I often get emails from people getting ready to travel to Tokyo asking for advice on where to go shooting in Tokyo.   Tokyo is such a fascinating city.  It is bigger than you can possibly imagine.   I have spend much of my time as a photographer shooting Tokyo.  I know explore most parts of this city with my camera and pulled together this guide of my favorite places to shoot.

I bet you could ask 10 photographers where there favorite places are to shoot and get 10 very different answers.   I tend to shoot as I am going about my life so much of my photography is ‘daily life’ or places I have chosen to visit.  I have not actually photographed many of the ‘tourist’ places and I probably need to do a bit more of that.

Here is my Tokyo…as I live it and shoot it.

One of my favorite little places is called Yakitori Ally, or Omoide Yokocho, in Shinjuku.  Cramped bars and restaurants give you a view into post war Japan.    It has a great atmosphere for early evening photography.

Yakitori Alley

Yakatori Alley

Yakatori Alley

Another favorite is Hamonica Yokocho in Kichijoji.   In the 1940s it was an underground flea market but now a few alleys of unique bars, restaurants and shops.   It is smoky, crowded and everyone is very friendly.  You can get there from Shinjuku in about 20 minutes by train.

Kichijoji

Kichijoji

There is a great little section on the edge of Yurakucho and Ginza that lines the train tracks.  It is a maze of little alleys of Yakitori restaurants and Izakaiya bars.   The mix of people, smoke, light and food makes for a great atmosphere for taking photos.

Yurakucho

Yurakucho

One of my favorite spots for night shooting is Shinjuku’s Golden Gai.  It is a small area of Shinjuku that is famous by architectural interest as well as a budding nightlife area.     There are over 200 tiny shanty-style bars and restaurants within the six narrow alleys that make up Golden Gai.    Golden Gai provides a view into the relatively recent past of Tokyo when much of the city was made up of narrow lanes and tiny two story buildings.   You can find Golden Gai a few minutes from the East Exit of Shinjuku Station between the Shinjuku City Office and the Hanazono Shrine.

Golden Gai

Golden Gai

Most of these bars seat only 5 to 6 people adding to their charm.

Golden Gai

Golden Gai

Golden Gai in Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan

Golden Gai

Golden Gai is full of interesting characters…

Golden Gai

Golden Gai

Just on the edge of Golden Gai and Korea Town there are a few noodle shops where you can see chefs hand tossing Chinese noodles…

Noodle Maker

With Tokyo being such a crowded city it can look extremely empty late at night or early in the morning making for very interesting photography…

Shinjuku

Shinjuku

There are small temples everywhere in Tokyo.  I found many of them simply searching on Google Maps.  They are all different and full of little charms to photograph.

Inari Jinja

Inari Jinja

Yutenji

Buddah

Tokyo is full of parks you can spend hours in.  One of my favorites is Yoyogi Park.   It is located right next to Meji Jingu Shrine and Harajuku.   It is great for people watching and photography…

Yoyogi Park

Then of course there is Shibuya…probably my most favorite place to photograph.   Something is always going on in Shibuya.

This is Hachiko…the famous loyal dog!

Hachiko

…and Shibuya’s famous crossing.  It gets so busy that up to 3,000 people cross at a single light change.   Check out this time lapse video to see just how busy it is.

Shibuya Crossing

If you go to the Marc City Hotel… you can take the guest elevator to the 25th floor and get a great view of the crossing from above.

Shibuya Crossing

…and some roof top soccer!

Roof Top Soccer in Shibuya

There are always bands performing outside Shibuya Station

Singer at Shibuya Station

As well as lots of interesting people…

Hip Chick in Koenji

If you have kids you need to take a quick trip over to Hamamatsucho and check out the Pokemon Shop.  It is quite a sight and they sell Pokemon items that are only available in that shop.

Hamamatsusho

Hamamatsusho

Pokemon in Hamamatsusho

I do the majority of my shooting on the train.   The green ring on this map is the Yamanote Line.   It takes one full hour to make the complete circle.  You can get off at just about any stop and find interesting things to photograph or simply ride the train and catch the action going on in the train and at the station.

