Capture Your Own Unique View of Japan

Aug 3rd, 2009 | By | Category: Travel

Taking pictures of Japan is a must for visitors and residents alike and there are so many great things to photograph that it can be overwhelming.  As an amateur photography buff I have recently taken on the personal challenge of capturing images that are not what you might expect to see in a photo album from Japan.

With that goal in mind, I joined nine other photographers from Japan to bring you The View From Japan, a new photo blog that goes beyond the typical in an attempt to capture the essence of Japan.   I was recently interviewed on the Japan Podshow about this project and was asked about the Top 10 things to photograph in Japan.  We had a good time chatting about some of the typical and not so typical shots and encourage everyone to get out their camera, explore the county, and capture their own unique view from Japan.

Local Markets

Head out to a local market.  Fish markets vegetable markets, even grocery stores, in Japan are quite different to those found in North America and offer insight into the lives of the Japanese through the food that they eat.  Take advantage of your jet lag and head for the Tsukiji Morning Market to photograph the bounty of the sea in Tokyo – it’s an amazing experience.

Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo Japan Early Morning


Head out to a festival, small or large, well know or obscure, to find revelers strolling about in yukata, mikoshi (portable shrines) paraded about by men in traditional dress, vendors selling all manner of food, and taiko drummers beating out festive tunes.  The bright colors and abundant activity offer limitless opportunities to capture the feeling of summer in Japan.

Japanese Girls Festival Tokyo

The City Lights

Go for a stroll in the evening and try to capture the mood of the city through the neon signs that can be found along most major thoroughfares in larger cities.

Ginza Fujiya Building Tokyo

Traditional & Modern Side by Side

A temple in the foreground with a modern apartment building in the background…or a modern skyscraper hovering alongside a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn).  Try to catch an image that juxtaposes the old and new in Japan.

Ueno Bentizen Temple Tokyo

Temples & Shrines

In the city or the country, the temples and shrines are beautiful unto themselves but try capturing the spirit with images of the ema (prayer boards), purity fountain, torii (gates), and the monks themselves.

Meiji Jingu Small Tori Path

The View From the Street

Bring a long lens as the Japanese are notoriously camera shy with strangers. Capture people going about their daily lives, or the scene from the streets and alleyways of a local neighborhood like Kagurazaka or Nippori or even Yakitori Alley.

Kawagoe Shopping Street


Take a walk with your camera through a busy station and try to capture the hectic pace or visit a smaller station and head to the end of the platform to capture the comings and goings of the trains themselves.  Or why not try to capture other means of transportation like these well used Japanese bikes?

Japan Bike Tokyo Vintage


I’ve been known to hold up a dinner party by stopping to take a picture of the food before its touched – just choose you timing wisely on that one…

Tonkatsu Pork Japan Tokyo Restaurant

Gardens & Parks

Japanese Gardens and are usually designed with a path around a central pond and offer a different view from almost any point along the meandering path. Shoot the ponds, bridges, ishidoro (stone lanterns), traditional tea houses and the seasonal foliage and flowers. It’s a beautiful an relaxing way to while away and afternoon with your camera.

Shinjuku Gyoen Ishidoro

Know When to Put Your Camera Away

Make sure that you put your camera down and just take it all in once in a while. You don’t want to spend all you time trying to capture the perfect shot and not enjoy the experience – that would be a bigger shame than losing a shot!

If you are a budding photographer and your traveling companions are not try to find some time to explore by yourself.  There is so much to photograph that much can be overlooked when trying to meet the needs of those with different interests. Set aside some time to explore your hobby independently or set a meeting time with your companion so you are free to roam about without worrying about your companions.

Stop by and visit The View From Japan for some photographic inspiration and take some time to listen to me talk about this list with Joseph on the Japan Podshow this week.

Image Credit:  Personal Collection

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