So you’re planning to travel to Japan and you’re not exactly sure where to stay but one thing that you’re sure of is that you want to take some Instaworthy pics while you’re there.
Based on our travels in June (if only it was cherry blossom season then, because it would literally be full of Instaworthy locations). Here are some of our tips on the best Instagram Spots for photography in Japan from these three areas:
- Kyoto: Kyoto is a more traditional area defined by a lot of shrines, traditional wooden houses, temples, zen gardens and even geishas. Photographers here can really capture the essence of traditional culture.
- Tokyo: Tokyo is much more modern – think bustling cityscapes, vibrant nightlife and lots of restaurants/bars. If you’re into night photography, this is the place for you.
- Mt Fuji: This area is for the nature lovers. Obviously we have the breathtaking Mt Fuji and on the foot of the mountain are lakes, lush forests, hiking trails and shrines. If you’re stretched on time, you can do a day trip here to Fuji but I highly recommend staying a few nights as Mt Fuji is known to be a bit shy and hide behind the clouds, so you’ll want to give yourself more chances of seeing the mountain you travelled for.
Okay so let’s start the Instagram journey!
Instagram Spots in Kyoto
Gion (famous street facing Hokanji Shrine)
Hanamikoji-dori is the famous street in Kyoto where you can find the well preserved traditional architecture of Japan. Each laneway here is filled with restaurants, shops and tea houses so this street is almost always busy.
The Instagram Post above was taken during sunset hour and it was extremely busy. We set up the camera on the tripod, connected it to the clicker and just stood there waiting for the few seconds when nobody was there. SNAP and away we went. There’s really no time to dwell or you’ll just get in the way of the pedestrians and cars trying to get through laneways.
The first time we visited this street, we came got here at sunrise but the way that the line was glaring on the temple made the image quite flat. So you do get the better picture at sunset but if you don’t want to stress about the crowds, there was nobody around at sunrise when we took this:
Yasaka Shrine (previously known as Gion Shrine) is at the east end of Shijō-dōri and is walking distance from Hanamikoji-dori. We were here around 4-5pm, it wasn’t as busy as we thought it would be. We had no qualms when taking this photo, possibly because most people take pictures inside the shrine but we took this at the entrance gate.
Also note that the colours of the trees surrounding Yasaka Shrine will change depending on the season you’re in. Apparently there are cherry blossoms on these trees in Sakura Season!
Fushimi Inari Taisha
There’s no way you can go to Kyoto without seeing the thousands of red torii gates at Fushimi Inari Shrine. This is located just outside of the JR Inari Station (140 Yen one way from Kyoto station) so we recommend taking the train.
There’s no admission fee here and we arrived at 7am knowing that it would get busy very quickly. At around 8am was when the crowds started coming from tour buses, school excursion attendees and stall attendants. So the earlier you can get here the better.
It was kind of special walking through the torii gates in quiet serenity and with all the stairs you’re climbing, it can get quite hot in the crowds too.
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
If you’ve got a JR Rail Pass then this trip is covered by your pass. Take the Sagano/San-in Line to Saga-Arashiyama Station and from there it’s a 10 minute walk to the bamboo forest. Simply follow the signs towards the path that leads you to the forest.
The forest is open 24/7 and there are no entrance fees so you can wake up nice and early to get here at 7am before the crowds. The Instagram post above was taken at around 6am and there was nobody around, but as we left we started seeing a lot of people coming in. The grove is also quite narrow and the path is a lot shorter than we thought so there’s not a lot of space to move around when it gets busy here (especially during the weekend – just AVOID weekends).
This next photo location is one that is only exclusive to the guests staying at HOSHINOYA Kyoto, a luxury retreat not too far from the bamboo forest that’s only accessible by a private boat by the Oi River. You can read about my review of HOSHINOYA Kyoto here if you’re interested.
The Instagram post above is taken at the communal area near the reception desk where guests can enjoy tea and snacks during the day with a view of the glistening turquoise river. There are only a few rooms at HOSHINOYA Kyoto so it’s easy to get a photo of this balcony without anyone around, especially because the view from the rooms are already as stunning as this:
The Instagram Post above was taken during on in-room breakfast when we ordered the Japanese Breakfast. Everything was set-up in the privacy of our own rooms so we never had to worry about getting in anyone’s way. Usually this is a challenge when it comes to breakfast photos (which is why I don’t do them very often, I hate getting in people’s way – especially if they’re just trying to enjoy their holiday!)
And at night time the main area of the retreat was also quite impressive. There’s something about the traditional wooden buildings that make it so special.
