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Tokyo: 5 great places to visit in the night

Today i’ll show 5 places of Tokyo which are great to photograph and visit in the night, thanks to their atmosphere which is particularly vibrant in the night.

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DISCLAIMER: the present article has been realized in pure amateur form with a mere recreational, personal, non profit intention. Therefore, the author cannot guarantee in any case the absence of errors or the freshness of the informations reported. For this reason he strictly invites any reader to also search for more informations about the same arguments inside other external sources, and to report any eventual mistake to the author through the Contact page on this website. In any case the author will not be responsible for any action committed by anyone following the reading of the informations reported inside this article

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Tokyo, Shibuya station with the street crossing seen from the second floor of the station in the night

Tokyo is the capital city of Japan, popular for its high technology infrastructures and very efficient transportations system, and for many central areas where buildings are full of neon lights with advertisements everywhere. By sticking this scenario with even some rain in the night, the result is a real photographer paradise which resembles the scenes of movies like Blade Runners. This scenario, especially that of central areas like Shibuya, remembers also a little bit Time Square in New York and Piccadilly Circus in London, popular for the same kind of atmosphere

Tokyo is the second largest capital of the world after Beijing with its 15 millions and more inhabitants, and at the same time one of the three most important cities in economy, togheter again with New York and London.

Following is the list of these places with some photos taken by me for the occasion to give an idea of what they can offer to a photographer

SHIBUYA

Tokyo, Shibuya station with the street crossing in the night

Tokyo, Shibuya station with the street crossing in the night

WHAT IS SHIBUYA: considered one the largest districts and stations of Tokyo, Shibuya is popular for the neon lights and mega screens on the buildings as well as for the huge street crossing in front of the station itself where a sea of people walk back and forth at every green of the traffic lights. It includes more than 15 lines of trains and subways among which the popular Yamanote, which is like a ring railway taking passengers all around Tokyo in a short time. Coming in Tokyo without seeing Shibuya is almost like coming in Rome without seeing the Colosseum.

WHEN TO VISIT SHIBUYA: night time is preferrable thanks to the neon lights of advertisement signs on the buildings turning on. It would be even greater to visit it during a rainy evening. The reflection effect of the rain and all the umbrellas opened are outstanding

WHAT TO PHOTOGRAPH IN SHIBUYA: the street crossing just outside the station is a must. I personally liked to stay on the edge of the sidewalk, waiting for the green light and for all the people crossing the two streets, trying to catch the perfect moment all the time. Photographing this place requires a little bit of skill, since the gap between light and dark areas is very high. By increasing too much the exposure, the neon lights advertisements will be washed out, while by underexposing too much, the ground will be too dark. Of course an HDR technique or the use of a “shadow/highlights” function would be useful, like that of Photoshop or softwares like CaptureOne, which both allow with a single shot to make an effect similar to that of 3 shots in HDR, at the cost of more noise level in dark areas.

SHINJUKU

Streets around Shinjuku stationi n the night

Streets around Shinjuku stationi in the night

WHAT IS SHINJUKU: Considered a great district of Tokyo in the west area, Shinjuku gives also the name to another very large and popular station of Tokyo, quite close to Shibuya (just a couple of stops). This place is full of neon signs, department stores and skyscrapers, because it is considered an area with a low risk of seismic events, and so safer to build tall buindings. Someone estimated that everyday this area is crossed by 3,6 millions of people everyday. This is also the place which includes the popular red light district called Kabukicho, background of the videogame Yakuza for Playstation

WHEN TO VISIT SHINJUKU: as for Shibuya, in my opinion this place gives its best at night, possibly under the rain, when people open their umbrellas and the ground gets full of reflections

Kabukicho district in the district of Shinjuku station

Kabukicho district in the district of Shinjuku station

WHAT TO PHOTOGRAPH IN SHINJUKU: once again, i loved to combine the following elements, people, reflections, and neon signs. I enjoyed to both use a wide angle lens to take a wide landscape shot, as well as a 35mm f1.8 to take some more specific “scene” shots. Basically i stayed all around the station, while also visiting the area north east of the station called Kabukicho, the popular red light district

THE GUNDAM ROBOT STATUE IN ODAIBA

WHAT IS ODAIBA: a small and artificial island, Odaiba is situated south east of Tokyo. It is also known as the teleport city or simply “Daiba”. It was built to protect Tokyo from attacks from sea. Daiba in japanese means “battery”, referred to the battery of cannons present here. It is connected to Tokyo through the popular Rainbow Bridge, and it also hosts a small reproduction of the Statue of Liberty, together with the offices of the Fuji TV, some museums like that of the Gundam robot which includes a huge statue outside, and department stores.

