The Street Photography Guide to Tokyo, Japan

If there is one style of photography which fits Tokyo like a glove, it is street photography.

With its incredibly dense population, varied urban landscape and vibrant nightlife, Tokyo is a must for any photographer, and has so many incredible photo spots to capture.

Tokyo has a distinct look that varies dramatically from morning to night. From the salarymen and women on their way to work, to the colorful entertainment districts of Shinjuku filled with interesting characters at every turn, it’s full of people wandering the streets, ready to be captured on camera. 

Whether you’re currently in Tokyo or planning a trip there in the near future, I’ve put together a short guide for street photography in Japan’s Megacity.

Morning: Public transport

Eren Sarigul tokyo street photography
Photo by Eren Sarigul
Eren Sarigul tokyo street photography
Photo by Eren Sarigul
Eren Sarigul tokyo street photography
Photo by Eren Sarigul
Eren Sarigul tokyo street photography
Photo by Eren Sarigul

Be prepared to brave the Tokyo rush hour to capture interesting snaps of the cities inhabitants making their way to work. Travel to any train station on the JR Yamanote Line to capture the packed trains and station staff helping commuters along their way.

Shimbashi and Shinagawa are two of the busiest work hubs in Tokyo and are perfect spots for some morning street photography. 

Mid-day: Shibuya

Eren Sarigul tokyo street photography
Photo by Eren Sarigul
Eren Sarigul tokyo street photography
Photo by Eren Sarigul
Eren Sarigul tokyo street photography
Photo by Eren Sarigul
Eren Sarigul tokyo street photography
Photo by Eren Sarigul

Once the morning rush hour is over, head on over to the Shibuya crossing to marvel at the world’s busiest intersection. This is a great spot to capture people on their daily business with one of Tokyo’s most iconic locations as a backdrop.

If you are in Tokyo over a weekend I also highly recommend returning to Shibuya on a Friday or Saturday night. The crossing is where the city’s young population congregate and will always serve up something interesting and unique to capture on every visit.

Afternoon: Harajuku

Eren Sarigul tokyo street photography
Photo by Eren Sarigul
Eren Sarigul tokyo street photography
Photo by Eren Sarigul
Eren Sarigul tokyo street photography
Photo by Eren Sarigul
Eren Sarigul tokyo street photography
Photo by Eren Sarigul

Once you have soaked up Shibuya crossing and its surrounding area, hop back on the JR Yamanote Line over to Harajuku. This is where you will see the more extreme side of Japanese fashion.

People will be dressed in bright colors and often as anime characters. Have a wide angle lens on-hand as Takeshita Dori street, where most people congregate, is pretty narrow and crowded.

Evening: Shinjuku

Eren Sarigul tokyo street photography
Photo by Eren Sarigul
Eren Sarigul tokyo street photography
Photo by Eren Sarigul
Eren Sarigul tokyo street photography
Photo by Eren Sarigul
Eren Sarigul tokyo street photography
Photo by Eren Sarigul

When the sun goes down, head into Shinjuku to capture Tokyo’s wild side from the streets. Once you make it out of the labyrinth-like train station, head over to Shinjuku Omoide Yokocho, which is a narrow alleyway with cramped bars and restaurants to capture Tokyoites enjoying a late night meal or drink.

Once you have completed a couple laps of Omoide Yokocho, head over to Kabukicho to capture some iconic Tokyo night scenes. The bright neon lights and vibrant street signs offer up a perfect backdrop while capturing the night-crawlers.

After exploring Kabukicho, head over to Golden Gai, which is one of my favorite places to shoot at night. The small area, which feels like a snapshot of Tokyo’s past, is made up of several small alleyways and a little over 200 small bars and restaurants.

Tips for navigating Tokyo:

Generally speaking, Tokyo is a safe city, but always take proper precautions. 

JR Yamanote Line:

Eren Sarigul tokyo street photography
Photo by Eren Sarigul

The Tokyo Metro can be pretty confusing to say the least which is why I highly recommend using the JR Yamanote Line whenever possible. The train service does a circular loop of all of Tokyo’s main spots and runs until 1:20 AM.

Suica Card:

Eren Sarigul tokyo street photography
Photo by Eren Sarigul

If you have JR Pass at-hand then the JR Yamanote Line will be free to use. If not, pick up a Suica card from any station. Suica cards are prepaid fare cards which are especially useful around Tokyo as they are accepted by almost all of the food & drink vending machines in the city.

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