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

Updated on May 4, 2019
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Yong is a Japanophile who has survived 15 solo trips to Japan. His visits now 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 as well as 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 in Japan’s capital. Especially after the sun goes down.

1. The Sparkling

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

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. The perfect scene for any night photography enthusiast.

2. The Historical

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.

Many of Tokyo’s historical monuments were destroyed over the last century no thanks to natural calamities and war. Thankfully, the best has long been restored. Come sunset, they adorned Tokyo nights with their majestic splendor. Their timeless beauty free for all to enjoy.

3. The Serene

Sensō-ji Nakamise-dōri (仲見世通り) after sunset.
Sensō-ji Nakamise-dōri (仲見世通り) after sunset.

Given there are 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. You will also return home with a bundle of memorable Tokyo night photos.

4. The Dedicated

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

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 spectacle nonetheless impresses .

5. The Bewildering

Dinner, mahjong, karaoke, or just a drink?
Dinner, mahjong, karaoke, or just a drink?

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.

6. The Vigilant

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

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.

7. The Wonderful

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

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.

8. The Avant-Garde

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

Not all 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 definitely a visual delight for fans of avant-garde art.

9. The Quirky

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

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 night shots.

10. The Dazzling

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

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 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.

11. The Romantic

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

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 love as well.

12. The Futuristic

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

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. They are especially striking when illuminated at night.

13. The Yummy

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

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—there are a plethora of reasonable and budget-friendly choices too. The short of it: Tokyo is a dining capital of the world. Your Tokyo nights will never be spent hungry.

14. The Stunning

Tokyo Skytree.
Tokyo Skytree.

As of 2018, Tokyo Skytree is still the tallest self-supported tower in the world, looming over the metropolis at a stunning height of 634m. When illuminated after dark, it is not 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.

15. The Never-Sleeping

Tokyo Bay.
Tokyo Bay.

I end this collection of Tokyo night photos 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?

Questions & Answers

    © 2016 Kuan Leong Yong

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      • Doriss93 profile image

        Doris Sorgar 

        16 months 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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