Tokyo Train Map

The stations are massive and often packed which can lead to all sorts of photographic opportunities.

Shinjuku Station

Jiyugaoka Station

Shibuya Station

Jiyugaoka Station

Shibuya Station

Get up early and catch the Tokyo Commute at Shibuya Station at 8:30-8:45Am… it will be a rush of people like you have never experienced before.

Shibuya Station

Or stay up late and experience the crowd on ‘last train’ at 1AM…

Shibuya Station

Or even better, stay up all night and ride ‘first train’ home…

First Train

I love shooting myself in these mirrors…

Me in the mirror

…the girl over my shoulder was amused.

Me in the mirror

Also pay attention to the different signage around Japan… it can make for some great photography as well.

Tokyo Train Signs

Tokyo Train Signs

Japan has a lot of holiday’s which make for great opportunities for photography starting with New Year’s Day

Meji Jingu Shrine

Jiyugaoka Temple

Jiyugaoka Temple

Yutenji Temple

New Year’s Day is quickly followed by Coming of Age Day on the second Monday of January.   The streets of Tokyo fill with young Kimono clad women everywhere you turn celebrating their entrance into adulthood…

Coming of Age Day

Coming of Age Day

Early April brings the Cherry Blossoms. There is no better place to see them than along Meguro River in Nakameguro. Festivals are held all along the river. Crowds pour in to eat and drink along the river under the pink flowers…

Cherry Blossoms at Meguro River

Cherry Blossoms at Meguro River

Cherry Blossoms at Meguro River

Cherry Blossoms at Meguro River

May 3rd is Constitution Day in Japan.    Japan’s current constitution implemented after World War II in 1947 was drawn up to replace Japan’s militaristic and absolute monarchy and replace it with democracy.   It turned the Emperor of Japan into “the symbol of the State and of the unity of the people” and exercises a purely ceremonial role.   It also formally rejects Japan’s right to wage war which is why it is commonly referred to as the Peace Constitution.   Not everyone in Japan agrees with the new constitution and some people would prefer that the Emperor is ‘returned to power’.    If you look around you will find the Tokyo Riot Police squaring off with those protesting against the new constitution.

Tokyo Riot Police

July and August is filled with Matsuri festivals. It’s a bit hard to explain a Matsuri if you haven’t experienced one but basically people gather in town squares to socialize, drink and occasionally carry this float around…

Jiyugaoka Matsuri

Jiyugaoka Matsuri

Jiyugaoka Matsuri

At Christmas Tokyo is covered with Christmas lights…

Christmas Light in Tokyo

Christmas Light in Tokyo

When shooting cities always try to get up high.   Many office buildings you can take the elevator to the top and shoot out the window to get a great view of the city… here are a couple of examples.

Shinjuku

Shinjuku

Shinjuku

You can really get a sense of the size of Tokyo this way…
Tokyo Sky Tree

Roppongi Hills Sky View offers you the chance to shoot from the roof for 1,800 yen.   The view is breathtaking and you can get some amazing pictures.   Unfortunately tripods are not allowed.

Roppongi Hill Sky View

Roppongi Hill Sky View

View from Roppongi Hill Sky View

View from Roppongi Hill Sky View

Tokyo has some pretty amazing architecture as well.   Make sure you take time to notice how amazing many of the buildings are like Roppongi Hills…

Roppongi Hills

Tokyo International Forum…

Tokyo International Forum

Shinjuku Maynds Tower…

Shinjuku Maynds Tower

Tokyo Midtown…

Tokyo Midtown

I love cars and Tokyo has some pretty amazing car dealerships.    It is pretty easy to get in and shoot some of the most expensive cars in the world… Like at the Audi Forum Tokyo.

Audi Forum Tokyo

Audi R8 Spyder

Or the Lamborghini Shop in Hiroo….