Gundam robot statue on the island of Odaiba in the night

Gundam robot statue on the island of Odaiba in the night

WHEN TO VISIT ODAIBA: i would say from sunset to dusk is fine, or even in the night. The great Gundam robot statue is better when the lights turn on and the sky begins to get dark

WHAT TO PHOTOGRAPH IN ODAIBA: i liked to photograph the great statue of the Gundam robot. It is very huge, and of course it is possible to see some light effects on it. By making the right composition, it looks real! Apart from that the Rainbow bridge is another nice spot to take some shots with Tokyo in the background, although i personally didn’t have the time for that

MORI TOWER IN ROPPONGI HILL

WHAT IS THE MORI TOWER:  the Mori Tower of Roppongi Hill is a tall skyscraper (238 meters) situated south of Tokyo, inside the district of Roppongi, which hosts restaurants, cafes, and offices of companies like Goldman Sachs, Konami, TV Asashi and not only. On top of this building it is possible to visit both the last floor, or the top terrace to enjoy a panorama of Tokyo through the Tokyo City View, with the Tokyo tower shining with its orange vibrant color at the horizon

Tokyo night view from Mori Tower terrace over the Tokyo Tower

Tokyo night view from Mori Tower terrace over the Tokyo Tower

WHEN TO VISIT MORI TOWER: both sunset and night time are great thanks to the vivacity of the city lights and the orange color of the Tokyo Tower which lies in the middle of the panoramic view. However, while the last floor can be accessed at any time, the terrace on top of it is opened only when the weather condition is not bad. So coming here when it rains is a little bit risky. It must be also considered that the last floor presents a little bit dirty windows which can negatively impact pictures, but in turn it is allowed the use of the tripod. Instead on the top terrace, there’s no window, but the use of tripod during my last trip was denied (probably because they were scared that it could be blown away by the wind)

WHAT TO PHOTOGRAPH ON THE MORI TOWER: the landscape is great, and the view is very wide. It is possible to both zoom over some areas or to take a wide angle shot which also includes the Tokyo Tower, which strictly resembles the Eiffel Tower of Paris

ASAKUSA AND TEMPLE SENSOJI

Asakuas lantern in front of the Sensoji temple

Asakuas lantern in front of the Sensoji temple

WHAT IS ASAKUSA: Asakusa is a district situated north east of Tokyo, in the area of Taito. Many tourists come here to visit the temple of Sensoji, popular for its big red lantern at the entrance gate called Kaminarimon, and for being the oldest Buddhist temple of Tokyo.

WHEN TO GO TO ASAKUSA: since the temple can close early, one should check in advance the opening time. However, apart from visiting it inside, the big lantern in the night and at dusk is great, together with the rest of the external structure, with also includes a nice pagoda. Useless to say, in this case also, some rain can create some nice reflection effects

WHAT TO PHOTOGRAPH IN ASAKUSA: the big lantern is a must, and apart from it the temple itself is interesting, and the place around is full of open air market stands.

Asakuas lantern in front of the Sensoji temple

Asakusa lantern in front of the Sensoji temple

 CONCLUSION

Tokyo, with its great technology is just the beginning of a trip in Japan and only half of the coin. It offers a futuristic experience which looks so much in contrast with some other areas of Japan like Kyoto, where everything looks more ancient and so well preserved from the past times. Personally, in my last trip, i liked very much to live both these aspects and see how the life looks different in these two cities.

I can’t forget how modern, but at the same time stressful was Tokyo, and how much relaxed and more ancient Kyoto was in turn.

