Two Weeks in Japan on Film

Japan is a fascinating mix of old and new- from thousand year old temples to the Shunjuku crossing- the country has endless avenues to explore.  I split my time between three cities, exploring the ancient in Kyoto, the new in Tokyo and the wild in Yamanouchi (home to the onsen-lounging snow monkeys).  My friend Emily and I packed our suitcases, passports and cameras in hand and made the 16+ hour journey from New York and Los Angeles to Tokyo.  The first thing that hits you in Tokyo is how vertical the city is.  Our first night we stayed near the train station and went exploring the nearby office buildings, which were also malls, chalk full of level after level of interesting stores and restaurants.  There seemed to be entire cities contained in singular buildings.  As we were both seafood eaters we made an agreement to try anything put down in front of us and we had an adventurous couple of weeks trying everything from flights of tuna to the (not so deadly) fugu, squid guts, $8 strawberries and just about everything cherry-blossom flavored imaginable.  A highlight of the trip was taking a Culinary Backtours tour of Tokyo and learning more about Japanese culture through food.

After one night in Tokyo we headed out on the bullet train to Kyoto for 3 days of exploring temples.  We had both read that it was essential to visit the Fushimi Inari shrine first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds, certainly not a foreign concept to me as a photographer, so we planned to get up and out by 6:30am. With the joys of jet lag, neither of us really slept and we were out the door by 6 and had the epic shrine made up of thousands upon thousands of vermillion shinto gates completely to ourselves.  By the time we left around noon the place was absolutely packed and felt like we were fighting through the crowds as Disneyland.  The gardens surrounding the shrines are equally as beautiful as the gates themselves and we had an incredible morning doing the 2.5 hour loop through the mountains.  There’s a cute coffee shop called Vermillion that overlooks a pond and we took a little break after our walk enjoying hot coffee and watching the king fishers dive in and out of the water in front of us.

Back in the city of Kyoto the highlights were walking Higashiyama and seeing all the tourists dressed as Geisha’s for the afternoon.  We spent our first evening there in Gion, which is the Geisha district and I wasn’t lucky enough to see a Geisha, but Emily did and assured me it was quite different than the tourists playing dress up we saw earlier.  Walking the streets of Gion is a must and there are some great antique and consignment shops along the water that are worth popping into for a visit.

Our time in Tokyo was mostly spent wandering the streets and exploring the multitude of stores and restaurants.  The city is a unique mix of ancient temples and modern sky scrapers and my favorite moments were definitely spent exploring all the stationery and sticker stores, we even stopped in the Hello Kitty Mega Store for a manicure. 

My friend flew back to the states after Tokyo and I headed up into the mountains near Nagano to the town of Yamanouchi to visit the snow monkeys.  I had been obsessed with them since I saw an article in National Geographic when I was a child and I knew one day I’d have to go to see the amazing monkeys who hang out in natural hot spring baths (called onsens) to keep warm in the snowy mountains.  The first day I was there it started to snow, which they weren’t expecting so late in the season.  By the time I woke up in my traditional Riokan hotel the next morning the entire mountain was blanketed under a thick layer of snow and the landscape was stunning.  I hiked up the 30 minute trail in the early morning as soon as it opened and stayed till my fingers went numb photographing the beautiful monkeys.  When I couldn’t take the cold any longer I dashed back down the mountain to the restaurant at the base for some hot coco to warm back up and then headed back to the mountain for another 4 hours.  Most people come for about 30 minutes and then leave and the national park security kept looking at me like I was crazy.  I’ve seen monkeys all over the world in India, China, South America, Central America and on and on and they are usually pretty vicious and all around nasty, but these guys could not have been sweeter and just wanted to cuddle up with each other and stay warm or hop into the onsen for a little jacuzzi time.  They are truly a photographers paradise and I loved capturing the very human-like emotion they emote.


Flora Farms, Cabo San Lucas- Perfect Spot for Destination Wedding or Rehearsal Dinner


Check out Part 1 of this amazing girls getaway weekend to Cabo on the blog earlier this week here.  I had the pleasure of visiting Cabo this winter with an
amazing group of fellow wedding industry women, planners, photographers
and magazine editor.  The resorts were so beautiful we didn’t want to leave, but we went out exploring one night at the incredible Flora Farms and it is not to be missed!  It is such a lovely spot for dinner with fun shopping and the most amazing farm to table cuisine and it is also an amazing spot for your destination wedding!  I love the idea of doing a welcome dinner here and the wedding at one of the beautiful hotels on the beach (or vice versa) and giving your guests a taste of both during the weekend.  The private reception area is in the middle of a mango grove and is just magical under the twinkly lights!  It was an
incredible end o an incredible weekend with these 7 amazing ladies!
Thank you to Alicia, Jen, Shira, Patricia, Kate, Emily and Allison for such a lovely trip!

Girls Getaway to Chileno Bay and Esperanza Resorts in Cabo San Lucas

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I had the pleasure of visiting Cabo this winter with an amazing group of fellow wedding industry women, planners, photographers and magazine editor.  We had the chance to explore the incredible and brand new Chileno Bay Resort and the beautiful Esperanza, both Auberge properties.  In addition to the resorts being drop dead gorgeous the staff at both were the friendliest and kindest people who went so incredibly above and beyond for us.  I’m a big fan of Hotel Impossible and I kept thinking to myself- this is true hospitality!  From custom drinks and amazing food by the pool, to literally building a platform over the sea for us to enjoy breakfast on, no detail was overlooked.  Either spots would be an absolutely magical place for a honeymoon or destination wedding weekend.  An incredibly talented local florist, Elena Damy, created two beautiful wedding installations- ceremonies and receptions- at each hotel for us to enjoy and get a feel for what the weddings could be like at the resorts.  We even got to dine at the table at Esperanza, which jutted over the ocean and the night ended with a fireworks display that Shira herself got to launch.  It was an incredible end o an incredible weekend with these 7 amazing ladies!  Thank you to Alicia, Jen, Shira, Patricia, Kate, Emily and Allison for such a lovely trip!