Some of The Best Places to Photograph Tokyo

Tokyo Night Skyline
Skyline of Tokyo by night

Tokyo offers a mix of traditional and ultra-modern. This gives the visiting photographer some great choices. Even visitors with time constraints have a variety of locations to choose from.

Shibuya Scramble Crossing
Crowds at Shibuya Scramble Crossing

Shibuya Crossing is not to be missed. The world’s busiest pedestrian crossing (with an estimated one million people crossing the street here everyday), this ‘scramble’ crosswalk offers a unique photographic experience. Trying to figure out how to best capture the waves of humanity going through the crosswalks is every photographer’s challenge.

The Meiji Shrine
Meiji Shrine in Tokyo

Meiji Shrine is a Shinto shrine dedicated to Japan’s Emperor Meiji. The shrine complex is located with 170 acres of forested land in downtown Shibuya. This is a spectacular setting to capture some photos depicting traditional Japan.

 

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As a hub for entertainment, business, and shopping, Shinjuku ward in the evening is the perfect location to capture great photos of modern Tokyo with its multitude of neon lights.

Asakusa, Sensoø-ji in the rain
Sensoø-ji temple in the rain at night, Asakusa, Tokyo

Sensō-ji Temple, Tokyo’s most popular Buddhist temple, is a wonderful place for photographing traditional Japanese architecture. The famous temple gates, Kaminarimon and Hozomon, the five-storey pagoda, and the temple itself will make it easy to fill your camera’s memory card.

Gundam in Odaiba
Massive statue of Gundam in the evening at Odaiba, Tokyo

Odaiba is an entertainment and shopping mecca located on a man-made island. There are wonderful views of Tokyo Bay and Rainbow Bridge, making the area particularly ideal for taking pictures of the night skyline of Tokyo. The area is also famous for it’s massive Gundam statue.

Many first-time travellers to Asia, particularly those on business, have asked about easily accessible photo opportunities in the cities they visit. This post is part of an ongoing series, each on a different Asian city, introducing a few photo locations for visitors with limited time.

Japanese Photographer Fits Huge Imagination In Tiny Worlds

'Flower Bed'
‘Flower Bed’

Japanese artist, Tatsuya Tanaka, believes everyone has sometimes imagined that leaves floating on water looked like little boats, or that broccoli or parsley resembled a tiny forest. A desire to express such imaginings through photos inspired him to put together his ‘Miniature Calendar’ project – where he posts a new photo every day.

'Make-Believe Play'
‘Make-Believe Play’

The photographs in Tanaka’s project primarily depict surreal worlds by using miniature human figures surrounded by everyday object such as plastic straws, food, circuit boards and more.

'Footprints'
‘Footprints’

Despite the tiny proportions of the worlds he creates, they’re definitely big on imagination. The fact that Tanaka has been continuing this project for 5 years is a testament to his ongoing imagination and creativity.

'Prison Break'
‘Prison Break’

Tanaka is a great example of how a photographer can create outstanding photography that is fun, and that engages its audience on all levels.

'Shipment'
‘Shipment’

With a large number of faithful followers, Tanaka continues to post new photos on his website on a daily basis (http://miniature-calendar.com).

 

Keep an Eye on Contemporary Japanese Photographer Rinko Kawaguchi

Photos by Rinko Kawaguchi
Photos by Japanese photographer Rinko Kawaguchi

Rinko Kawaguchi is a contemporary Japanese photographer whose work is characterized by a serene, poetic style, depicting the ordinary moments in life. Born in Shiga, Japan in 1972, Kawaguchi became interested in photography while studying at Seian University of Art and Design, where she graduated in 1993.

After graduation, Kawaguchi worked in advertising for several years. Then, in 2001 she launched her career as a fine art photographer by simultaneously releasing a series of three photographic books – Utatane, Hanabi, and Hanako. Overnight, her works created a sensation in Japan’s photography world, and established her reputation.

Kawaguchi’s initial domestic success was quickly followed by major exhibitions overseas. Illuminance, Kawauchi’s first work published outside Japan, quickly gained the photographer international recognition for her nuanced images that portray fragments of everyday life. Kawaguchi’s photographic style has been described as ‘exposing the secrets of the banal’.

Photos by Rinko Kawaguchi
Photos by Japanese photographer Rinko Kawaguchi

Shooting primarily with a six-by-six format camera, Kawaguchi concentrates on capturing natural phenomena in her images, becoming a master of finding stillness and purity in everyday life. Kawaguchi explains that her photos are supposed to give you the feeling of ‘looking in on a moment about to happen’. Her photographs have been described as a visual form of haiku (a style of Japanese poetry) – portraying simple beauty in an uncluttered manner. Emphasizing this, many of her photos are accompanied by haikus she has composed herself.

Rarely include people, Kawaguchi’s photos range in subject from city streets, flowers and oceans, to sandwiches and even a dead animal lying on the side of a road.

Following her initial success, Kawaguchi won many prestigious photography prizes, and published multiple photo books.

Photos by Rinko Kawaguchi
Photos by Japanese photographer Rinko Kawaguchi

Commenting on her style, Kawaguchi says, “It’s not enough that the photograph is beautiful. If it doesn’t move my heart, it won’t move anyone else’s heart.”

Although photography remains her main focus, since 2012 Kawaguchi has also forayed into video production, producing several works that compliment her photography. Yet, photography remains her main passion, and she has continued publishing compilations of her still work in book form – the latest being her recent release of “The River Embraced Me” in early 2016.

