Historical Japan Winter Tour

Japan, January 26 - February 5, 2024

Have you ever wanted to visit and photograph Japan?

Japan can be difficult for a foreigner to visit in a way that makes it possible to get the most artistic and satisfying photographs and not the usual tourist snapshots.

Have you considered going there on a photography trip, but never resolved to, because of cultural and language barriers, difficulty of planning, or because you are scared of being ripped off by tour operators that don't have the best interests of photographers in mind?

If that's the case, you might have just found the solution to your problems.

Photo by Walter Mario Stein

This is a tour meant to let you discover the intimate and traditional Japan, its onsen (termal baths), wooden houses, tatami floors, tea ceremonies and smiling geishas. We want to make you experience the real Japan that lies beneath the high-tech gadgets and the glitzy neon lights.

The pace of the tour is optimal for us photographers. It is designed to let us spend as much time as we see fit in each location, without unnecessary pressure to move on to the next one. It We don't like shooting when there are big crowds and we're sure you don't either, so we'll pick times carefully to avoid them.

Ours will be a small group of no more than 8 photographers, in addition to instructors. We deliberately chose to limit the group size to make the tour more of an intimate experience and to give you our undivided support.

This also means we will be able to select smaller, more traditional hotels and restaurants and avoid those that cater to large groups and events.


To ensure the maximum level of comfort during the whole trip, we will make ample use of Japan's super-efficient and timely railway network, including the famed Shinkansen bullet trains. These are usually the fastest means of moving from city to city.

Wherever necessary, we will also use private luxury vans with professional drivers.

Geikos and Maikos

Geishas (or Geikos as they are called in Kyoto) and Maikos (apprentice Geishas) are a well-known and largely misunderstood part of Japanese lore. Our aim is to get you to know really well this particular aspect of it.

It is not easy to get an appointment with a Maiko or a Geiko. There are only about 200 of them left in the whole of Japan. They are extremely sought after and generally only entertain clients with good track records and they prefer to deal with regular customers. Usually, a recommendation from a previous client is required.

Thanks to our excellent contacts, we are able to give you a Geisha experience that very few other tours are able to offer. 

We will stroll the gardens together or have tea in some private rooms at the temples. We will click away as our kimono-clad friends move with grace. It is all very informal. These ladies are well-trained in arts, dance, music, and conversation. They know exactly where to place themselves in the room. we never have to tell them the location or pose. Every afternoon there is so leisurely delightful.

Each session will last one or two hours, in a private setting, with one instructor and two students at most.


  • The tour begins on January 26 and ends on February 5, 2024.
  • Duration is 11 days (10 nights), with the possibility of extensions.
  • The price of the tour is €7,500, inclusive of single room accommodation.
  • The tour starts in Osaka and ends in Tokyo. We recommend booking your return flight from Tokyo, but transfer back to Osaka via bullet train is also possible.
  • Highlights of the tour will include:
    • Osaka, Kurashiki,  and Himeji.
    • Kyoto, with its temples and parks
    • One or more intimate portrait sessions with a geisha (1-2 photographers max).
    • The snow monkeys of Jigokudani Park.
    • The traditional mountain villages of Shirakawa-Go and Gokayama, famed for their farmhouses with dramatically angled thatched roofs.
    • Other historical cities and locations, possibly including Nara, Kanazawa, Takayama, Matsumoto, Kamakura, Nikko.
    • An optional extension to Tokyo after the end of the tour.
    • More to be revealed as we proceed with the planning and scouting.
  • Very small group size: maximum of 8 students.
  • Assistance of a professional photographer.
  • The best local guides and drivers.


Day 1: Osaka

At your arrival at the Kansai International Airport, you will be greeted by our driver, who will take you to our hotel in the center of the city. In the afternoon, we will do an introductory presentation, followed by a photo walk around the neighborhood and a welcome dinner. Overnight in Osaka.

Day 2: Kurashiki

Departure to Kurashiki in the morning. On the road, we will visit the Castle of Himeji. Dinner and overnight in Kurashiki.

Day 3: Kurashiki to Kyoto

In the morning, we will visit the historical city of Kurashiki. After lunch, we will make our way to Kyoto by train. Dinner and overnight in Kyoto.

Day 4: Kyoto

The day will be dedicated to visiting the many temples of the ancient capital of Japan and possibly photograph a Geisha. Dinner and overnight in Kyoto.

Day 5: Kyoto

The day will be dedicated to visiting the many temples of the ancient capital of Japan and possibly photograph a Geisha. Dinner and overnight in Kyoto.

Day 6: Kyoto and Nara

Today we will take a trip to the city of Nara, with a stop on the way to the Fushimi Inari shrine. Return to Kyoto for the night.

