I’m Big in Japan – The MSP Guide to Street Photography in Tokyo Part One

Japan is full of delightful quirks and eccentricities. Here are some of my tips for the street photographer travelling to Japan.

1. Get a Mobile Wifi Router. They are about 1000 yen per day and have virtually unlimited usage. I got mine here. You just pick them up at a counter once you get through customs. Mine was a little twitchy – It was a bit on the lazy side and wanted to go to “sleep” all the time. The battery on these suckas lasts all day easily, so google maps your heart out!

2. Google Maps is Your Friend. Don’t bother with paper maps in Japan. They will only confuse the shite out of you. I chucked mine at the end of day one. Call me an internet doofus, but it was only on this trip that I learnt how to use the direction pointy thing on Google maps, that orientates the map to which direction you want to go in. Every tourist I saw with a paper map in their hands had a matching look which combined frustration, terror, and complete helplessness. Get the wifi router, and learn the features of google maps.

3. Google Translate is Your Other Bestie. Learn how to use it before you depart. Then you can go read pretty any menu in town with the swipe of your finger. I couldn’t have ordered the New Zealand Lamb at a Japanese “French” restaurant without it. There a lot of places where people are very friendly, but don’t understand any English.

4. Learn Some Basic Japanese. The Japanese are like a friendlier version of the French when it comes to visitors. Some basic phrases will go a long way to helping you through everything. Learn how to say the basics before you go. Yes, no, please, hello, good evening, sorry etc. You will be surprised at how much the locals appreciate you making the effort.

5. Get the Airline Limousine Bus. The Narita Express, whilst looking ridiculously cool as a Transformer was a real hassle. Schlepping your cases up and down stairs at Narita, on the train, and then at your transfer at Tokyo station is less than the most exciting thing I did. I was tired after arriving and managed to get lost between my final local station and the hotel. On the way home, we got the bus. Picked us up at the hotel door, and dropped us to the front door of the terminal. Assuming the same thing happens in reverse – take the bus.

6. The Train System is Hot Mess. Buy this App. And then upgrade to the full version for where you are going. The train system is seriously awesome, but without a trusty guide, you will end up in Kyoto by mistake. Even the locals struggle with the pure number of lines, stations, and connections. And make sure you know which exit you want – otherwise you can end up walking a kilometre in the wrong direction before you hit daylight!

7. Yodabashi for Gear. If you need anything whilst you are away, check out Yodabashi. It is pretty cool. But make sure you know what you want, and shop with a mission, or you may never make it out of one of these monstrous stores.

8. My Favourite View. Park Hyatt Hotel – ya know, the one from Lost in Translation. Book for the set price lunch and you will escape the big money they charge for dinner. The appetiser buffet was pretty special… If you go easy on the drinks, you will get the best service and still leave only 7500 yen out of pocket per head – tops. And you get to look out of the window at the bar for as long as you want for the rest of the afternoon and contemplate what your life has become! Oh, and they love you taking photos of the view…

The pic for this post gives you a very small preview – more to come later.

9. Try Some Japanese Whisky. The Japanese have a real fascination with the stuff.

10. What’s Happening?  Time Out is both online and on paper. It is a great guide to what is happening during your stay. I came across a few really cool local things that were happening, like a Frank Gheary exhibition and another arty show on “Totems of Tokyo”.

What about photographing people in Tokyo? Like most places, sometimes people duck their heads when you point the camera in their general direction – making a wide angle lens a key part of your kit. A 21mm lens on a 35mm format camera captures a lot of stuff that just doesn’t seem to be in the general direction of where the camera is pointing.

Will be more to come over the next few weeks on my just completed trip to Hong Kong and Japan… Now I am back home, I can get back into posting!

Part Two is Here!

Part Three is Here!



  1. The MSP Tokyo Street Photography Guide - March 2, 2016

    […] Source: I’m Big in Japan – The MSP Guide to Street Photography in Tokyo Part One | Inconspicuosity […]


  2. I’m Big in Japan – The MSP Guide to Street Photography in Tokyo Part Two | Inconspicuosity - October 16, 2016

    […] Part One is Here […]


  3. I’m Big in Japan – The MSP Guide to Street Photography in Tokyo Part Three | Inconspicuosity - October 23, 2016

    […] Part One of Japan Tips is Here […]


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