Kawaguchi is currently actively participating both solo and group exhibitions around the world, while living and working in Tokyo.

May Photo Opportunity: Japanese Warriors on Parade

Mounted Samurai at Odawara Hojo Godai Festival
Close-up of mounted Samurai at Odawara Hojo Godai Festival(© LifeYouTV)

Odawara’s Hojo Godai Festival, held in early May, is an annual festival commemorating the five generations of the Hojo clan of Japan’s ‘Warring States’ period (Sengoku Jidai). This festival is a great place to capture photos of actors dressed as traditional Japanese warriors.

Samurai procession leaving Odawara Castle
Samurai procession leaving Odawara Castle during the Hojo Godai Festival in Odawara, Japan

The main event of the Odawara Hojo Godai Matsuri (festival) is the samurai warriors’ procession (musha gyoretsu), which proceeds from Odawara castle through the main streets of the city. The parade of nearly 2,000 people dressed as warrior troops (Musha-tai), cavalry (Kiba-tai), and gun troop (Teppo-tai) offers photographers a chance to capture a flavor of Japanese martial history.

Japanese warriors firing muskets at Odawara Hojo Godai Festival
Japanese warriors firing muskets at Odawara Hojo Godai Festival

Lending a lighter touch, following the warrior procession are ceremonial floats (mikoshi), and civilians performing the Lantern Dance (Chochin Odori), baton twirlers, and brass bands from the city’s junior high schools.

Mikoshi procession at Odawara Hojo Godai Festival
Mikoshi procession at Odawara Hojo Godai Festival (© bartman905)

The First Photo Ever Created By A Japanese Photographer

Shimazu Nariakira by Japanese photographer Ichiki Shiroø
Shimazu Nariakira by Japanese photographer Ichiki Shiroø – earliest existing photo taken by Japanese photographer

In 1848, Ueno Shunnojo-Tsunetari (a Japanese trader based in Nagasaki) imported Japan’s first daguerreotype camera from Holland. The following year, the camera was obtained by Shimazu Nariakira, a Japanese feudal lord (daimyo) who ruled the Satsuma Domain from 1851 until his demise in 1958. Shimazu was renowned as an intelligent and wise lord, and noted for his great interest in all forms of Western technology.

Having obtained the camera, the daimyo ordered his retainers to study it and produce working photographs. One of these retainers was Ichiki Shirō (市来 四郎). Ichiki had previously excelled in the study of gunpowder production, which involved an understanding of chemistry. Due to this background, Shimazu believed Ichiki’s background would suit him for the challenge of mastering the creation of daguerreotypes – which entailed use of chemical treatments to develop the final image.

Alexander S. Wolcott's daguerreotype camera
Alexander S. Wolcott’s daguerreotype camera (above) and a cross section diagram of the camera (below). Image scanned from the book “Photography and the American Scene: A Social History, 1839-1889” by Robert Taft, published by Macmillan Company, 1938.

Due to his complete lack of formal training in photography and in how to use the camera, it was many years before Ichiki produced a quality photograph. To the daimyo’s delight, on September 17, 1857, Ichiki succeeded in creating a portrait of Shimazu dressed in formal attire. Ichiki recorded his struggles, and eventual triumph in mastering the camera, in his memoirs which he compiled in 1884.

After Shimazu’s death in 1958, the Terukuni Shrine (also referred to as Shōkoku Shrine) was built in Kagoshima as a memorial to the late daimyo. He was enshrined there in 1863, and the photograph was placed there as an object of worship. However, it later went missing in the 1800s.

After being lost for a century, the daguerreotype was discovered in 1975 a warehouse. Recognized as the oldest daguerreotype in existence that was created by a Japanese photographer, the photo was designated an Important Cultural Property by the Japanese government in 1999.

 

Unusual April Photo Opportunity: Japan’s Penis Festival

If you’re looking for a truly different photo opportunity, you might consider attending this unusual Japanese festival where revelers carry gigantic phalluses through the streets of a Japanese city.

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Photo by Takanori / CC-BY

The Kanamara Matsuri (“Festival of the Steel Phallus”) – also called the ‘Penis Festival’, is a Shinto fertility festival held on the first Sunday of April in Kawasaki, Japan. The festivities start at Kawasaki’s Kanayama Shrine.

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Photo by Guilhem Vellut / CC-BY

The highlight of the celebration is when the gigantic phalluses are carried out of the shrine on portable shrines (mikoshi) and paraded throughout the streets. Capturing a good photo isn’t easy as you’ll have to contend with crowds of onlookers.

Parade at Penis festival, Kawasaki
Parade at Penis festival, at Kanayama Shrine in Kawasaki

Photo by Guilhem Vellut / CC-BY

During the event, penis-themed souvenirs ranging from penis-shaped lollipops and chocolates, to pens, key chains and more, are on sale.

Penis candles
Penis candles sold at a stand at the Kanamara Festival

Photo by Masayuki Kawagishi / CC-BY

What might seem as an outlandish display of sexuality is actually a very family-friendly affair. The crowd is full of people taking snapshots, so you don’t need to feel self-conscious taking photos.

Penis Festival @ Kanamara Festival @ Kanayama Shrine @ Kawasaki
Woman having photo taken on wooden phallus by friend

Photo by Guilhem Vellut / CC-BY