Tokyo is a photographer’s delight. An enchanting blend of old and new, there are opportunities around every corner and narrow alleyway to capture one of the many faces of this dynamic city. These are just some of the Tokyo photography locations you cannot miss when you visit this vibrant city, whether you are building your Japan photo portfolio or looking for the city’s best Instagram spots.
A Quick Tokyo Photography Guide
This Tokyo Photography guide will give you a quick snapshot of what you can capture around the city with your own curated Tokyo photo tour. Tokyo is so diverse when it comes to subject matter to photograph; from ancient temples to street portraits, futuristic architecture and weird and wonderfully colourful meals. For a more detailed Tokyo itinerary, read or guide on How to Spend 4 days in Tokyo.
Tokyo’s oldest temple, Sensoji Temple has to be one of the best Instagram spots in Tokyo, albeit one of the busiest tourist attractions in the city. Set the alarm and make your way to this ancient site early to beat the crowds. Walk through the Thunder gate and walk the Nakamise Dori; a hive of activity, colour and craft where souvenirs and the thick smell of street food snacks pour out of the stalls.
Outside the temple you’ll find visitors bathing in the smoke from the jokoro said to boost their health, before entering the temple itself. Once you have visited the temple, take the time to follow your curiosity to the alleyways and backstreets behind the main courtyard and temple, these hidden corners offer some more unique angles on a very over-photographed site. The same extends beyond the temple ground the rest of Asakusa, a quaint area that has much more to offer than the temple itself.
Even if you aren’t a keep photographer Sensoji Temple should be part of your Tokyo itinerary.
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Nakamise Shopping Street
Nakamise Dori itself is the perfect street and food photography location. Buy a snack from the vendors, snap some shots of the people as they shop or buy a souvenir and use it as a prop in the middle of the buzz of people. There is so much to see and photograph here. I propped myself to one side and just observed through the lens at what was happening beyond the wave of people filling the middle of the street.
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If you are fortunate enough to visit the city during the sakura or cherry blossom season in Tokyo, you will be able to take advantage of one of the most incredible Tokyo photoshoot backdrops. The season is very short, beginning around the last week of March.
There are several parks and riverbanks that offer some of the best places to see cherry blossoms in Tokyo. However, the Chidorigafuchi moat is a popular central spot either from the park or from a boat on the water, shooting back to shore.
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The Imperial Palace Gardens
The juxtaposition of old and new both outside and inside the Imperial Palace walls is a photographer’s dream. Any Tokyo photo gallery should feature photos from around the beautiful East Gardens. If architecture or landscape photography sets your soul on fire, you’ll love walking around the gardens, past the ruins and set up on the grass to shoot back towards the skyline. Pack some lunch and enjoy a picnic while you are there.
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Tokyo Skytree Tower
Tokyo Skytree Tower offers panoramic views across the expansive city and is well worth a visit. The 350-metre high Tembo Deck wraps around the tower with information boards and an app to help you get oriented.
There are photo opportunities out of every window and also through the glass flooring. The observation deck opens at 8am and closes at 22.00, so you can choose to capture the day time sprawl or the light show in the evening.
Wandering the streets of Ginza is a feast for any photographer with an interest in architecture or history. Catch the train to Tokyo Station in neighbouring Marunouchi; the building makes for the perfect first frame itself. The iconic structuree was first built in 1914 and has since been damaged by earthquakes and lovingly restored. Walk back through Ginza as you snap away while stopping at other must-see buildings in the area. A few include the Kabukiza Theatre, the Okuno building and the Wako building (with its stunning clock). Tokyu Plaza rooftop and the Ginza 6 rooftops are the places to get some shots from above or the wider area.
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Shibuya is a chaotic part of Tokyo. It is well known for the Shibuya Intersection, said to be the busiest in Tokyo, if not the whole country. The crossing is consistently flooded with commuters and Instagrammers alike; some on their way to work; others just trying to work a new angle. This is a standout at one of the most popular Tokyo photography locations and arguably also the most over-Instagrammed part of the city. Try your luck with low angles, mid-crossing shots and the iconic rooftop shots down to the Shibuya intersection from Mag’s Park.
Once you’re finished with your Shibuya shuffle photos, wander the back streets for some street photography gold where small izakaya are tucked quietly in the alleyways, away from the flashing neons of the skyscrapers.
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For those fun late night long exposure shots or some colourful street portraits, Shinjuku is the spot for you. Notoriously home to the city’s biggest red light district, you could come across anything during a late night Tokyo photo tour through these seedy backstreets. Whether you venture to Golden Gai or deeper into this area, you are bound to find something a little different here for your Tokyo Instagram feed.
No Tokyo photography tour would be complete without a photo of the skyline or famous Rainbow Bridge at night. Odaiba is the futuristic, high-tech entertainment precinct of Tokyo, built on reclaimed land. Visit the dazzling digital museum in Odaiba first, then head to Daiba Park for an incredible view back over the bay to the city. It is the ideal place to watch the sunset over the skyline and set up for a colourful Rainbow Bridge capture.
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Photography in Harajuku is all about capturing colourful characters, culinary creations and street art. This part of Tokyo gets so busy, so try to rise up above the people to find some fresh angles on the crush of visitors. Takeshita Street is the obvious first stop; the famed pedestrian street is rich with people, weird and wonderful stores and plenty of props to buy. Try to visit some other backstreets for quiet and quirky boutiques and street art.
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Skye is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Fit Traveller. She is a journalist, writer, photographer, intrepid traveller and a former personal trainer with a passion for helping others reach optimal health. As a TV journalist and producer, Skye has worked for household names such as 60 Minutes, Sunrise, TODAY and Nine News. She has also written for Women’s Health, Fodor’s Travel and Yahoo7 Travel, among many others.
Skye created The Fit Traveller as a beautiful online space and community where people feel inspired to escape the desk to move and explore more.
Equally comfortable in a 5-star resort or hiking a far-off mountain, Skye loves the unexpected and enriching life experiences that each trip brings and can often be found in a backstreet chatting to locals with her camera in hand.
Skye is based in Sydney, working to master the balance between motherhood and her insatiable appetite for adventure.