10 TIPS ABOUT WHAT TO PHOTOGRAPH IN TOKYO AND LOADS OF PHOTOS OF THE CITY
I have been to Japan twice and I can’t wait to go back. It was the first place where I really felt far from home ( Italy, in my case ).
I’m deeply linked to this country and I’ve created this small photo guide with 10 of my favorite things to photograph in Tokyo. Of course, I could give You hundreds, so comment here if You wish for more!
There’s a useful map at the end of the post, feel free to save it before Your trip.
You’re going to love this City but get ready to face cultural differences and to respect them, even when they might be hard to understand.
- Sensō-ji Temple
What: Tokyo’s oldest temple, dedicated to Kannon Bosatsu, founded in 645 AD
WHERE: Asakusa, Tokyo | Ginza subway line for Asakusa
WHY: when planning Your photo trip in this City, You can’t miss this place, a japanese historical landmark. Take some general photos of the environment, showing the crowd visiting it; make the most of plants and flowers to frame the beautiful five-story pagoda and the other buildings; remember to take many photos of the details too. What I loved about this place is the possibility to take hundreds of pictures, one never like the other. Walk through the Kaminarimon, ” The thunder gate “, its outer door, a symbol of Tokyo. The Nakamise street links it to the other gate called Hozomon : enjoy some shopping of yukata ( a casual summer kimono), fans, amulets so that you can also photograph them!
10 PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS: avoid it during weekends and special festivities or festivals: You don’t get a perfect view of the place if there’s too many people. If you are a fan of carps, You can take photos of many koi species in the pond. I could stare at them for hours!
2. tokyo tower
WHAT: The Tokyo Tower, also known as the ” Japan Radio Tower “, was completed in 1958. It’s the second tallest building in Tokyo ( 332,9 meters ) and it was inspired in its architectural style by the Eiffel Tower. It is painted in international orange for air safety regulations.
WHERE: Shiba-koen, Minato, Tokyo | Onarimon Station on the Mita Subway Line, Akabanebashi Station on the Oedo Subway Line and Kamiyacho on the Hibiya Subway Line
WHY: As a big fan of Japan, this was the symbol of Tokyo in my mind. So it was kinda compulsory to photograph it. I admit I got a little emotional when I saw it in person for the very first time. I used to watch anime ( animated movies ) and read manga ( comics ) as a kid and it was always there. It’s one of my favorite memories of Tokyo and, if You get a nice shot, it can be a beautiful wallpaper to have in Your house.
10 PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS: There are two types of photos I advice You to take: those when You go to visit it ( so enjoy close-ups, details, have fun with perspective ); those You can get from the Tokyo Sky Tree and from the Mori Art Museum in Roppongi ( in my opinion, the best view ), to see it among other buildings for amazing cityscapes. As I ALWAYS do, try to take views from the top during sunset, so that You can have both daylight and nighttime shots.
WHAT: Akihabara, the Electric Town. It’s the tech geeks and otaku favorite place in the world, I suppose. Buy cameras, laptops, weird electronic gadgets but also comics and funny souvenirs. You must save money to purchase something here because this district screams “JAPAN!” at every colorful corner.
WHERE: Akihabara, Tokyo | Akihabara station
WHY: It doesn’t really matter if You are a fan of manga, videogames or technologies: here You will breath modern Tokyo vibes, feeling like a tiny ant in the crowd. If You like photography, You’ll find plenty of tax free shops to buy discounted gear and some special items that, in the country of cameras, will always pop out first. Enjoy some kidult time here, with no guilty feelings!
10 PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS: Things to photograph: the buildings, covered with draws and huge writings, often in Japanese fonts; small objects that You’ll find only here in the whole world ( and laugh a lot at some of them too! ); pick a view that You like and get at the top floor of some shops to photograph from above, my fave perspective of the streets. You’ll find a lot of Japanese girls dressed as maidens too, because of the cafes: don’t picture them, they would be annoyed. Ask instead people in the streets: Japanese people with peculiar outfits can’t wait for foreigners to portrait them!
WHAT: Shibuya, Tokyo . The district for fun, shopping and probably the busiest side of the City. A paradise for street photographers but also an interesting spot to genuinly experience what is like to live in a place with almost 14 millions of human beings.
WHERE: Shibuya, Tokyo | Shibuya Station ( Hachiko exit )
WHY: If You are not afraid of crowds and You want to test Your feelings surrounded by an incredible number of people, this is where You’ll experience it. Its impressive tidy chaos just confirmed one amazing feature of locals: no matter how tiny will be the space, You’ll hardly get touched nor pushed by anyone. They’re careful into avoiding contact with each other, they are extremely polite with tourists and You’ll come back giving a whole new meaning to the world ” civilization “. Two examples: when I lifted my camera, they literally remove themselves from the scene I was framing, without me asking for it; even during commute, in the most packed metro train You can get, they’ll stay as far from You as possible and they’ll be all quite and in silence to prevent annoying other passengers ( yeah, You also MUST turn off the volume on Your phone ).