Instagram Spots in Tokyo
Omoide Yokocho (also known as Memory Alley or Piss Alley) is located in Shinjuku and is a maze of small alleyways and yakitori shacks. We came here for a quick bite and at the end of the alleyway we found these cute restaurants and couldn’t resist a quick snap.
You almost have to do a double take when you scroll through night pictures of Tokyo Tower. It could easily pass for the Eiffel Tower until you notice the Tokyo surrounds.
Many people take pictures of Tokyo Tower at the foot of the tower itself but we loved the view from Andaz Tokyo. This hotel is located in a quiet business district so you still get a view of the City without all the commotion.
During the day time, the Tokyo Tower is a proud and loud red against the rest of the City and it almost looks like a different backdrop altogether:
The hallways of the hotel rooms are also kind of reminiscent of the Kyoto style buildings which is kind of nice too!
Takeshita Street in Harajuku is a busy shopping street filled with cafes, restaurants, beauty and fashion stores. Most shops around here open from 10-11am so we recommend coming here around opening time, otherwise it is insanely busy.
We didn’t have the luxury to get here early (we arrived at lunch rush hour) and we first stopped at the Santa Monica Crepes store to take a photo but there were so many pedestrians that we decided to just walk around and explore the rest of the street.
Then right around the corner we found Angel Crepes.. and there was hardly anyone there…and voila, the above Instagram photo was taken.
I thought people would be really confused by this picture but it turns out a lot of you are fond of the colours haha. This picture is taken right next to the entrance door of the Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku (so you don’t actually need to buy tickets to the Robot Restaurant or go inside, although we did go inside and watch it!)
And you can pretty much take a photo here any time during the day, it didn’t really get busy here until after 5-6pm.
I’m pretty sure you’re all familiar with the famous photos from the TeamLAB Borderless Exhibit in Koto City. This digital art exhibit was fun, interactive and the lantern room is simply stunning!
Due to the popularity of the exhibit, we highly recommend purchasing your tickets online at least a day or two before (we booked ours via KLOOK) so that when you arrive you can swiftly make your way inside.
Some useful tips:
- No tripods or backpacks allowed, you’re required to keep all your bulky items in the locker before you can enter the exhibit
- The exhibit opens at 10am, get there earlier than opening hour if you can – there will be crowds there already
- When the doors open for you to enter the exhibit, just go in whichever entrance you’re closest two (there are 2 paths you can take) and make your way around the exhibit because it’ll eventually take you through everything so don’t stress
- The lantern room is mirrored from floor to ceiling so don’t wear anything revealing and wear shorts underneath your dress.
- The lanterns constantly change colour, so if the lanterns are warm orange & yellow but you also want a photo with the cool purple & blues, just line up again – it doesn’t cost anything to line up again and its the most impressive room in the exhibit so bare with it!
This below photo from the exhibit was almost impossible to take without someone walking into the frame so don’t be disappointed if you can’t get this shot. Unfortunately this one just gets busier and busier.
We thought that since the exhibit had been around for a while that there wouldn’t be many people there but we were wrong, Tokyo never sleeps!
Oishi Park overlooks Lake Kawaguchiko and Mt Fuji and on a clear day it is STUNNING! It’s also a very lively area with market stalls and ice cream trucks, so expect there to be a lot of families and tour buses around.
There is no entrance fee to this park and the pathway pictured in the above Instagram Post was a bit further up from where all the people were so it was relatively easy to get a photo there – you just have to find the right angle to capture the flowers and the mountain.
Speaking of flowers, Oishi Park did not have purple flowers in bloom at this time but during different seasons it does. My Instagram Post was actually promoting a Color Switcher Tool on Adobe Lightroom so I changed the flowers to purple but you can swipe right on that Instagram Post for the original image (its still just as beautiful!).
Can I just say – WOW. This is one of the most unique stays we experienced in Japan and I highly HIGHLY recommend considering HOSHINOYA Fuji for a few nights (you can read my hotel review here if you’re interested).
On the day that we arrived to HOSHINOYA Fuji, the clouds were rolling in and it started raining. We were a bit bummed that Mt Fuji was hidden behind clouds for 2 days… then on the last morning, we woke up to THIS!
How many people get to say that they woke up to the view of Mt Fuji from their bedroom? My goodness!
This retreat is located within a forest so the grounds of the hotel were also quite unique and stunning too.
So there is the wrap up of our Instagram Posts from Japan. There were so many more photo locations we had on our list and it just keeps getting longer and longer but we didn’t have enough time to see it all.
I guess this means we’ll just have to come back again soon!