Day 7: Kanazawa

After breakfast, we will board a train headed to the coastal city of Kanazawa, which we will visit in the afternoon. Dinner and overnight in Kanazawa.

Day 8: Shirakawa-Go and Takayama

Today we board a private van that will take us to the mountain village of Shirakawa-Go and then to Kanazawa, where we will spend the night.

Day 9: Yudanaka Onsen

After breakfast, we will do a long train transfer to Yudanaka Onsen. After having checked in at your stay, you will have some free time to relax or explore the city before dinner. Overnight in Yudanaka Onsen.

Day 10: Jigokudani Monkey Park

The highlight of the day will be a visit to the famous Jigokudani Monkey Park, where you will have the opportunity to photograph the "snow monkeys" in their habitat. We will then move by train to Tokyo, where we will have dinner and spend the night.

Day 11: Tokyo

In the morning, we will visit a neighborhood in the capital city of Japan. You will be then transferred to the airport, in time for your departure, unless you want to spend a few more days in Tokyo.


To travel and work with Ugo is a delight. He is resourceful and knows his destination, so no matter what weather awaits you, Ugo will always suggest a way to make the most of the day. He is energetic, non-stop, productive. A travel/work experience with Ugo motivates you to become a better photographer. Must mention that he is very fun company, and loves good food!

Cristina Piva , São Paulo, Brazil

What is included

What is included

The price of the workshop includes:

  • Support and photography instruction by myself during the whole tour.
  • Review and post-processing sessions during the whole tour.
  • Private portrait sessions.
  • Ten nights' in select hotels with single room accommodation. You won't have to share a room or pay extra for having a room to yourself!
  • JR Rail Pass and transportation in a private vehicle during the whole tour, including transfer to and from the airports, as required by the itinerary detailed above.
  • All breakfasts.

What is NOT included

The price of the workshop does NOT include:

  • Transportation to and from your place of residence to the airports of Osaka and Tokyo.
  • Entrance tickets to museums, temples and archaeological sites.
  • Any meals outside of breakfast.
  • Beverages.
  • Personal health and travel insurance. A travel insurance, covering medical, hospitalization and repatriation costs in case of illness or accidents is strongly recommended
  • Anything not specifically mentioned in the "What is included" section.


Use the form below to submit your booking request. I will respond within two business days with a confirmation. In order to confirm your booking, a deposit of €1,000 is required.

Historical Japan Winter Tour Booking Form

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. I will be happy to provide all the answers you need.

Fushimi Inari-taisha, Kyoto

My husband and I were fortunate to travel on Ugo Cei's photography trip to Oman. The country itself is an undiscovered treasure, filled with nature and welcoming people. Traveling with Ugo was a pure pleasure. He offered us a thoroughly researched itinerary and lots of photographic guidance. We shot portraits, landscapes, markets and all manner of subjects and Ugo was always there to offer tips. Do yourself a favor and try out one of his workshops!

Susan Higgins Flickinger , Verona, WI
Man looking out of traditional Japanese house in Kyoto, Japan

I have done 3 photo tours with 3 different guides and locations, this has been the best of the three. Ugo was definitely the best of the three guides. His attention to detail with setting the scene and location with models, suggestions on camera settings were helpful for me, a novice with portrait photography. I would definitely recommend any tour with Ugo, he is an excellent photographer willing to share his knowledge, experience and secrets of special places he knows to make the entire photography experience a lifetime memory.

Diana Hatfield , Denver, CO
Tokyo Skyline

If you are planning to travel and love photography at any level Ugo can plan a personal tour to fit in with your itinerary! He has a wealth of knowledge to share with you on any subject of photography. Apart from photography (my passion) Ugo provides a total travel experience looking at Italy through the eyes of a local. A life changing trip leaving me totally hooked to book another! Thank you Ugo and yes I will be returning my dilemma is choosing a destination.

Sharon Jackson , Gold Coast, Australia
Snow Monkeys, Jigokudani Park, Japan

Ugo was a wonderful teacher and host in Venice at last years’ Carnival. He takes all the time you need to get your shot and to help with the camera settings when needed! Ugo was very generous and took us out for dinner two times, beginning and end of the workshop. And, he’s fun to be with!!

Lynda Rubin Greenberg , Toronto, Canada
Shirakawa-go in winter under the snow

What an extraordinary experience to participate in a photography tour and workshop with Ugo Cei Photography Tours, in Venice, Italy during the Venice Carnival. His knowledge of Venice along with the right place to be at the right time made this perfect. Add to that his technical and lighting knowledge and then to top it off the perfect local eateries and local interests. It was days full from daylight to evening at a manageable pace with likeminded new international friends. So glad I took the leap and participated.

Judith Pannozo , Racine, WI