agreed. F&E is much cheaper than tour. However, you would need time to do your own research and planning.
Went to Japan 14 days, cost about $4k include all expenses, transport, shopping, accomodation (4 stars). Tour group will cost about $2.5k for 7 days and this does not include tips, personal expenses, food ( not all meals are included).
spend most of the time on the coach, then 20 min to stop at the most touristy angle, with nothing in the way of photography. you MIGHT get good shots, but i dislike the way the tour is carried out. even without photography-orientation, it is a mad rush for quantity instead of quality, unless you look for a very nicely planned out, well-paced schedule.. few and far between.
the last time i took a guided tour was in 04, and not by choice.
For accomodation, it's 20 bucks a night room, most of the time without a window.
Travel by train, bus and toot toot.