A perfect combination of past and future, Tokyo pulsates with unparallelled energy. From historical landmarks and parks to neon-soaked neighbourhoods, the city of thirteen million continues to mesmerise travellers. To experience—and remember—the best views on your next trip to Tokyo, explore these twelve spots with a camera in hand.
1. Tokyo City View Tower
Located in the chic area of Roppongi Hills, Tokyo City View tower is one of the best places to see the expanse of Tokyo. At 250 metres, the observation deck boasts an amazing panorama of Tokyo’s most iconic landmarks. Visit the tower during the day while the crowds are at bay. While you won’t capture romantic city lights, you will walk away with a crisp image without having to jockey for position along the glass or the Sky Deck railing.
2. Omoide Yokocho
A visit to Japan’s Shinjuku ward isn’t complete without passing through Omoide Yokocho. The tight, gritty alleyway (aka, a yokocho) is home to a handful of ramshackle izakaya (Japanese-style pubs) serving some of Tokyo’s best food. To capture the essence of the alley, photographers should head to the yokocho with their camera in hand and slowly meander the narrow street. Try using a monochrome mode, and be ready to catch a yakitori grill cook’s smile or a ramen chef serving customers.
3. Takeshita Street
For those wanting to take home kitschy Tokyo souvenirs, a trip to Harajuku’s famous Takeshita Street is in order. But before your snail’s crawl down the iconic boulevard, take a shot of the mob clogging the street. For the best image of the bustle, start at the elevated end of Takeshita street located right outside Harajuku Station. There you will be able to capture the bustling masses Tokyo is known for.
4. Meiji Shrine
The calm expanse of Yoyogi Park, Meiji Shrine is dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji, the first emperor of modern Japan, and his consort, Empress Shoken. The shrine complex rests in a large, forested area within Tokyo’s dense metropolis and is one of the top things to visit in the city. Walking paths force visitors into a relaxed stroll as they enter the shrine complex. Arrive in the late afternoon, just before closing time, to capture golden light accenting the traditional details of the Kaguraden (Hall of Sacred Music and Dance).
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5. Tsukiji Fish Market
Enjoying fresh sushi is a quintessential Tokyo experience, but that tradition wouldn’t be possible without Tsukiji. The hard-working fish market provides fresh catch to the Japanese capital and is one of Tokyo’s most interesting attractions. But photographing Tsukiji is not for the faint of heart. Photographers need to be keenly aware of their surroundings as seafood buyers and sellers run past. For quality images, show up well before sunrise when the day’s catch arrives. Shoot your way through the vast market, focusing both on labour-intensive scenes as well as the colourful seafood.
6. Shibuya Scramble Crossing
Shibuya Scramble Crossing is a Tokyo itinerary staple. Instead of making a crisp image of pedestrians crossing, use an alternative technique to come away with a photograph that isn’t cliche. Stand back and watch the world move around you before picking your shot. For a fresh perspective, opt for an abstract composition. Slow your camera’s shutter and add motion blur to show the landmark in a new way. Travellers with an iPhone can achieve a similar result by converting a “live photo” into a long exposure (find this option by swiping up on a live photo).
7. Tokyu Plaza Omotesando
Perhaps the most Instagrammable place in all of Tokyo is the entrance to Tokyu Plaza Omotesando. Covered with angular mirrors, the plaza’s entrance looks more like a carnival illusion than a shopping mall. Head up the escalators, and then turn your camera back out towards the bustling street. Attach a wide-angle lens to your camera for a fun-house frame or use your smartphone’s panorama function to fully capture the quirky essence of the Japanese capital.
8. Shinjuku Station
Shinjuku Station is the world’s busiest in terms of passenger numbers. The hub supports three-and-half million riders a day and is one of Japan’s main transportation arteries. To illustrate the pulse of the station, make your way through the sea of commuters to the platforms and take images of trains coming and going. Better yet, snag a still image of a Shinkansen bullet train before it quickly darts out of Tokyo.
9. Senso-ji Temple
One of Tokyo’s most colourful Buddhist temples, Senso-ji Temple is popular with locals and tourists. Completed in the year 645, Sensoji is Tokyo’s oldest house of prayer. But don’t expect your time at Sensoji to be solitary or contemplative. If photographing congestion isn’t your cuppa, aim your lens toward the temple’s exterior to create a strong image focused on Japan’s legendary Buddhist architecture.
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10. Mode Gakuen Cocoon Building
Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower stands proudly in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district. Unsurprisingly, the building resembles a cocoon. The latticed structure is an integrated school building that houses students studying fashion, design, medicine and information technology. Use the midday sun to your advantage, and find an angle that allows for a creative composition that will highlight the building’s distinct facade.
11. Koishikawa Korakuen Garden
If you need a break from Tokyo’s hustle, Koishikawa Korakuen Garden offers some relief. The Edo Period garden is easy to find near Idaibashi station. An area of tranquillity in the bustling metropolis, Koishikawa Korakuen is one of Tokyo’s oldest and best kept Japanese gardens. Use the Koishikawa’s still pond to help frame a shot, or focus on the garden’s stepping stones for a stoic—and truly Japanese—image.
12. Tokyo Imperial Palace
The imposing structure of Tokyo’s Imperial Palace lets you know royalty is near. Surrounded by moats and massive stone walls, the palace marks the centre of Tokyo and is home to Japan’s Imperial Family. From Kokyo Gaien, the large plaza in front of the Imperial Palace, photographers have the opportunity to craft interesting frames. Stroll along the moat to find a composition that accentuates the palace’s impressive exterior.
Andrew Faulk is a portrait and editorial photographer based in Tokyo, Japan. For the past decade, Andrew has spent his time living and working in Asia, shooting assignments for an array of international clients. He is a husband, father, and lover of fried food.