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The Ultimate Photography Guide to Tokyo

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Oh Tokyo- a city rich in culture, technology and some of the best sushi you will ever eat. The Japanese capital stole my heart on my first trip to the country last year, and is a place I hope to continue revisiting until the end of my days. Tokyo is at the forefront of innovation, where cars are silent, restaurants are staffed by robots and there is a vending machine for just about anything and everything. The city is also a mecca for photographers, whether you prefer shooting street, landscape or people, Tokyo has it all.

 

Shinjuku City Lights Tokyo

 

When to go?

Head to Tokyo to view the cherry blossoms, which bloom for three weeks during the spring, or fly out mid-Autumn to see the red and orange maple leaves in all their glory. The city is a great place to visit all year round, but I’d recommend avoiding July and August unless you particularly enjoy showering 4-5 times per day.

 

Getting around

Tokyo is extremely well connected by public transport and the high-speed rail links it seamlessly to the rest of the country. I’d recommend getting a JR pass whilst in Japan, which can also be used for some of the MTR throughout the city. If the station you’re headed to isn’t on the JR line, you can buy individual tickets or a day pass at affordable prices.

 

So without further ado, below you’ll find a guide to the best photography locations in Tokyo to prepare you for your next trip. Enjoy!

 

The SOHO

 

If you are looking to experience a work space within a rainbow, look no further than the SOHO building in Odaiba. The array of multicoloured office doors look like something out of a Monsters Inc. movie, and it’s a great place to spend the morning photographing businessmen and women on their way to and from meetings.

 

SOHO Building Tokyo

 

Getting there: From Tokyo station, take the JR Yamanote line to Shimbashi, and change to the unmanned Yurikamome line to Fune-no-kagakukan station. From there, it’s a five minute walk to SOHO. Do bear in mind that you would need to wait for someone to enter or exit the main door to the building before you can enter, as the door only opens with a key card.

Entrance fee: None

Best time to go: Go to SOHO on a cloudy day, making sure to avoid harsh afternoon light overexposing parts of the building. Visit after dark to capture the scene with lights illuminating the colorful panels.

Photo tip: Get on the Yurikamome train at either the front or the back end and set your camera up ready to capture the Rainbow Bridge as you pass through it.

 

Roppongi Hills

 

Roppongi Hills, located on the 52nd floor of the Mori Tower, is known to have one of the best observation decks in the city, and offers some breathtaking 360° views of Tokyo and beyond.

 

Roppongi Hills Mt Fuji Tokyo

 

Best time to go:

It's worth waiting until you have a clear day, and heading up an hour or so before sunset to catch a glimpse of Mt. Fuji before the city drops into darkness. The observation deck only opens from 10AM, so no chance of catching sunrise here.

Entrance fee: 1,800¥.

Getting there: Roppongi Hills is a 5-minute walk from Roppongi Station on the Hibiya Line, which can be accessed from Tokyo Station via the Manchouri line, or a 10-minute walk from Roppongi Station on the Oedo Line, accessible directly from Shinjuku.  

Photo tip: Remember to pack your telephoto lens, as you’ll need it to capture the incredible Mt. Fuji in the distance.

 

Bunkyo Civic Centre

 

The Bunkyo Civic Centre is one of the few observation decks in Tokyo that is free to enter, and enjoys unparalleled views from the 25th floor. You can get some great views of the cherry blossom or autumn colours scattered throughout the city from above.

 

Bunkyo Civic Centre Tokyo

 

Best time to go: The observatory is best visited in the evening for views of Shinjuku with Mt.  Fuji looming in the backdrop.

Entrance fee: None.

Getting there: From Tokyo station, take the Marunouchi line to Kōrakuen Station. Bunkyo Civic Centre can be found at Exit 5 or 6. It can also be accessed via the Namboku, Mita or Oedo lines, depending where in Tokyo you’ll be coming from.

Photo tip: Head to the left hand side of the observatory deck in order to capture Mt Fuji, and make sure you bring your telephoto lens again!

 

Senso-ji Temple

 

Perhaps one of the most famous temples in Japan's capital city, Senso-ji, located in Asakusa, is a perfect place to visit early morning before the crowds take over. The peace of the city at sunrise is highlighted at the Buddhist temple, where local worshipers come to lay their incense and pray.

 

Senso-ji Temple Tokyo

 

Best time to go: Head to Senso-ji just before sunrise to catch the temple before the hordes of tourists arrive. Senso-ji is particularly beautiful in the cherry blossom season (much like most of Japan), but can be visited any time of the year.

Entrance fee: None. 

Getting there: The temple is just a short walk from Asakusa Station, served by the Ginza and Asakusa line, as well as Tobu Railways. From Tokyo Station, take the JR Yamanote Line to Kanda Station, followed by the Ginza Line to Asakusa Station. Take Exit 1, and the temple shall be just minutes walk away.

Photo tip: I can’t recommend going early in the morning enough in order to get shots without all the people. You’ll have a completely different experience, and get to enjoy the serenity of the temple at it’s finest.

 

Memory Lane

 

Dating back to the early 1940s, Memory Lane in Shinjuku has had an unstable history; once being home to black market traders, before transforming to an underground drinking den and eventually burning down in 1999. Today, you'll catch glimpses of the cities' businessmen darting into their favourite small restaurant, with the air thick with smoke as the yakatori is grilled for all to drool over.

