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11 Spots You Need to Visit as a Photographer in Tokyo

The ultimate travel guide for photographers traveling to Tokyo
Over 170 years worth of photographic history is on display at the Fuji Film History Museum. — Mayumi Suzuki for ONWARD

Introduction

Tokyo, bustling city of light and life, has drawn photographers to its winding alleys and wide expanses since the camera was invented. From Henri Cartier-Bresson to Daido Moriyama, the city has endured as the muse of both master and amateur alike. As a visitor in Tokyo it can be difficult to navigate and find the very best photographic enclaves among the squalor, so we decided to highlight 11 of the most essential stops for any wandering photography enthusiast in town.

 

Here is ONWARD's list of 11 spots for any photographers traveling to Tokyo...

 

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1. Megu Tama

Enjoy a meal while browsing Iizawa Kotaro's private photobook collection at MeguTama. — Mayumi Suzuki for ONWARD

View hard to find photobooks in an intimate setting

Iizawa Kotaro, erudite and well-known photography critic and historian, shares his private book collection at Megu Tama Eatery. If your idea of a good time is eating nutritious home-cooked meals in a cozy natural wood interior, surrounded by thousands of photo books, then this is the place for you. It prides itself on its “o-uchi gohan”, meals that are carefully selected and prepared from the freshest ingredients.

“Your heart and body will re-energize.”

Megu Tama is located in Shibuya, close to Ebisu, a major district of Shibuya Ward in Tokyo. This area is well-known for its high concentration of bars and restaurants, and the site of Yebisu Garden Place, a popular and more sophisticated date place for couples.

 
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2. Fujiya Camera

Fujiya Camera has a bright and inviting facade, located near the bustling Nakano station. — Mayumi Suzuki for ONWARD

Heaven for camera enthusiasts

If you’re looking for equipment and you can’t find it at Fujiya Camera, it probably does not exist. Established in 1938, this camera store has it all, featuring the latest models and gear for the cutting-edge photographer. It also has a gently-used section, shelved with old SLRs, lenses, and flashes at dirt cheap prices. For photo-geeks everywhere, expect to get lost for hours admiring the latest photographic technology while nostalgically admiring the vintage cameras of a bygone era.

“There were so many other orphaned Canon AFs, crying out to be taken home.”

The store is located near Nakano Station on the Chuo Line, just minutes away from Shinjuku by train. Nearby you can find Nakano Broadway, a shopping complex catering to anime and manga fans. The large building in the shape of a right-angle triangle that you cannot miss as you exit the station is the Nakano Sun Plaza, which houses a hotel and concert hall.

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3. Reminders Photography Stronghold

Visitors can catch presentations, lectures, and other events at Reminders Photography Stronghold. — Mayumi Suzuki for ONWARD

The meeting place of photography and social issues

Yumi Goto, curator and co-founder of Reminders Photography Stronghold, together with Masaru Goto, opened this gallery in hopes of preserving stories that are lost through the myriad of misinformation we face daily. Through workshops, slideshows and exhibitions, Mrs. Goto invites photographers who were there to capture with their own eyes to share these stories of suffering and triumph. Through the photographs, visitors achieve a better understanding of how natural disasters, social issues, and human rights abuses affect all of us. This is where photography coincides with social awareness.

“Our ideal goal is for this project’s stories to endure through time.”

On your way back to Asakusa Station on the Tobu Skytree Line, stop at the Tokyo Skytree Station and ascend the tallest tower in the world at 634 m.

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4. IMA Concept Store

IMA features a neatly curated store. Here, stacks of limited-edition photobooks grace the displays. — Mayumi Suzuki for ONWARD

An immersion into the photographic lifestyle

To see, to understand, and to taste are part-and-parcel of the experience visitors can expect from IMA Concept Store with its gallery, bookstore and café. The gallery offers 8 exhibitions a year and often promotes upcoming photographers and educates connoisseurs. In the bookstore, expect to peruse rare and limited-edition photo books while enjoying a beverage from the café.

“Designed so that our customers can experience what it means to ‘live with photography.”

IMA is just a seven-minute walk to Roppongi Station. This area is famous for the upscale Roppongi Hills, a mega-complex that houses stores, restaurants, a hotel, cafes, and parks. Roppongi also has an active nightclub scene, popular with locals and tourists alike.

 
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5. Place M

Masato Seto, owner of Place M, sits with his students and takes a collaborative approach to photography. — Mayumi Suzuki for ONWARD

A bastion of inspiration and expression

This tiny gallery offers a world of endless possibilities. Through workshops, lectures, and exhibitions, the owner of the gallery, Masato Seto, hopes to break down barriers and make the gallery accessible to anyone interested in photography. In the words of Seto himself, “I wish participants to learn...photographic expression which is experimental and has ‘Will’”.

“…the experimental space of photography.”

Place M is located on the east side of Shinjuku Station, past Golden Gai (See #11 below). A closer station on the Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line is Shinjukugyoenmae Station, just a 3-minute walk away. Across the street is Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, one of the largest parks in Tokyo. It offers a welcome respite from the buzz and flash of the rest of Tokyo.

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6. Sensoji Temple in Asakusa

Visitors pray at Sensoji's gate. Approximately 30 million people visit the temple each year. — Mayumi Suzuki for ONWARD

One of the most popular historical sites in Tokyo

Hiroh Kikai, famed for his monochromatic photography, has numerous collections covering the many faces of people in Asia. You will indeed find what Mr. Kikai spoke of as you wander the streets of Asakusa. Once known for its pleasure palaces, it is now famous as the site of the more pious Sensoji Temple, one of the most photographed places in all of Japan.