Concluding, i believe that a good and nicely planned trip in Japan should include both these places, to have a complete view of what Japan and its lifestyle today are, a never ending flipping coin with two sides, one looking into the future, and one still devoted to its religious and beautiful past

Thanks for reading!

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Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Small excerpts or the pictures contained in the article may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Moyan Brenn and Earthincolors.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

Discussion

13 thoughts on “Tokyo: 5 great places to visit in the night

  1. Great advice! Did you use a tripod for these night photos? I’m wondering how difficult that would be with all the crowds.

    Posted by scott | December 25, 2015, 12:33 am
  2. Hello there!

    May I ask how you got the neon signs to be so bright, vibrant, and filling? I’ve taken some pictures of those signs and mine always come out comparatively drab and dark. Any tips or hints would be great! I love your work!!

    Posted by tonkotsu | January 22, 2016, 6:36 am
  3. Hey I was wondering how you got those neon signs to pop like that. Every time I take pictures of signs like that, they just end up really dark and drab. Any hints would be nice 😀

    Posted by tonkotsu | January 23, 2016, 9:43 am
    • hi friend and thanks for it…you need a good reflex camera capable of keeping shadow information in nice form, and to use of course the RAW format. What you do is under expose the shot of 1,5 stops. After that you will get nice neon light but all the rest a little bit dark…then with shadow/highlight functions present in most popular softwares like photoshop, captureone, lightroom and cameraraw, you can increase the brightness of the shadow areas, and that’s it! however, if you do this with a cheap camera, you can still do it, but when you increase the brightness, the dark areas will be noise

      Posted by Moyan Brenn | January 23, 2016, 10:11 am
      • oops sorry, I was not sure if the comment posted so i reposted.

        I never thought of under exposing, I was intent on trying to expose correctly or over expose a bit. Thank You so much! Your photos are an inspiration to me to continue improving my photography!

        Posted by tonkotsu | January 24, 2016, 9:00 am
      • Thank you too! where are you from? your name looks japanese!

        Posted by Moyan Brenn | January 26, 2016, 9:36 am
  4. I have a question regarding your response to photographing in neon. Are you recommending to underexpose the shot by 1.5 stops, but to make sure the histogram doesn’t go all the way to the left? What ISO and shutter speeds are you using? I have a Canon 5D Mark III, which is very good at high ISO.

    Posted by scott | January 26, 2016, 7:01 pm
    • Yes friend, more or less in Tokyo neon streets i was shooting around 1 stop below zero (more or less). And after that what i tried to do is to evaluate the histogram. However there is an important trick to apply. Just set a very neutral, and low contrast picture profile. You know, cameras allow to apply neutral profile, standard, landscape, vibrant, etc…..however, as long as you shoot in raw, the profile is just related to the screen preview. However, this preview influences the histogram result. And so, if you select a very high contrast and vibrant profile, you risk to believe that you need to underexpose a lot because high tones are stronger. However, with a very neutral and low contrast profile, you can have a clear view of the situation and a more realistic histogram…..of course, useless to say, forget about shooting in JPG……raw is the way to go….

      Posted by Moyan Brenn | February 3, 2016, 1:05 pm
      • I always shoot in RAW. But I did not know about changing the profile. I changed the profile to Neutral and lowered the contrast and saturation to the lowest level. I’m taking my first trip to Japan in late March and want to take some nice pictures. I’ve been practicing taking photos of neon in my hometown of Miami.

        Posted by scott | February 3, 2016, 9:28 pm
      • I was looking at your flickr site. Those are incredible photos. The EXIF data for your night shots of Tokyo show the saturation setting as high and sharpness as normal. By default my sharpness is set to the lowest level. I read that the saturation should be set low, but now I’m not so sure?

        Posted by scott | February 3, 2016, 9:59 pm
    • Regarding your doubts however, just enter in my flickr gallery, select japan album, and then open all the pictures you like…one by one, flickr is correctly reporting all the settings values, among which iso, exposure and so on….just have a look to have a clear idea…. you can find my gallery through my official website http://www.moyanbrenn.com…the album as said is called “japan”

      Posted by Moyan Brenn | February 3, 2016, 1:06 pm

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