We traveled through Japan for 3 weeks, the last week I was in Tokyo spending about 5-6 hours a day exploring the Street Photography hot spots of Tokyo. Tokyo and taking pictures here was definitely one of the highlights of my stay in Japan. Tokyo is a paradise for street photography – the residents do not seem to have a problem with being photographed or are too polite to show it. The 6 days in Tokyo took me to many parts of this exciting, bustling super metropolis – some of which I was thrilled with, others rather repelled or bored. My personal Street Photography experiences with Tokyo neighborhoods, ranked by rating:
For many street photographers, a red light district may have a magical attraction. I always have a strange feeling of being surrounded by organized crime and questionable business models. Kabukicho adds that it is teeming with tourists for overpriced bars and bad snacks. Only a few shops have signs in Japanese, almost everything is signposted in English. Anyone who likes western binge tourists as a photo subject, that’s right here, I recommend all other ambitious street photographers rather to other parts of the city.
Rating: 1/10 points
Akihabara is probably the epicenter of the Japanese manga and video game culture with its „Electric town“. The place is full of shops where you can buy every imaginable manga (with a focus on erotic manga) or video games. The offer is supplemented by Maid cafes, which are 99% visited by Western tourists. And here returns the tourist area problem : As a street photographer you´ll find here mainly obese, slightly inferior-looking tourists in comic T-shirts in front of your lens. Sounds not very nice, but that´s the reality here. You will not find many Japanese here – the only interesting place for street photography for me is here right at the subway exit, where you have a nice light in the late afternoon.
Rating: 2/10 points
Shibuya is one of the major shopping districts in Tokyo. Shibuya is better known, however, through the largest train station in the city, which passes over 3 million people daily and through the legendary Shibuya intersection. At the Shibuya intersection, thousands of people stream across the street at every green stage. From above, e.g. from the Starbucks on the first floor, you have a good overview of the probably biggest human anthill in Tokyo.
Since the Shibuya intersection is so well-known and is mentioned in every guidebook, here is photographed and filmed at each traffic light phase fiercely. Tourists are still desperately searching for the best position for a selfie on the street when the traffic light has turned red again. So here comes the tourist problem again. If you are not photographing very selectively, you will have selfie tourists on every photo, which is not bad in itself, but it bothered me while I was taking photos.
That’s why I was here in the evening for street photography with my flash, which was great fun and has also brought a few handsome results. In this way, I was able to expose the people I found interesting and ignore the masses.
Rating: 5/10 points
The neighborhood of the rich and would-be, where branches of Gucci and Prada rank are next to expensive restaurants. Here you can watch the „Chinese new rich“ people shopping. Many interesting business facades, in front of which you can put the passers-beautiful in scene. Unfortunately, a quarter in which people are rather not so happy to be photographed – this was my personal impression.
Rating: 6/10 points
The „Kreuzberg (hip district in Berlin)“ of Tokyo. A hipster and rebel district in the middle of Tokyo. The rebel pose refers here mainly to shop „punk“ and „rebellious“ clothes. Here you will find many wacky types, from punks to rockabillys and JPop starlets, who are hounded by hysterical screaming girls, I’ve seen everything here.
If you’re into street portraits, you’ll find it here. Architecturally, the low-rise shopping streets are more likely to produce something interesting in your Photography than the main streets.
Rating: 6/10 points
For a street photography stroll, workdays are recommended during lunchtime and also early afternoon. I found the area between Kudanshita Station and Iidabashi Station to be very lovely. There are many offices here and at noon the staff flock to all the small snack bars and restaurants that can be found in the small side streets. There are hardly any tourists here. Who wants to photograph Japanese business people, is pretty right here. At the Iidabashi Station there is a very interesting, colorful wall along the train tracks, which creates a fantastic background, especially in the light of the light.
Rating: 7/10 points
Our accomodation, the fantastic Sheena and Ippei hostel in Shiinamachi, where we were already on the second day seen as a part of the „family“, was located in the residential district of Shiinamachi, which is only one stop away from Tokyo’s second largest train station Ikebukuro. Here you will find a small but fine infrastructure of owner-managed shops and small pubs in low-rise streets, which provide a wonderful light for high-contrast street photography with light and shadow, as I love it, in the late afternoon. Almost no tourists. If I moved to Tokyo, it would be my favorite neighborhood and one of my favorite areas for street photography.
At the train station in Shiinamachi, you can watch the famous Tokyo „pushers“ at work in the morning, who help to bring the passengers to work in time.
Rating: 8/10 points
Around Tokyo’s second largest train station is my favorite area for street photography in Tokyo: In Ikebukuro, as a Street Photographer you´ll find everything your heart desires – business people, manga freaks, drunks from the pubs staggering and Tokyo people doing shopping. Only few tourists to be found here. Thanks to Chulsu Kim, who brought me closer to this area – it was a great afternoon I spent with him discovering this area. Ikebukuro is also home to other well-known Tokyo street photographers such as Tatsuo Suzuki and Daido Moriyama.
Rating: 9/10 points
All in all, Tokyo is definitely worthwhile for a street photography trip. There are certainly many interesting areas in Tokyo that I have not yet touched on because I will visit them on my next trip to Tokyo ….
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