Tokyo Lamborghini

Tokyo Lamborghini

Japan has an endless number of camera stores but here are my favorites….starting with Leica Ginza.  You can spend hours lusting some of the world’s best and most expensive cameras.

Leica Ginza

Like the lovely Leica M9-P…

Leica Ginza

There is a small gallery on the 2nd floor where you can see some work of the featured artist.   You can also buy some photography books…

Leica Ginza

If you have a habit of breaking your gear like I do…Naoki can fix it for you!   This guy is a Rock Star in my book!

Leica Ginza

Just down the street and across Ginza crossing is the famous Lemon Camera.   It is packed with a huge selection of used cameras and well worth the stop.

Lemon Camera Store in Ginza

Lemon Camera Store in Ginza

Lemon Camera Store in Ginza

In Shinjuku there is MAP camera carrying a selection of new and used cameras…  The basement is Leica but they have floors for Canon, Nikon, Pentax and others.   It’s a cool shop.

MAP Camera in Shinjuku

MAP Camera in Shinjuku

The flagship store of Yodobashi Camera is also in Shinjuku.   It is hard to describe how big this place is… I think it is 8 or 1o buildings now.   Just massive.   Anything you want, they probably have.

Yodobashi Camera

Another great little shop is Lucky Camera just on the other side of Shinjuku Station from Yodobashi.    It is packed with lots of old Leica equipment.

Lucky Camera in Shinjuku

Lucky Camera in Shinjuku

I got a lucky find at Lucky Camera when I first started shooting Leica.  I wanted to find the original plastic 35mm viewfinder.   I called a few shops in Hong Kong who told me I would never find it and if I did it would cost me more than $1,000 USD…then I got lucky at Lucky.

Lucky Camera in Shinjuku

There are also Camera Shows all the time, like this one in Shibuya. Make sure you check local magazines before you come.  There are thousands or more camera shops but these are the ones that I like to go to.

Camera Show in Shinjuku

Camera Show in Shinjuku

Lastly let’s chat about food…  You cannot talk about Tokyo without talking about the amazing food available here.  One of the best places in my mind is Nobu Tokyo.   Eating at Nobu, it is an experience in Japanese fusion dining.   Nobu is owned by master Chef Nobu Matsushita and actor Robert De Niro.   Nobu Tokyo is a very visually stunning restaurant.    It can run up to 20,000 per person but worth every yen…

Nobu Tokyo

Another favorite of mine is Heaven in Roppongi. It is Japanese Tappanyaki. Great food for about 15,000 yen per person.

Heaven in Roppongi

Ebi Mayo

Another treat is Gompachi in Nishi Azabu.   It is great Japanese fare for about 10,000 per person.   It is very reasonably priced and the food is excellent.  This is the restaurant that they replicated for the big fight scene in Kill Bill.

Gompachi

You must try sushi if you are in Japan.  So many people have never had it before coming to Japan and become lovers before they leave.   I never ate seafood, for the most part, before moving to Japan.   Now I eat sushi for lunch at least 3 days a week.   If you are hitting Lucky CameraOugi Sushi is just a few doors down…

Samurai Sushi Chef

Sushi comes in all grades and in all price ranges…from 1,000 yen to 10,000 yen.

Sushi

Many places have ‘sets’ and you can try a bit of everything…they are usually very reasonably priced at lunch.

Sushi

But make sure to try ‘Negitoromaki’ before you leave Japan…absolutely the best.

Negitoromaki

Kaiten Sushi, or Conveyor Belt Sushi, can be a lot of fun and great for photography…

Kaiten Sushi

I give McDonald’s a lot of flack here sometimes but one thing you must try if you are here in September/October is the annual Tsukimi Burger…it is so good.   So are a lot of their monthly promotional specials.

McDonald's Japan Tsukimi Burger

McDonald's Japan Tsukimi Burger

McDonald's Japan Tsukimi Burger

I hope you enjoyed.   I will continue to update this guide so make sure to check back before your trip.   Leave a comment and let me know what you found in Tokyo or if there are places you think I should add.   Thanks for stopping by.

 

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