10 PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS: Ok, this spot takes patience and there are tons of things to take in consideration. Come here both during the day and late in the night, because it looks completely different according to the time You’ll pick. Yes, I took the photo of the Hachiko statue and, as a dog lover, I’m not sorry but proud of it! Go grab a coffee at the Starbucks café, not for its taste but to take photos on the upper floor: You’ll have the best view of the iconic Shibuya crossing. Don’t forget to frame shops, random people and get in one Karaoke spot and a game center to experience ( and portray ) the Japanese idea of having fun.
WHAT: Odaiba, the amusement district. During the EDO Period ( 1603-1868) some fort islands were created by men to protect the Tokyo Bay against attacks from the sea. The territories are now a large futuristic area focused on the entertainment of visitors: parks, a huge onsen, restaurants, a mall and much more. I startled for an entire minute when the 1:1 statue of Gundman the Robot appeared in front of my eyes: what a Japanese moment!
WHERE: Odaiba, Tokyo | Daiba Station, Yurikamome line ( my advice, because it crosses the rainbrow bridge and the view it’s incredible) or by boat too
WHY: Bridges, robots, wonder wheels, green areas are literally picture perfect. The Rainbow bridge and the smaller Liberty Statue are tributes to the USA. Go to the Oedo Onsen Monogatari to enjoy hot springs: they’ll give You a yukata ( a light cotton sort of kimono ) but no clothes allowed under it ( and dont’ forget to cover Your tattoos with bandaids ). What’s special about it is not only the relaxing experience itself ( they will provide You with shampoo, conditioner, soap, moisturizer, towels, everything You need for a nice bath ) but the small edo-themed village that they re-created inside where You can drink, eat and play typical games as seen in Japanese fairs. You won’t have Your camera there but You can bring Your phone to take a self portrait in local clothes! I was the only non-Japanese person in there and You will be able to take a bath in areas strictly divided between men and women. The lovely thing was seeing mothers, daughters, grandmas all together and happily chatting, not caring everyone was completely naked. Japanese people are extremely polite and discreet and my first embarassment disappeared in a few minutes, aknowledging this is an ordinary thing for them and everyone will mind their business and it’s there to relax. I’m not used to hot springs but it was a great experience! You can stay in big tanks inside, with different water temperatures or enjoy some small wooden ones directly in the nearby garden. There was a sauna too. Odaiba might look like a cheekily ( and naively ) touristic place, but it is exactly why You should go! You want to come back with as many as possible points of view on Tokyo.
10 PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS: arriving with the automated and elevated train gave big “Blade-Runner” vibes: prepare Yourself with a fast lens ( to take photos when it moves) and one good for cityscapes because that’s what You’ll mainly photograph here. The sun can be really strong in Tokyo but since You are mainly going to take images of landscapes, You can come here at any time of the day. Plan ahead where You’d like to take photos at dawn or sunset ( checking the trains too ) and arrange Your itinerary accordingly.
6. Meiji shrine
WHAT: The Meiji shrine, a Shinto shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken. built in an iris garden beloved by the couple, finished in 1926.
WHERE: Harajuku Station, Tokyo
WHY: Next to the Yoyogi park, with its 170 acres of evergreen forest, it’s the ideal place to go on a sunny day. Here, You’ll be able to take images of flowers, the beautiful shrine, details of the buildings, the colorful barrels of sake donated for the temple, torii gates. Pay a fee and get into the inner garden, with a lovely traditional Tea House and walk to see the Kiyomasa’s well, created 400 years ago by a military commander and considered a spiritual power spot.
10 PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS: Bring polarizing filters with You: the light can be really tricky, especially in the middle of the day. Make the most of visitors dressed in traditional clothes to portray them in such a beautiful surrounding; if You come during the weekend, You’ll be able to photograph wedding ceremonies, a wonderful type of photos to add to Your portfolio.
WHAT: Harajuku, the heart of teenage culture in Tokyo and a place to spot cosplayers ( people dressed as manga/anime/other characters )
WHERE: Harajuku, Tokyo | Harajuku Station
WHY: If You love street photography, this is the place You’ll be able to shoot japanese fashion and bizarre looks. Good for shopping too, walk the Omotesando street with its picture perfect trees and fancy boutiques.
10 PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS: Focus on people but get lost in the smaller streets to frame some vintage shops, weird accessories, trendy cafes. Be prepared for a big crowd, especially during the weekends. If you are a fan of Studio Ghibli, some of the best souvenirs can be found at Kiddy Land.
WHAT: Japanese Food
WHERE: Restaurants, 7eleven , malls, streets, the Tsukiji Outer market
WHY: Because when You visit Japan, You’ll understand that You have hardly tasted real japanese food before. You’ll take images of what You eat because of the beauty of what You’ll see and because of the once in a lifetime experience You’ll live. Because Japan means noodles, sushi, sashimi and much more.
10 PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS: Prime lens are great for food photography and don’t feel embarassed to take photos: they are kinda used to that. Bring small white and black cardboards with You to direct the light even more nicely on Your subject ( there are awesome pocket reflectors You can find on Amazon too) or some pocket flashes too. Dare to order things You can’t eat in Your country, take images of table settings but do not disturb locals, especially in non-touristic places. At the fish market, focus on workers, even more than food: You can get interesting photos of how they prepare food, with a peculiar glance on their daily life.
