On Assignment: Japan for Nat Geo Travel

Last October I photographed in Japan for a branded content project with National Geographic Travel and Japan National Tourism Organization. I posted images from the field on my Instagram account and after the assignment wrapped up, Nat Geo Travel did a takeover on their Instagram account and recently published articles on the Shimane and Hiroshima regions featuring my photography.

This was my second time to Japan and I remain charmed by the beautiful, friendly country. Scroll down to see my favorite images from the assignment along with some insights into the experience.

Shimane Prefecture Japan

Unfortunately, when I arrived in Japan, I arrived with a typhoon which was lashing the country with high winds and heavy rains. Though this was not an ideal start to an assignment, luckily I had head-to-toe rain gear and protection for my camera. When I arrived at Dangyo-no-taki Waterfalls on the Oki Islands I was able to make this image of falls. Read more about my¬†experience in a Behind the Lens article on National Geographic’s website.

Shimane Prefecture Japan

The Oki Islands, located north of Honshu, felt like a magical place to me. The countryside was dotted with traditional drying racks for rice, the coastline was rugged, and the forests felt ancient and wise. In one of those forests, I photographed the Chichi-sugi Japanese Cedar, which at over 800 years of age and 10 meters in circumference, was definitely something to behold.

Shimane Prefecture Japan

My favorite thing about being on assignment is meeting the people. I was invited into the home of Keitaro Nagaoka, a fisherman, painter, and herbalist who has lived on the Oki Islands for 38 years. He let me photograph him while he mended his fishing nets in his home.

Shimane Prefecture Japan

In Keitaro Nagaoka’s kitchen, I saw his shelves lined with herbal tinctures and some unusual remedies, such as pit viper alcohol. Although he offered me a tipple (which I politely declined), this wise man doesn’t use the alcohol for imbibing, rather for treating wounds.

Shimane Prefecture Japan

I loved the moody look of Dogo Island, the largest of the Oki Islands, from the Nagu-misaki Cape.

Shimane Prefecture Japan

From the Nagu-misaki Cape on Dogo, the typhoon weather finally eased at sunset and I caught my first glimpse of the other Oki Islands, called the Dozen Islands.

Shimane Prefecture Japan

At Teuchi Soba near Goku one can try their hand at making soba noodles and then feast on them for lunch. Soba noodles are unique on the Oki Islands because they use 100% buckwheat.

Shimane Prefecture Japan

The road leading to Izumo-Taisha Grand Shrine is lined with shops, eateries, and sacred torii gates. I couldn’t resist photographing this adorable Japanese couple as they ate from a food stall near the famous shrine.

Shimane Prefecture Japan

The Izumo-Taisha Grand Shrine is one of the most famous shrines in Japan and claims to be the oldest. The surrounding region of Shimane Prefecture is known as the land of the gods because the gods return to Izumo-Taisha every October and the god of fortune, O-kuninushi-no-mikoto, is housed in the shrine.

Shimane Prefecture Japan

Before the Adachi Museum of Art in Shimane Prefecture opens to the public, a team of gardeners spruces up the famous gardens, which are considered a living painting that changes with the time of day and the four seasons.

Shimane Prefecture Japan

The gardens at the Adachi Museum are not for strolling, but rather for viewing. Around every corner is a carefully curated viewpoint for looking at the “living painting.”

Shimane Prefecture Japan

Tamatsukuri Onsen is a hot spring village located near Matsue in the Shimane Prefecture. I loved seeing families and friends, like these Japanese women, enjoying the public foot baths that lined the Tamayu River.

Shimane Prefecture Japan

Tamatsukuri Onsen glows during the blue hour. The hot spring’s water is used in various bathing facilities and ryokans (inns) along the main thoroughfare which follows the Tamayu River.

Hiroshima Prefecture

Visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park was both a heart-breaking and hopeful experience. Although the atomic bomb devastated the city, somehow one building near the hypocenter remained standing after the infamous blast on August 6th, 1945. The Genbaku Dome was left in the same condition as it was found after the explosion.

Hiroshima Prefecture

The Children’s Peace Monument in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park was built as a monument for peace and to commemorate Sadako Sasaki and the thousands of child victims of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Ten years after surviving the atomic bomb being dropped on her city, Sadako Sasaki died at the age of twelve from leukemia, a common disease caused by nuclear radiation. During her illness she worked to fold over 1,000 origami cranes, hoping this would bring her a wish for good health. She did not survive, but her legacy of folding cranes has. Now children from all over the world come to the monument inspired by Sadako to deliver or send paper cranes to the memorial as a prayer for world peace and the end to nuclear weapons.

Hiroshima Prefecture

A man at his stand in the Omotesando Shopping Arcade which leads to the famous Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island.

Hiroshima Prefecture

Japanese deer wander freely on Miyajima Island and have been accustomed to tourists, like these Japanese women who had just come from a wedding.

Hiroshima Prefecture

The bright orange Itsukushima Shrine is known as the floating shrine because of its unique placement on the Seto Inland Sea. At low tide, the illusion of floating disappears as the water retreats and the local deer come in to graze for a bite to eat.

Hiroshima Prefecture

The bright orange O-Torii, or Grand Torii Gate, which stands in the Seto Inland Sea at about 16.8 meters in height, is the most well-known structure of Itsukushima Shrine.

Hiroshima Prefecture

At low tide, visitors flock to the base of the O-Torii to marvel at its size and to make wishes by placing coins into the wooden base of the gate.

If you’d like to see even more images of Japan or license images for commercial or editorial usage, please visit my Photoshelter archive.