Travel changed with the rise of Instagram. In days gone by you could take below average photos on your trip knowing that they were destined to a photo album only to get pulled out and looked at whenever you move house or clean the closet. The only competition was the other shots in the cupboard, so there was little need to take great vacation photos.
With your travel photographs seeing a lot more light than ever before thanks to Instagram and the like, we are no longer up against our previous efforts on your last holiday. Now some of us want to make a splash with eye-catching photos. One of the key parts of a good holiday photo is location and that’s where this list comes into play. The Instagram spots on this list are all relatively easy to access and in public spaces, so there is no need for creative excuses as to how you ended up where you were. They are arranged in little groups based on location, so they are not in arranged in order of quality or anything like that.
The name Tokyo Tower car park entrance doesn’t sound like much. Fortunately the photo speaks for itself. Photos of from this vantage point have done so well that apparently there can be a line at this Instagram spot. To find it take advantage of the map we provided.
Often shots of red Torii Gates originate from Kyoto’s world famous Fushimi Inari, but if you’re in Tokyo then a good alternative is the torii path hidden out the back of Hie Shrine. On occasion this Instagram spot can be busy, but generally it’s not nearly as chaotic as Fushimi Inari can get.
For some additional red gate action there is the generally quiet Nezu Shrine near Ueno.
The best vantage point for a shot over this crossing is in Tokyu Plaza Ginza. Once inside there are 2 options, one is the Kiriko Lounge which is located on the 6th floor and the other is to go to the rooftop terrace. As to which is better it really doesn’t make a dramatic difference as both shots are through glass. Shots from the roof will benefit from a slightly longer lens and the rooftop tends to be quieter, but then if the weather isn’t great it’s nice to be out of the elements on the 6th floor. The perspective are quite different so it’s best to just try both!
Sumida River Large Bridge, named for its large size relative to the bridges on either side of it, is where the shot above is taken from. The bridge in the photo is Eitai Bridge. This Instagram spot can be found a short walk from Suitengu-mae Station. At night, party boats travel up and down the river, providing light trails for great long-exposure photography. This spot is part of our Tokyo Rush photo workshop.
Very close to the Sumida River Large Bridge you can find Hakozaki Junction and if you have traveled by train and came out exit 2 there is a good chance you would have seen it. A wide angle lens (less than 24mm) is important to make the most of this shot. This is another spot in our Tokyo Rush photo workshop.
Next up is the well-known and easy-to-access Omoideyokocho. Opportunities for shots are ever-present and fast-moving, so if you want to have your photography senses overloaded then this is the place for you. There are many great shots to be taken. You can shoot straight down the street, capturing the crowd and the lamp-lit atmosphere, or into the various locales along the alleyway, capturing mysterious candid moments behind smoke and steam. We always make a pass through Omoideyokocho on our Tokyo By Night photo workshop.
This shot is a case of the entrance being more impressive than the landmark. Shinjuku station is a maze of tunnels spanning a few square kilometers and riddled with multiple exits to multiple buildings and multiple shops and multiple so on. But one entrance/exit stands above the rest, at least at night anyway, and that is A18 Shinjuku Metro, which also happens to appear in one of our YouTube videos. This is a shot you could walk past a thousand times and miss it if you weren’t really looking for it. After finding the location make your way to the raised walkway next to the metro entrance for the vantage point in the photo above.
Another Instagram spot in Shinjuku, this staircase can be found near the A18 metro entrance (mentioned above). The shot takes advantage of some nicely placed buildings in the background. The shot works well with wide-angle, but also mid-to-long lenses as well (50-100mm).
Tokyu Plaza Harajuku is pretty well know and not exactly a major secret. With a bit of a Google search it could be easily found, but it is a major spot for Instagrammers so we’re including it in this list. Beyond the common shot at the top of the staircase there is a number of other opportunities for unique shots thanks to the ridiculous number of mirrors at different angles. This is a spot we explore in detail on our Streets of Tokyo photo workshop.
The Magnet Building at Shibuya Crossing is a little more obvious and is one of the best of the options for getting a shot of the famous street crossing from above. Another option is to shoot from the overpass connecting Shibuya Station to Mark City. Though this spot is only on the second floor, it offers a unique view of Shibuya crossing. It can be found next to the Myth of Tomorrow mural by Taro Okamoto, which is a titanic mural with a fascinating story about how it was lost and then found again after decades, in Mexico of all places.
Nonbeiyokocho is a great little Instagram spot that is often quieter than the above-mentioned Omoideyokocho, thus making it easier to get a shooter without throngs of people. It is also slightly less jam packed with locales and bars, but really only a little. It is located a short walk from Shibuya Station, Hachiko, and the scramble crossing. Anyone visiting Shibuya is in the area anyway, so it’s always worth a visit!
TeamLab Borderless is often on people’s to do list and if you are an Instagrammer it is as if the place was made for you! It’s one giant playground of light and color. You can use the space for infinite possibilities when it comes to photography.
The Rainbow Bridge, although not as common on Instagram as some of the other subjects on this list, is still worthy of your attention. The above shot is commonly taken from Odaiba Seaside or the nearby Aqua City. In the background, Tokyo Tower is visible, and the higher you can get the more prominent it becomes. Another option is to go to the Fuji TV Hachitama Observatory, which will get you about as high you can get on Odaiba, which an artificial island in Tokyo Bay.
Also located on Odaiba, it’s worth mentioning the Soho Building Odaiba, which is a very popular Instagram spot. However, it appears it may have become a victim of its own popularity as it seems that recently access to the public has been denied. That being said, things change all the time so that may have flipped back again.
This Instagram spot was mentioned in my Free Observation Decks in Tokyo blog post and is taken from Tokyo Solomachi by going up to the fancy restaurant floor. As a general rule cheaper restaurants can be found in the basement and ground floor and expensive restaurants on the upper floors, which often coincides with nice views. Therefore you will find me in the basement for lunch, but up on the expensive restaurant floor taking photos (which is free). Up here, you can up close and personal with Skytree, and I mean really close, so be sure to bring a wide lens with you.
Another Instagram shot of Skytree is the Jikken Bridge shot. With the right lens, basically one that’s really wide, around 16mm plus or minus, it is possible to get the full reflection of Skytree in the stream below. This shot can be found the hard way (my patented method of walking along the stream and checking each bridge) or you could just use our map and save some time.
Since if you’ve made it to Jikken Bridge, you should also know about the street next to Jikken Bridge. This is a shot I saw numerous times on local Japanese Instagramers pages, but had to work a bit to locate the exact spot. The tower is huge and visible for miles, so many streets line up with Skytree. The issue is that although many line up, they often are too wide to provide a nice framing. Fortunately one day, luck allowed me stumble on it this exact street, and here it is.