9. Tokyo sky Tree
WHAT: The Tokyo Sky Tree, with its incredible observation desks at 350 and 450 metres, for a great view from the top of the City.
WHERE: Tokyo SkyTree Town, Tokyo | Tokyo Skytree Station on the Tobu Isesaki Line, and Oshiage Station on the Asakusa Subway Line, Hanzomon Subway Line and Keisei Oshiage Line
WHY: Cityscapes are great, especially from the tallest building in Tokyo ( 634 metres ); there are nice gift shops, an acquarium and a shopping complex You can enjoy before climbing to the top ( no worries, with elevators ).
10 PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS: Arrive at sunset to enjoy both the daylight view and the spectular lights in the evening. Bring polarizing filters because the glasses will give You an hard time for the reflection. Find a spot that You like and patiently wait there: visitors will compete for it, don’t give up! I promise You’ll see one of the most beautiful sunsets on Earth.
WHAT: Ginza, the most popular upscale shopping area in Tokyo.
WHERE: Ginza, Chūō, Tokyo | Ginza Station
WHY: Some of the most luxurious streets in the world are in this district and it was created by Meiji as a model of modernization. It was part of Shitamachi, the original downtown center of Edo-Tokyo, together with Nihonbashi and Kanda.
10 PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS: If you love architecture photography, this is where You want to start in Tokyo. Bring a fisheye lens too, if You own one: You’ll have a lot of fun with it! In the weekends, the main area is closed to the traffic and You can easily photograph pedestrians enjoying their shopping sprees ( and, if You can, Yours too! ).
editor’s note: I only had 10 spots because that’s my Blog’s format, but there are many other things you can shoot in Tokyo: Shinjuku, Roppongi, Ueno and much more. If You need more detailed tips for Your trip, feel free to contact me or write in the comment section. Also, I’m preparing other blog posts related to Japan, so keep following for much much more! I hope to return to Japan soon because there are so many things I wish to photograph and it takes a lot of time to explore this beautiful country.
Here’s a pretty map, easier to read compared to that one given by public transportations :
WHAT I BOUGHT FOR MY TRIP:
Polarizing filters ( buy them according to the Lens you use ), HOYA is a great brandHoya DFK58 filtri camera (UV,PLC,ND) – 58mm, set da 3
Pocket reflector to diffuse light, for perfect food and macro photography:Dengofng – Diffusore Fotografico 3 in 1, Pieghevole, in Cartone Bianco e Nero e Argento, per Foto e Cibo, Formato A3 e A4 Opzionale a3
A detailed map of the city that I studied before going:Lonely Planet Tokyo City Map
A Badge holder for the metro card ( I also buy some cute ones there but You might need one for the first days and it’s crucial to avoid losing it! ):Porta badge con cerniera e cordino, portadocumenti stampato, cordino con porta documenti Small 13
A cute and handy japanese dictionary ( beside installing APPs on Your smartphone ):Japanese Picture Dictionary: Learn 1,500 Japanese Words and Phrases
Since You’ll often be asked to pay with cash ( Japanese don’t seem to trust much tourists paying with credit cards ), get a small purse for Your coins. I love Fjallraven ones, nice and resistant:Fjällräven Kånken Travel Wallet Portamonete, 19 cm, Verde (Deep Forest)
I used two different cameras on my trips, both by Nikon:Nikon D750 Body Fotocamera Reflex Digitale, 24,3 Megapixel, Lexar SD 16 GB [Nital card: 4 anni di garanzia]
The nikon D600 is now at a great price and it’s still my favorite one in terms of resistance and skin tones: if You are thinking about getting a budget full-frame camera, You can’t go wrong with this model:Nikon D600 Fotocamera digitale reflex 24.7 MP [Versione EU]
Perfect and cheap lens for food and flower photography, the adorable 50mm 1.8 by Nikon:Nikon Obiettivo Nikkor AF-S 50 mm f/1.8G, Nero [Nital Card: 4 Anni di Garanzia]
A Tokyo guide:Lonely Planet Tokyo [Lingua Inglese]
Sunscreen because You might not notice it but rays are killer here! My favorite:La Roche Posay Protezione Solare Viso – Protezione Solare – 50 ml
My insta-camera, because You can take unique photos of the City and You’ll find tons of weird accessories in shops like BIC CAMERA:Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic Fotocamera Istantanea, Formato 62×46 mm, Nero/Argento
The perfect lipstick to always look good in pics, even when You’re tired AF ( and this looks great on EVERY skintone! ) :Dior Rossetto Addict Lip Glow Colore Awakening Lipbalm, Colore 001 Pink
A pocket mirror because You want to look nice in your travel photos and walking around all day, something messy will come up:IWINO Pink Portable Square Double Side Folding Mini Compact Pocket Cute Makeup Mirror Travel Mirror Gift for Women Girl
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