Thanks for taking the time to check out my latest instalment in my new series – Tokyo Photography Tour 20?? If you have been following along at home, you will know that I have toyed with the idea of a being part of a photography group travelling to Japan for some time. However, I don’t know that I fully bought into the idea that I would be the one organising and running the group. And yet here we are! I have accepted my fate and embraced the opportunity to take a deep dive into what it takes to travel with a group of photographers to Japan. In my last article, I also talked about my decision for the very first tour to take place in Tokyo. I covered most of the reasons for that decision in my last blog here. Now I face the task of answering a bunch of other questions that this endeavour raises.
Before I get into where within Tokyo we would stay, how we would get around and what photography sites are worthy, I need to work out how to get there. Of course, getting myself there is easy – I have done it four times already. And as many of you will know, booking travel is so simple these days. Important to note that by ‘these days’ I mean prior to the pandemic. Who knows how easy travel will become in the future. And on that another important note – I have no idea when international travel will resume for leisure nor do I know how the countries at the other ends will handle international travellers. Nor how Australia will handle return travellers – that is all a big unknown. Regardless, I am going to move forward with my plans, my intent and my hopes that Japan will one day be just as accessible as it used to be. If we don’t push forward at times like these then we have truly lost to the pandemic.
For the sake of this exercise, let’s assume that one day, things will be back to normal – or at least as close to normal to make travel safe and available again. That raises the question of how to get a group of people to Tokyo at the same time? My intended tour group is obviously unknown. I know people that are interested but not a definitive list. Plus, it is likely that not everyone will be flying from the same Australian city. I know some people that want to join me on this trip and they currently live in Melbourne. So in planning flights from Australia to Tokyo, I will need to be conscious of these factors. If it turns out that all the participants are in Melbourne, then organising flights becomes a whole lot easier.
Organising travel for a group is all going to depend on the size of the group. For my first tour, I want to start off small. I would probably be comfortable with between 4-8 other tour members. Keep in mind that I have never organised any sort of group travel before. But, with a small group, I cannot see why it should be any different to organising family travel. I would decide on the best season for us to travel – we will cover this in more detail in another blog – and then select the travel dates. This may or may not be influenced by any sales that may come up plus things like school holidays, etc. I guess I could give people the option for me to book their flights or for them to book their own. Again, it all depends on who is coming and where they are located. Plus, some people might not want to or be able to arrive on the same day as the rest of the group. They may arrive at a different time and day – and that is why having a solid itinerary is important.
An itinerary of where we will be – more or less on each day – will help those that want to join the group at a different time. Plus, I know a few photographers in Japan that may want to meet up with us partway through the tour. As you can see there are already so many variables in organising a tour.
Regardless, working with a small group with most of the members taking the same flights as me will be very straight forward. As long as I stay on top of the itinerary for what time people need to be at the airport, all the flight times, etc. While it is tempting to just say, organise your own flights and meet me at Shibuya Crossing on the 3rd May 20??, that would not be my best effort. Organising the bookings and staying on top of the itinerary will result in a more organised and successful start (and finish) to the tour. Knowing that everyone is on their flights, when they will arrive and where they will be at any time allows me to react to issues. If it is purely a Melbourne based group, then that is even easier as I can book all the flights and notify people of when to arrive at Melbourne International Airport and off we go.
Flights may be direct or via one of the northern states of Australia – usually Queensland. Some flights may even have a stop somewhere like Singapore. It all depends on the airline and at this point in time, we don’t know what airlines will still be around in 20?? In general, a flight from Melbourne to Tokyo takes around 13 hours with one-stop and I have never had an issue with jetlag – Tokyo is only an hour behind Melbourne. Tokyo has two airports that accept international flights although I have only ever flown into Nara. Nara is located well outside of the centre of Tokyo and it takes a fast train around an hour to make the journey. We will cover that and more transport options in more detail in a later blog too.
I guess the biggest takeaways for me in writing this blog is that there are a lot of variables in organising a tour – especially when it comes to the flights. If someone is flying to Tokyo from Perth and the rest from Melbourne, there is a good chance that the arrival times in Tokyo are going to be very different – possibly even different days. Plus, if I am asking tour members to pay me in advance for flights, the flight costs could vary depending on where they are departing from. Depending on the airline, some people will want to add a food and entertainment package and others won’t. Some will want extra legroom and others won’t. I just need to be ready and adaptive to these situations. Another important factor is to ensure that I have a solid itinerary with a plan for entering and exiting Tokyo. This way, tour members will be secure and confident in our travel plans.
I know that a lot of this may seem like common sense but I guess I don’t want to be flippant with people’s safety and enjoyment while in a foreign country. I want an itinerary to also cover daily activities, locations, meals, transport options, etc. Above all else, booking travel plans is a lot of fun and can be just as exciting as the day you get on the flight. As for how long we will be in Tokyo, that is all going to depend on what I would like to cover during the tour. My initial thoughts are 7 days with a travel day at each end. We can explore that in more detail in a future blog too.
For now, I will continue exploring the Tokyo Photography Tour 20?? and bring you regular updates on my progress. It is hard not to be impacted by all that is happening in the world at the moment. Even just here in my home state the government has just sent many Melbourne suburbs back into lockdown due to a spike in Coronavirus cases. But as I said earlier, I have to keep moving forward with my plans. I hope that you and your loved ones are safe and well. Happy travels…one day! G