 

Memory Lane Tokyo

 

Best time to visit: The narrow street is best to photograph at night, when the establishments are open for business and the atmosphere at its peak.

Entrance fee: None.

Getting there: Memory Lane is within walking distance from JR Shinjuku station West Entrance.

Photo tip: Use the artificial flowers hung above Memory Lane as the foreground for your photo to give it some depth, and try capturing the businessmen walking down the street to show the juxtaposition between new and old Tokyo.

 

Shinjuku Gyoen

 

After a long day in hectic Tokyo, there is nothing more relaxing than wandering around one of its glorious parks and picnicking in the afternoon sunshine. Lose yourself for a few hours and enjoy the scenery in Shinjuku Gyoen. Afterwards, head towards Shinjuku and grab an Ichiran Ramen. Thank me later.

 

Shinjuku Gyoen Autumn Tokyo

 

Best time to visit: Due to it’s popularity, its essential to arrive earlier in the morning, or an hour before closing (last entry is at 4pm) to get the best light for photos.

Entrance fee: 200¥.

Getting there: The Shinjuku Gate of the park is just a ten-minute walk from New South Exit of JR Shinjuku Station, or a five-minute walk from Shinjukugyoenmae Station on the Marunouchi Line.

Photo tip: Go just before the park gates close to capture Docomo Tower’s sunset reflections in the park’s western pond, or the Kyu Goryotei pavilion, which was built for the wedding of the Showa Emperor.

 

Gingko Alley (Jingu Gaien)

 

One of my favourite places to shoot in Tokyo in the autumn, the sidewalks come alive in November as the leaves of these peculiar shaped trees turn a vibrant yellow. We stumbled upon this spot whilst hunting for a Shake Shack to satisfy our deeply internal burger cravings, and ended up bypassing the restaurant completely in order to shoot the alleyway before the leaves disappeared altogether.

 

Gingko Alley Autumn Tokyo

 

Best time to go: Get there before sunrise and you'll have it all to yourselves. The flatter the light, the less contrast there will be in the scene.

Entrance fee: None.

Getting there: From Shinjuku Station, take the Oedo Line to Aoyama-Itchome Station, and from there it’s a ten-minute walk to the gingko alley. From Tokyo Station, take the Maranouchi Line to Akasaka-mitsuke Station, and then change onto the Ginza line to Aoyama-Itchome Station.

Photo tip: Hold your camera close to the ground and have a person/people walking down the alley as the subject. The low angle of the camera, coupled with a telephoto lens, will give you a nicely compressed perspective of the scene.

 

Tokyo Skytree

 

Tokyo Skytree, the tallest tower in the world, looms over Tokyo and can be seen for miles. The tower itself is home to many shops and restaurants, but it is the photographs you get from the nearby river, particularly during cherry blossom season, which makes it one of my favourite places to start the day in Japan.

 

Tokyo Skytree Cherry Blossom

 

Best time to go: Early morning is the best time to see the tower as it’s less busy and the light will be golden.

Entrance fee: None (unless you want to go to the top).

Getting there: Tokyo Skytree is served by many lines, but I’d recommend taking the Marunouchi Line from Tokyo Station and changing onto the Hanzomon Line at Otemachi Station.

Photo tip: Head to the streets surrounding the tower and shoot it from ground level, framed by the leaves of any season.

 

Tokyo Tower

 

Another prominent landmark, Tokyo Tower soars over the bustling city below, and really comes alive at night. It is the second tallest building in Japan, and there are some remarkable viewpoints of the tower; from nearby hotels to the Roppongi Hills observation deck.

 

Tokyo Tower

 

Getting there: Take the Marunouchi Line from Tokyo station to Kasumigaseki Station, and then the Hibiya Line to Kamiyacho Station. The tower is a ten-minute walk from the station.

Entrance fee: None (unless you want to go to the top).

Best time to visit: During sunset and blue hour when the lights of the city come out to play.

Photo tip: Shiba Park (found at the foot of the tower) can offer an interesting perspective when using the surrounding plants as a foreground.

 

The Imperial Palace

 

The Imperial Palace is surrounded by gardens and parks and offers a peaceful respite from the chaotic pace of city life. It is one of the most visited destinations in Tokyo, and the Chidorigafuchi walking path around the castle moat is simply beautiful.

 

Imperial Palace Cherry Blossoms Tokyo

 

Getting there: The Imperial Palace is a short walk from Tokyo Station, so no need to get on the MTR.

Entrance fee: The Chidorigafuchi is free to walk on, you’ll be pleased to know.

Best time to visit: The Imperial Palace is stunning in any season, but comes alive during when the cherry blossoms are blooming. Rent a boat for approximately 800¥ and paddle the afternoon away.

Photo tip: Rent a boat in the morning to avoid the crowds, then head back after sunset to see the sakura trees lit up at night. It is one of the most popular sakura viewing spots in the city, so give yourself enough time to prepare for the barging.

 

If you're heading to Japan in the near future, I really hope this blog post was useful. And if you did't have any immediate plans to visit, what are you waiting for? Book a flight ASAP. I can't recommend Japan enough!

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  • Make a kyoto blog please :( i want to know what time is the best time to go to fushimi inari

    Dion on

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