Japan is now one of the most popular places to visit in the world. From a commercial photographer’s point of view, travel photography in Japan is much sought after by both magazines and travel guides. If you are considering a visit to Japan, we have some top Japan photography tips for you.
There is so much more to Japan than Mount Fuji. Yes, it provides a stunning backdrop to any blossoming branch of Japanese cherries, but why not jump on the Shinkansen and travel to photography hot spots in Japan.
Check the Ultimate Guide to Plan Your Photography Road Trip here.
Top Japan Photography Tips
Tokyo is certainly one of the most exciting cities in the world to wander around on your own or with a companion. Although it is a huge great metropolis, it is perfectly safe. Same as for the rest of Japan.
You need to have very few concerns about any of your equipment being stolen from you. So, bring your best camera and lens, and snap away as much as you can.
The best seasons of the year to take spectacular photos are obviously spring and autumn. I put together tor you the most amazing tips to improve your fall photography skills. Find the article here!
Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion
Kyoto is easily reached using the Shinkansen train service. From the Shinkansen station, you can take the bus to the waterfront or to many of the spectacular sights which you will find in and around Kyoto.
One site you should not miss out is the Golden Pavillion in Kyoto. Its proper name is the Deer Garden Temple and it is a Zen Buddhist temple. While a visit to the inside of the temple is interesting, perhaps photographing it from the lake or along the path which surrounds the lake, are two of the best ways to create the perfect photographic memory of Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion.
Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo
Once back in Tokyo, you should not miss out on the delight which is the Shibuya Crossing. Delight or not, it is rumored to be the busiest intersection in the world. You can stand at the crossing all day people watching and take a walk around to Tokyo street life.
A top tip would be to visit during different times of the day. Sure, you can snap some amazing photographs as the lights come on, but the daily street scenes are a portrait photographer’s dream.
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
The locals often say that the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is home to spirits. A walk through this magical forest will make you appreciate what they mean. Does it matter what time of the year you visit? No, it doesn’t really. The scenery remains spectacular all of the time.
It is an idea to hire a good guide to show you all of the local shrines. However, if you are on a tight budget, there are maps available which clearly show you the locations of the shrines. But, be careful, rumor has it that the forest former owner, Shogun Ashikaga, still patrols the forest.
Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto
The Shinto shrine of Fushimi Inari Shrine in southern Kyoto is certainly worth a visit. The shrine is dedicated to Shinto God of Rice. His messenger is the fox and this explains the many fox statues you will see in and around the shrine.
Many visitors rush their time at this shrine, but you risk missing out on many of the sites in the temple ground. Spend a little bit more time and snap some wonderful landscape images as you climb the mountain on which the shrine sits. As you climb, take the opportunity to photograph the smaller shrines and stop for something to eat.
Hokanji Temple, Kyoto
The Hokanji Temple was built by Prince Shotoku and looks more like a Pagoda than a temple. But, it is a temple, and you are more than welcome to photograph both the exterior and interior. It is a lovely sight and has in recent years become very much a symbol of Kyoto.
If you just happen to be wandering around this part of Kyoto, the district of Higashiyama, it seems to pop up from nowhere and is a nice surprise.
The Chureito Pagoda has become the national emblem of Japan. It is part of a very much larger shrine complex, and once there, you should explore the entire area. It is close to Tokyo but in many ways feels like a world of way.
You need to be aware that this area gets very busy. It is one of the best Japan photography tips, and on some days, it is hard to get a good photograph.
Why do so many visitors travel to the Chureito Pagoda? If you would like to take a good photograph of Mount Fuji, it is the best place to come to. Sure, it gets crowded, but on a clear day the views are amazing and you can spend many hours walking around the rest of the area. It is amazing to think that the Chureito Pagoda was once more or less unknown outside of Japan.
The Meguro River slowly winds its way through Tokyo and is one of the best places to come to enjoy a free treat – Cherry Blossoms. The Japanese take their cherry blossoms seriously, and during April they practice hanami ( cherry blossom viewing). Often they turn up in huge crowds and slowly meander the walk along the Meguro River.
During the evening, pink lanterns are lit so you can appreciate the beauty of the cherry blossom during the evening. In the daytime, the walk is often very busy. The best time to come is early in the morning or late in the evening when the lanterns are lit.
Shinjuku is one of the busiest parts of Tokyo. Within its boundaries lies the biggest railway station in Tokyo, and if you would like a night in one a Tokyo bar, this is where you should come. Also, the best place to base yourself when you are visiting Tokyo as all of Tokyo is easily accessible from here.
When you visit Shinjuku, there is one thing you simply must do, and that is to sample Japanese street food. Like everything else in Japan, street food is perfectly presented and always delicious. It is like the Japanese are driven by perfection.
There are many different dishes to try, but one of the most popular Japanese street foods is Okonomiyaki. They are savory pancakes and the Japanese love to snack on them. If you are a seafood lover, you must try Takoyaki. They are small fried balls made from different fish and even octopus. Simply delicious when served fresh and warm.
Of course, there are many other Japan photography tips. Why don’t you buy a pass for the Shinkansen, and start to travel around this amazing country which has so much to offer the visiting photographer? The truth is that travel photography Japan can’t be compared to travel photography in any other part of the world.
Stefano Caioni is a photographer from Sydney, Australia. Founder and editor of Pixinfocus, his passion for photography helps him explore new places and live new adventures. Thanks to photography he reconnected with the outdoors and was able to travel the world and take photos of some of the most beautiful places on Earth.