I recently spent 3 weeks in Tokyo – a trip I’ve wanted to do for a long time – and obviously I took a lot of photos. This city is incredible for street photography, there are so many interesting little details and scenes to be captured. Best of all, people in Tokyo don’t seem to mind being photographed at all, in fact, they’ll barely notice you.
Tokyo is one of the biggest cities in the world. In 3 weeks, I still didn’t manage to visit every part of it. That said, the following were my favorite spots to do street photography in Tokyo.
The famous “Shibuya Scramble Crossing” is one of the most famous spots in Tokyo and visiting will make you most feel like you’re in a movie version of Japan. There are several cafes, such as the Starbucks and the 5th floor cafe in the Excel Hotel that can give you a higher up viewpoint of the crossing, but personally I preferred to be on the ground level. If you walk a bit further, the landscape changes a bit – there is a tame red light district and a bunch of bars.
Personally, I found Shibuya a bit too toursity at times, but regardless it is so iconic that one cannot avoid visiting at least once. For the crossing, consider bringing a wider lens.
Asakusa is an older traditional neighborhood with some temples and other older architecture – but in the background you’ll be able to spot Tokyo Skytree, one of the tallest buildings in the world. I found the juxtaposition between old and new really fascinating in this part of town. It’s a theme you’ll spot all around Tokyo, but Asakusa highlights this the most.
The famous otaku-district of Tokyo, Akihabara is what people picture when someone brings up the weirder aspects of Japan. The area is dominated by increasingly perverse anime characters, hentai shops, maid- and idol-cafes, but also just some regular mainstream anime stuff such as Pokemon, Rilakkuma and cute plushies. You’ll never know what’s behind the corner. It’s impossible to run out of interesting and unusual stuff to photograph here. It’s definitely a must-see area.
Tokyo has no specific downtown-area, but when most people think of Tokyo, they’re probably thinking of Shinjuku. It’s one of the biggest and most famous districts of Tokyo. You’ll find King Kong and Godzilla here, as well as the famous “
Toilet Street” “Piss Alley” near Shinjuku station. It’s also a great place to shop for more gear, there are many photography shops in the area.
The red light district Kabuki-cho is also located here. The area carries an interesting ambience, but it is sketchier than most of Tokyo. While still one of the safest places on earth, some common sense is advised while shooting here. Looking like a tourist and not being there after midnight are good tips to keep in mind.
My personal favorite area to shoot street photography in Tokyo is Ginza. This disctrict is a busy shopping area on the main street, but as soon as you dive in to the side alleys, it gets significantly quieter and old-fashioned. Again, there is a big contrast between old and new. You may some kimono girls on the quiet side alleys, while the main street is dominated by neon lights. There are also a couple of places where you can get up high, such as the publicly accessible roof of Tokyo Plaza mall. Keep an eye out on for unlocked fire escape routes as well, you can climb some to get an unique viewpoint.