Japan has taken hold of my heart and rekindled my love of travel. Previous to visiting I didn’t know what to expect as it was never really high on my list of countries to visit; Europe always seemed to come first. I am happy to report that Japan is now one of my favourite countries. When people say Japan is such a different country compared to the rest of the world, I wholeheartedly agree. The blend of old and new, digital and analog, east and west creates constantly evolving landscape, which I find highly appealing. Japan, or rather Japanese people seem to have a knack of incorporating the things they like from other cultures and then putting their own creative, and often better, spin on it. This first post about Tokyo will be one in a series of posts about my exploration, and thoughts of Japan.
One of my favourite things to do when first visiting a city is capturing wide vistas from above. Finding a high vantage point lets me grasp a visual understanding of a city’s layout and to some extent the atmosphere it projects. Watching a lot of anime growing up fueled my imagination of Tokyo; a tightly packed megacity with futuristic buildings peppering the landscape. Seeing the city from atop Roppongi Hills challenged my perceptions of Tokyo. Yes, the city is extremely dense, but at the same time I didn’t feel an overwhelming sense of giant high-rises taking over the skyline. Skyscrapers certainly dotted the horizon but they were vastly outnumbered by low-rise buildings. Furthermore, large thoroughfares, train lines and streets crisscrossed through the city, almost like veins of a heart, ferrying people about. The city certainly has soul, that extra bit that makes me want to visit again and again.
One can never truly understand a city if they look at it from above, getting into the nooks and crannies is perhaps the best way to develop intimate relationship. Tokyo is no different. Switching from a birds-eye view to the many side streets, further expanded my understanding of life in this megacity. As you can see from the images above taken in Setagaya and Chiyoda neighbourhoods, it’s incredibly clean, orderly and charming. These qualities are quite appealing to me as it further conjures up feelings relaxation, and peacefulness; similar to slice-of-life animes. Comparing this to many large North American cities I’ve visited, which more often than not are unclean, clinical and lacking a bit of soul. Tokyo and Japan as a whole has given me respite from what I am used to seeing and I deeply relish it.
I’d like to share some tips for those of you wanting to visit Tokyo and with photography in mind.
- Explore both places high and low.
You gain a better feeling for the city when you venture from the main tourist attractions and wander. High points in the city let you get a great overview, while laneways and smaller neighbourhoods let you glimpse a little into the lives of everyday people in Tokyo.
- Don’t plan the entire day.
Obviously when it is your first time visiting you are inclined to try and see everything that others have recommended (Tokyo Tower, Skytree, Shibuya crossing etc.), but I would recommend booking only 2 to 3 attractions max, per day, with lots of room to wander in between. Tokyo is vast, and the laneways are many, you never know what you will find.
- Travel light.
Don’t bring all of your gear, just some essentials, flexible gear for capturing the day. I went with a mirrorless camera with a fast (f/1.4) 35mm prime. This allowed me to have a wide enough lens for street and cityscape shots, yet fast enough to ensure I could handle Tokyo at night. Not to mention the entire setup was light, because you will be walking many, many kilometres each day. I was personally averaging 16km each day of my trip.
Thanks for stopping by, hope you enjoyed the read.