Tokyo Night Photography: 15 Faces of Japan’s Capital After Sunset

Updated on March 11, 2020
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A Japanophile who has survived 15 solo trips to Japan. His visits focus on discovering the country’s lesser-known attractions.

Tokyo, capital of Japan, carries many titles.

It is one of the largest cities in the world, home to some 13 million people.

It is also Japan’s alpha city, its political, economic, and cultural heart.

Above all, Tokyo is the synthesis of modern and medieval Japan, where the past and the present coexist in a peculiar but perfect harmony. The short of it, no matter who you are, where you’re from, there will be something for you to enjoy in Japan’s capital. For photographers, the entire city is a mesmerizing citadel of night photography opportunities the moment it is illuminated.

1. The Sparkling

The greater Tokyo metropolitan area, which includes the cities of Yokohama and Kawasaki, is home to a staggering 33 million people, making it one of the world’s most densely populated regions. At night, this massive spread of homes and offices transforms into a sparkling sea of lights. It is the perfect scene for any night photography enthusiast.

Aerial view of Tokyo with Tokyo Tower in the distance.
Aerial view of Tokyo with Tokyo Tower in the distance.

2. The Historical

Many Tokyo historical monuments were destroyed over the last century, no thanks to natural calamities and war. Thankfully, the best has long since been restored, and every evening, these monuments adorned the mega-city with their majestic splendor, their timeless beauty free for all to enjoy. Without a doubt, these stately landmarks count among the best Tokyo night photography spots for visitors.

The majestic Hozōmon (宝蔵門) of Asakusa Sensō-ji (浅草寺) at night.
The majestic Hozōmon (宝蔵門) of Asakusa Sensō-ji (浅草寺) at night.

3. The Serene

With there being tens of thousands of tourists in Tokyo each day, it’s sometimes best to visit popular attractions outside of typical hours. While you probably wouldn’t get to complete your souvenir shopping, the serenity is likely to surprise and please you. For photographers, you will also return home with a bundle of memorable Tokyo evening photos.

Sensō-ji Nakamise-dōri (仲見世通り) at night.
Sensō-ji Nakamise-dōri (仲見世通り) at night.

4. The Dedicated

The Japanese dedication to work is legendary. Often, to the extent of obsessiveness too. At major transportation hubs, you will continue to see hordes of office workers wearily returning home right up to midnight. Sad as this might be when it comes to Japan’s work-life balance, the devotion to duty nonetheless impresses.

JR Ikebukuro Station at 10 pm, on a Tuesday.
JR Ikebukuro Station at 10 pm, on a Tuesday.

5. The Bewildering

To work hard and play hard sounds like a cliché, but it does aptly describe Tokyo adult city life. To cater to its residents, Tokyo nights host a giddying array of dining, entertainment, and relaxation choices. Often, deciding what to go for could be a task in itself.

Neon nightmare, or perfect Tokyo night photography opportunity?
Neon nightmare, or perfect Tokyo night photography opportunity?

6. The Vigilant

Are Manga and Anime nowadays considered synonymous with modern Japanese culture? Your answer would likely be a yes, when under the stare of one of Tokyo’s many geek-culture sentries.

Mecha heroes watch over Tokyo tirelessly.
Mecha heroes watch over Tokyo tirelessly.

7. The Wonderful

Japan adores illuminations, with major entertainment hubs in Tokyo competing intensely each winter to put up the best festive illuminations. During these months, it’s not an exaggeration to say there are mini slices of wonderland to be found throughout the capital. For tourists, these are among the best weeks to capture enchanting Tokyo night photos too.

Shiodome Caretta Winter Illumination 2018.
Shiodome Caretta Winter Illumination 2018.

8. The Avant-Garde

Not all Japanese winter illuminations adopt Christmas themes. For example, Tokyo Midlands opted for a surreal approach for its 2018 display. Named Starlight Garden, the ethereal display was a great delight for fans of avant-garde art.

Tokyo Midtown Starlight Garden 2018.
Tokyo Midtown Starlight Garden 2018.

9. The Quirky

Tokyo is not as famous as Osaka when it comes to outrageous restaurant signs. Still, it’s highly unlikely you wouldn’t bump into something eye-catching while strolling about in the evening. The advice here? Always carry a camera with you—one capable of decent evening shots. You really wouldn’t want to miss taking home memories of these quirky advertisements.

Does a hot bowl of ramen sound good to you?
Does a hot bowl of ramen sound good to you?

10. The Transcendent

Tokyo’s red-light and entertainment district of Kabukichō continues to suffer from a negative image, no thanks to aggressive touts and notorious scams. However, if you know when to go and what to ignore, the dazzling neon-lit alleys could be a most colorful Tokyo night photography excursion. It is also a great introduction to the Japanese concept of Ukiyo. Not the art-style but the Japanese transcendent world of make-belief joy.

Entrance to Kabukichō, Tokyo's largest red light and entertainment district.
Entrance to Kabukichō, Tokyo's largest red light and entertainment district.

11. The Romantic

Coming back to illuminations, you don’t need to wait for the year's end to feel festive or romantic in Tokyo. The Odaiba Beachside (Odaiba Kaihin Koen) is adorned with festive decorations throughout the year, the showpiece of which is an immense Christmas tree. Here, Christmas is permanent. The same goes for romance and love as well.

Odaiba Beachside, with Rainbow Bridge in the background.
Odaiba Beachside, with Rainbow Bridge in the background.

12. The Futuristic

Bluntly put, Tokyo’s modern architecture has a good number of haters worldwide. If you’re a fan of experimental designs, though, these outrageous structures could be a feast for the eyes and prefect Tokyo night photography spots. They are especially striking when illuminated at night.

The capital's most unusual buildings could be great subjects for your Tokyo evening photos, under the right circumstances.
The capital's most unusual buildings could be great subjects for your Tokyo evening photos, under the right circumstances.

13. The Yummy

Do you know that Tokyo is the city with the most Michelin stars? If you’re willing to splurge, the best of the international gourmet dining scene is open to you in Tokyo. If you’re on a budget, despair not too—there are a plethora of reasonable and budget-friendly choices as well. The short of it: Tokyo is a dining capital of the world. Your Tokyo nights will never be spent hungry. Your camera will be full of foodie perfect shots too.

A gourmet dinner of wagyu beef.
A gourmet dinner of wagyu beef.

14. The Stunning

As of 2020, Tokyo Skytree is still the tallest self-supported tower in the world, looming over the metropolis at a stunning height of 634m. When illuminated at night, it is not too unlike a watchful beacon. When photographed from Asakusa together with classic temple structures, there is no better expression of the harmony between the old and new in Tokyo too.

Tokyo Skytree at night.
Tokyo Skytree at night.

15. The Never-Sleeping

I end this feature of Tokyo night photography by saying, Tokyo is perhaps the greatest city in the world, simply because it has something for everyone. Don’t you want to visit this magnificent capital right away?

Tokyo Bay at midnight.
Tokyo Bay at midnight.

© 2016 ScribblingGeek


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    • Doriss93 profile image

      Doris Sorgar 

      2 years ago

      I love the pictures in this article. Asakusa pictures are probably my favorite...I have been there before, but at day-time, and it was so full of tourists that I did not find it nearly as enjoyable or impressive as it looks in your photos. Now, I am considering revisiting it at night-time.


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