West Shinjuku as seen from the observation tower of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, Tokyo

Architecture photo walk in Tokyo: Yurakucho & Shinjuku

Some folks often criticise Tokyo for it’s hotch-potch of architectural styles and lack of signature buildings. Frankly, I never feel bored walking the city and looking at the architecture. Here’s a few shots from a recent architecture-themed photowalk I did for a keen hobbyist photographer in town from the US.

Joseph contacted me some time back, letting me know he was going to be in town for a day or two in June and wanted to do a tour that concentrated on some of Tokyo’s architectural highlights.

I’ve done architecture walks for quite a few people now. It’s a subject I have been into since school. If the seven years of college hadn’t put me off, I’d have probably been an architect instead of a photographer.

Tokyo for me has a wonderful collection of architecture. Sure, it’s very different to the European cities I grew up with but Tokyo still has loads of charm.

There is a lack of ‘visible history’ in Tokyo. It was, after all, levelled twice in the last 94 years: by the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and 20-some years later, by the US Air Force. Conservation in Japan tends to be more about skills conservation than the conservation of things. Japan’s built landscape is in constant turnover and renewal. That’s kind of exciting though. Just different exciting to the thrill you get in, say Canterbury (where I grew up), where you could be siting in a Gothic cathedral one minute and having a coffee next to a Roman Pavement the next.

One thing that makes photographing Tokyo’s buildings a challenge is that they are so damn close to each other. In Europe and other places where this is space, you get a longer approach to a building. You get the chance to explore it from several angles, free of the encroachment of other buildings.

Tokyo is rammed with stuff. Getting a whole building in a shot is tough. You either have to get up high or get crazy wide with the lens you use. Or both.

The day Joseph and I explored a few of Tokyo’s architectural highlights we started out in Yurakucho, He’d wanted to explore the International Forum with me, partly because he’s always seeing shots I post from there and partly because he had a new super-wide lens for his camera.

From there we hit Shinjuku, wandering the west side of the station at ground level before heading up into the NorthTower of the Tokyo Metropolitan Govt. Building, Tocho, to get a high view. We ended up at the fabulous NS Building, with it’s massive atrium and crazy clock.

Joseph played with everything from 7mm to 150mm on his Olympus. That’s 14-300mm in My Nikon money. 

I took only one lens: my old manual-focus 75-150mm f/3.5 E Series Nikkor. It hasn’t been out much lately and deserved some love. I was shooting it on my Nikon D800E.

All of these shots are pretty much straight out of the camera, just converted from the RAW files to JPEGs for this article. The monochrome shots were made mostly with my “Monochrome-2” picture control for the Nikon. Most of the colour made with my “Ekatchrome-2” custom picture control.

You can see an article about some of these picture controls here, where you’ll also find a link to download them.

All the pics you see here are mine. I’ll try and get a few from Joseph at some point. But he’s busy…. having just become a grandpa!

If you’re visiting Tokyo and interested in me doing a photowalk or workshop with you, please drop me a line.