Discover Shikoku Photography Tours

Join us on a photographic sojourn to Japan's mystical island of Shikoku and the stunning coastal landscape of the Seto Inland Sea.  Immerse yourself in unforgettable architecture, culture, and cuisine all while gaining invaluable instruction from some of the industry's best!

Come hang out with our featured instructor the always personable, guitar slaying, photographer extraordinaire, Stirling Elmendorf.

Stirling Elmendorf -

Based in Japan and born in Washington, D.C., Stirling Elmendorf has spent nearly half his life overseas, living in Honduras, Ecuador, India, Mozambique, Rwanda and Japan. Growing up with a professional photographer mother was a source of influence and inspiration.
His career as a photographer began in rural Tokushima Prefecture, on the island of Shikoku.  The inspiring natural beauty of the surroundings led to his deep appreciation for the power of photography and the desire to share his view with those around him.

Travel has taken Stirling to incredibly populous and equally remote locations on the planet. His photographic catalog includes much of the United States and Hawaii, Mexico, Japan, Hong Kong, China, Thailand, Cambodia, Australia, New Zealand, Barbados, Belize, Tanzania and Dubai.
His fine art work has been displayed in galleries in Washington DC and San Francisco and his photographs published in the New York Times, National Geographic Traveler Magazine and numerous books and websites on architecture, design, conservation and the environment. 

His clients include many famous names from the worlds of architecture, interior design and high fashion, as well as unique individuals seeking a fresh, creative perspective.

Grab some additional knowledge from our travel guide and fellow professional photographer, Sean Brecht.  

Sean Brecht -

In addition to his current role as Managing Director of Discover Shikoku, Sean is an internationally acclaimed Japan based photographer specializing in travel, architectural, and social-documentary content.  A native of Guam, he has shot extensively across Asia, Europe, the US, and the Middle East.  Highly regarded for his low light prowess, his work has been featured in galleries in the US and Japan as well as numerous publications internationally.


A special offer from our friends at thinkTANK

For our guests coming from the USA please click HERE for a great offer on thinkTANK and Mindshift gear!  (hopefully thinkTANK will make this offer available to all of our global guests soon)! 


2018 Spring Photography Tour

May 15 - 25

(Kyoto, Kurashiki, Tairyuji, Kotohira, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Osaka)



May 15   We will meet up in the lobby of NOKU hotel (check it out) our very groovy and conveniently located accommodations during our stay in Kyoto.  Kyoto station has a quick & convenient bus connection direct from Kansai International airport in Osaka (bus details here) as well as the Haruka limited express train running directly from the airport to Kyoto station (train details here).  For those choosing to travel via Tokyo, we recommend a wonderful ride on the Shinkansen with great views of Mt. Fuji (shinkansen info here).  Hotel Noku is a short 12 minute taxi ride from Kyoto station and we'll be receiving guests in the lobby from 12:00 - 18:00.  This first evening we'll have a welcome dinner and some free time time to walk around and unwind. 

May 16-17 Our Kyoto days will be filled with some really fascinating experiences including the towering bamboo forest of Arashiyama, Kangaan (a bar in a temple run by Buddhist monks), the incredibly stoic rock gardens of Ryoanji, and the breathtaking architecture of Kyomizudera.  We will also be visiting the golden pavilion of Kinkakuji, the famed Geisha district of Gion, the moss gardens of Saihoji(viewable only by private reservation), the Higashiyama district's philosophers path and the austere Ginkakuji temple.  Throw in Kyoto's premier photo-op at Fushimiinari as well as visits to Hosenin and Gion-ji and you have a Kyoto experience like no other.

May 18th  Our day begins with a ride on Japan's famous Shinkansen down to the city of Okayama where we will transfer via private car to the remarkably well preserved merchant town of Kurashiki (gateway to Shikoku) for a lovely two night stay at the beautiful Ryokan Kurashiki(have a look).  Upon arriving at the Ryokan we will set out to explore this incredible town with its stunning architecture, artisan crafts, and traditional food and culture.  A lovely kaiseki dinner at the ryokan will be followed with a well deserved nights rest. 

