the Japanese Northern Alps, the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is an experience like no other. The route can be accessed via Ogizawa Station on the Nagano-side of the mountain range or Tateyama Station, on the Toyama-side of the mountains.