“Their faces and their bodies tell a story, whether they are Japanese, French, English or Martian…the most important thing is that I can say to myself ‘Ah, there are lots of people today, I should be able to find something good.” — Hiroh Kikai
 
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7. Four Galleries

Nikon Salon's sleek reception area, where you'll find all the latest equipment and work. — Mayumi Suzuki for ONWARD

Epson, Ricoh, Olympus, Nikon: Need We Say More?

Four famous names in photography, all with their own galleries, and all devoted to the medium for more than 70 years. What better places to see the latest trends and to witness other photographers’ selected work than at the site of one of the four titans of photography? Exhibits and practical advice abound at the four sites, each with its own unique approach.

Fortunately, all four galleries are located on the western side of Shinjuku Station and are within walking distance of one another. Just outside the west exit of the station, you will also find Yodobashi Camera, an electronic superstore selling a variety of cameras, computers, cell phones, televisions, home appliances, cosmetics, and many other goods.

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8. Gallery 916

Gallery 916's walls, filled with a collection of contemporary work, are sure to inspire. — Mayumi Suzuki for ONWARD

Highlighting the most cutting-edge work

Housed in a converted warehouse, Gallery 916 is full of possibilities. The space invites contemplative observations of the photographic exhibitions, held periodically and focused on solo artists. Previous exhibits have showcased works from Charlotte Dumas, Noguchi Rika, Nao Tsuda, Kozo Miyoshi, and Daido Moriyama.

“I feel proud to have retained [my gaze], unaltered. And struck anew forcefully by the wonder, the beauty, and the cruelty of photography.” Yoshihiko Ueda (co-curator of Gallery 916)

The gallery is located in the southern Minato Ward of Tokyo, close to Tokyo Bay. On a clear day, you can see spectacular views of Odaiba, an artificial island with many stores and leisure activities, as well as Rainbow Bridge that connects the island to the mainland.

 
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9. Fuji Film History Museum

Photographic relics on display at the Fuji Film History Museum offer historical perspective for the modern photographer. — Mayumi Suzuki for ONWARD

Explore the origins of modern camera technology

The museum showcases over 170 years of photographic history, from the camera obscura (Japan's oldest camera, circa 18th century) to touchable replicas and prototypes of modern and vintage designs. With over 300 items consisting of vintage cameras and photos, the museum is an ideal starting place for modern photographers to be able to trace the long lineage of the art form.

“Learn about the history of photography and progress of cameras through viewing and touching exhibits.”

Like the IMA Concept Store (See #4 above), this museum is also located in Roppongi, just a 5-minute walk from the station.

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10. Komiyama Book Store

Komiyama book store's stacks, packed with hard-to-find photobooks, offer something for every taste. — Mayumi Suzuki for ONWARD

The most expansive collection in Tokyo

This bookstore is for those in need of that special rare or limited edition photobook to add to their collection. For visitors in search of a bit of inspiration, Komiyama is an ideal place as it houses four stories of visual stimulus packed with books focusing not only on photography but also on movies, painting, Tokyo subculture, and much more.

“Known as a Mecca for all the fans of books and art”

The bookstore is located in Chiyoda Ward of Tokyo and is known as Tokyo's center of used bookstores and publishing houses. Popular among college students and academics, this area is also known for antiques and curiosities.

 
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11. Shinjuku Golden Gai

A woman in Kimono wanders Shinjuku's winding alleyways, source of inspiration for many photographers. — Mayumi Suzuki for ONWARD

A window into the life of a local

To see a place, to really see a place is to walk on the path less travelled. Golden Gai offers such a place for visitors to get a glimpse of life beyond all of the glitter and neon, and into the sprawling, windy backstreets of Shinjuku. It is here that famed Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama received inspiration for his intimate portraits of people who live on the fringes of society. They are portrayed as everyday people, like you and I, mundanely living from day to day.

“I’ve never been attracted to places that are very hygienic; I like a touch of squalor.” — Daido Moriyama

If you’re lucky enough, you may catch the immortal Mr. Moriyama in action on Golden Gai, perhaps at one of his favorite local bars drinking warm sake and reminiscing about Tokyo in the 1960’s, the period when he first began establishing himself as a tour-de-force of street photography.

Golden Gai is located on the eastern side of Shinjuku Station, close to the red-light district of Kabukicho. In contrast, the “hygienic” western side of the station has the highest concentration of skyscrapers in Tokyo, including the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, which offers free panoramic views of the city on its observation deck.

 
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  • Jun Suenaga

    Thanks very much for coming up with these spots as photographers’ point of view. I love Golden Gai. When you go to shoot photos in Golden Gai, make sure you get in a couple of bars there. Lots of bar owners are artists and some of them can speak English. Talk to them. Shoot before getting drunk!

    • Tsuyoshi Ito

      In fact, Golden Gai may have the highest concentration of local artists in Japan!

  • John Pryke

    Fabulous, will have to check some of them out when next in Japan!

    • Tsuyoshi Ito

      MapCamera in Shinjuku… The next on the list!

  • Olga Egoraeva

    Loved the selection! Many thanks for sharing!

    • Tsuyoshi Ito

      Olga, hope you enjoyed the list!

      • Olga Egoraeva

        Much! Bookmarked for my next Tokyo trip :)

        • Tsuyoshi Ito

          Great! Let me know how it works out for you!

  • http://500px.com/sebastianboatca Sebastian Boatca

    Very nice selection of fantastic places! I would like to put them on my list, too.

    • Tsuyoshi Ito

      Some of the places are really hard to find in Tokyo in general. We hope to come up with a map for all these locations!

  • Eric Bowles

    Don’t forget JCII Japan Camera Museum, located in Ichibancho, with its vast collection of historical cameras.
    http://www.jcii-cameramuseum.jp/top_e.html

    • Tsuyoshi Ito

      That is, in fact, a great suggestion! Thank, Eric!

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