May 19th  This day will see us departing early for a trip down to Ono port where we will board the ferry to the famed 'Art Island' of Teshima.  On Teshima immerse yourself in some of the most fascinating art experiences the world has to offer including the mind-bending Teshima Art Museum, and several of the 'Art House' projects.  Upon our return to Kurashiki we will dine out filling ourselves with Yakitori on this evening.

May 20th  A morning departure will take us on a drive over the Great Seto Ohashi Bridge with its never ending views of the Seto Inland Sea to the island of Shikoku for our day of Ohenro pilgrimage at the venerated mountain temples of Kakurinji and Tairyuji. The trip up to Tairyuji will include a truly epic cable car ride and a mountain trek up to the precariously perched statue of Kobo Daishi.  Our nights lodging will be a real treat at the brand new and beautiful Asan Kotonami property(have a look here).

May 21  We will travel to the mountain top Ohenro temple of Unpenji and visit the beautifully designed nearly 100 year old Hounen Ike dam.  After a great lunch we will head off to the city of Kotohira where we will stay at Kotohira Kadan(here), a lovely ryokan where you will be residing in stunning traditional estate houses meticulously relocated to this ryokans garden.  While in Kotohira we will ascend the famous 785 step up the Nakasendo(shopping street) to the main hall of Konpira Shrine(Kotohira gu).  Those of a particularly adventurous spirit are welcome to climb the additional 583 steps to the inner hall of the shrine half way up Mt. Zozu.  Optional sunset/night and sunrise/morning climbs are also available.

May 22  This morning we will travel over the Shimanami Kaido bride crossing the Seto Inland Sea once more heading to the city of Hiroshima where our trip will take a slightly more somber tone as we visit the A-bomb dome and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.  We will be staying at the Sheraton Grand in Hiroshima and are planning to take in a Hiroshima Carp baseball game either tonight or on the 23rd. (schedules for the 2018 season have not yet been released so we cannot yet confirm this).

May 23  Today is a very special day as we will board the ferry for a day trip to Miyajima (the island where Gods dwell) visiting the Itsukushima Shrine (a Unesco World Heritage Site), take a stunning ride up the Mt. Misen ropeway, and befriend the resident deer population as we tour other sites on this most remarkable of islands.  A night ferry will take us back to Hiroshima for another relaxing night at the Sheraton Grand. 

May 24  The final full day of our tour will begin with a drive down to Onomichi Floating Port, home of Setouchi Seaplanes (check them out HERE) where we will take a ride on a seaplane for a bids eye view of the Seto Inland Sea!  After returning back to solid ground we'll travel on to Osaka for a one-of-a-kind Dontonbori nightlife experience.  We'll overnight at the Hilton, conveniently located to access both Kansai International Airport and the Shinkansen for everyones departures the following morning.  

May 25  Our morning debrief and sayonara breakfast.

Some of what we'll be learning about...

Instruction will cover a variety topics including:

  • Architecture in travel photography
  • Soft Seascapes
  • Portraiture in travel photography 
  • Cityscapes at night
  • Lightroom workflow
  • Fill flash for daylight portraits 
  • Landscapes in travel photography
  • Arial photography 

Traditional covered bridge in Kotohira

Hiroshima Atomic Memorial Peace Park

Itsukushima shrine on Myajima island

Ryokan Kurashiki

Nightlife in Osaka

Konpira Shrine


Registration information available via the inquiry link here

2018 Spring Photography Tour

Simply fill in your name, email address, and let us know you'd like to inquire about our 2018 Spring Photography Tour.  We'll get right back to you with registration information.

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The enrollment fee is per person / double occupancy (ryokans and farmhouses may sleep multiple occupants) and includes 3 meals daily (May 15 dinner only / May 25 breakfast only).  Single occupancy available at additional cost[Please note that single occupancy may not be available in all locations].

Enrollment fee does not include travel costs to/from Japan, domestic travel inbound to the city of Kyoto (Noku Hotel) or outbound from the city of Osaka.  

This tour has a required minimum enrollment of 6 participants.  If the minimum enrollment has not been met by March 01 2018 the class will be cancelled and all deposits will be refunded in full within 30 days.

In order to provide the best photography experience Discover Shikoku limits this tour size to 12 travelers.

A 50% Deposit is due at time of registration.

The remaining balance is due in full on April 10 2018.

Proof of travel insurance (minimum coverage stated below) is required no later than May 01 2018.  

To ensure the safety of your personal data a registration request email link is provided above.  Once we have received your email request we will send a fillable PDF registration form to you.  Fill out the registration form and send it back to us and we will forward you the deposit payment link.   If you are working with a preferred agent, payments will be handled directly through them.



2018 Autumn Photography Tour

Nov 02 - 12

Kyoto, Koyasan, Mt. Tsurugi, Kochi, Tairyuji , Teshima Island, Iya Valley, and Matsuyama

Our Fall Photography Tour offers 10 days of shooting in some of the best destinations that western Japan has to offer.

Where we’ll go…

The Iya Valley
Ochiai Village
Naruto Whirlpools
Teshima Art Island

Some of what we’ll find…

Begin your journey in this mystic birthplace of Japan's Zen Buddhism
A true pilgrimage experience at this mountain top temple 
Bonita tuna gutted and straw grilled by hand and the impressive Kochi castle
Valley of the dolls, the famed vine bridges, and the picturesque Iya onsen
Stay in spectacularly remodeled traditional thatch roofed farm houses
Experience and photograph this unique tidal phenomena up close
Two nights in the Japan's stunning former capital
Enjoy a day of cycling and art on this hidden gem of the Seto Inland Sea
Get to know one of Japans grooviest port cities and the gateway to Shikoku

Along the Shikoku 88 pilgrimage path

One of the double vine bridges of Iya valley

Kochi Castle

Mountain trekking on Shikoku

Takamatsu port

The approach to Tairyuji temple

Pricing and Registration for the 2018 Fall Photography Tour opens March 01 2018

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Travel Insurance

We require all tour attendees to carry full coverage travel insurance.  We recommend World Nomads (, industry pioneers of travel insurance for adventurous souls in far flung corners of the globe! 

Travel Insurance: Each participant hereby confirms that they understand and agree to purchase the required insurance listed below, that is valid internationally, and that they will be required to provide proof prior to departure for the Trip and in order to participate.

Required Coverage:

  • Accident & Sickness Medical Expense Coverage (minimum $100,000 USD)
  • Emergency Evacuation & Repatriation of Remains (minimum $200,000 USD)
  • Accidental Death / Dismemberment
  • Trip Cancellation Coverage

Suggested Additional Coverage:

  • Hospital Room and Board
  • Baggage and Personal Effects Coverage
  • Trip Delay / Interruption
  • Visitor to Bedside

We strongly urge you to evaluate your risk and to take out travel insurance that covers the full value of the Trip and personal effects in the case of Trip cancellation, loss or theft of baggage, and emergency evacuation. Discover Shikoku, our owners, agents and subsidiaries will not be held responsible for these expenses. It is vital for you to realize that if you experience a delay or find it necessary to cancel or cut short the Trip for any reason, you will lose part or the entire sum of the amount paid (see the section “Deposits, Payments, Cancellations and Refunds” in the terms and conditions above).

Travel insurance helps to minimize the risk of monetary losses you would incur in the event of a delay of your departure due to weather, airline strike, missed connection, etc., your inability to travel for reasons such as illness, injury, unforeseen financial complications and other personal circumstances, or if you were required to cut the Trip short for medical or any other reasons.

There are restrictions and limitations on any insurance program. For this reason, we recommend that you read carefully the fine print of your insurance policy.

The work of Stirling Elmendorf

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