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Home: The Best Places To Photograph Japan

The Best Places To Photograph Japan
by Anne Ferris

Japan is a stunningly beautiful and eternally fascinating place. To head there without a camera is to invoke instant regret, as something worthy of snapping, framing, and preserving can be found around every corner.

Almost every visitor to Japan returns home with a memory card or phone brimming with photos of the white-capped cone of Mount Fuji, rosy sakura (cherry) blossoms, or artistically incredible Shinto and Buddhist shrines.

If you are a keen photographer and wish to get the most out of your trip to Japan, here are a few tips regarding places to visit.

Mount Fuji

Let's start with the obvious one. Mount Fuji is one of the most photographed natural features in the world, and once you see it in the flesh it is not hard to understand why.

Sunrise from the summit is a sublime and awe-inspiring experience, but if you wish to photograph the mountain itself, you are better off heading a little way away from it, as it is best viewed in its entirety.

The Five Lakes region offers spectacular views of Mount Fuji, and on calm days some incredible shots of the mountain and its reflection within the still waters beneath it can be had.

Visibility tends to be better in the colder months than in the warmer ones, with the famous white cap best viewed between November and May.

In spring, you may also be able to catch a shot of the mountain framed by sakura blossoms - the pink of the blossoms, the white of the mountain, and the blue of the lakes make up a classically Japanese color combination which is hard to resist when you see it in reality, however cliched the composition may seem on paper!

Do note, however, Mount Fuji is Japan's top tourist attraction, so be sure to insure any expensive camera equipment against accidental damage caused by jostling crowds.

Sakurajima, Kagoshima

Quite different from the serenity of slumbering Mount Fuji is the volatile Sakurajima, which has been spitting smoke and sparks since 1955. The volcano sits in a bay close to the city of Kagoshima, and is the place to go if you want a dramatic photograph of the power of nature.

At night, if you have the right photographic equipment, you may catch a shot of volcanic sparks against the darkness of the sky. During the daytime, the mountain provides an awe-inspiring presence frequently wreathed in smoke from the belly of the planet.

The authorities are monitoring the volcano extremely closely and will certainly take precautions in the event of an eruption, but, given the precarious nature of the volcano, this snap is not one for the faint hearted!

Itsukushima Shrine, Hiroshima

For something a little more peaceful, head to the island of Miyajima Island, in Hiroshima Province and line up a tranquil yet glorious shot of the 'Floating Gate' to the Shinto Itsukushima Shrine, which is partially submerged at high tide.

The interplay of the natural and the man-made on this island is utterly sublime, and the delicate artistic attention paid to color, form, and contrast is remarkable - particularly when one remembers that the Itsukushima Shrine is many centuries old.

The place is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as much for its artistic beauty as its historical and cultural significance. It is impossible to get a bad photograph anywhere around the shrine, but when the light on the water is right, masterpieces can be taken.

Dotonbori, Osaka

If you're more of an urban photographer, the entertainment district of Dotonbori in Osaka will provide plenty of artistic scope. While it's perhaps a tad too crowded to spend long lining up shots, it makes up for this with interest and illumination in abundance.

Businesses vie for each other to have the most eye-catching and outlandish storefronts, which makes for an enjoyably effervescent experience, and some spectacular night-time neon shots. This is also a great location from which to capture the buzz of urban Japan - as well as to enjoy some quality food and shopping!

Harajuku, Tokyo

When asked to picture 'Japan', what most young Westerners picture is something like the Harajuku district of Tokyo. It is here that young Japanese people come to revel in their idiosyncratic fashion and culture - the curious fusion of Western ideas and Japanese culture which works upon modern Japanese youth is out in full force here - think Sailor Moon and Hello Kitty.

If you like to photograph people, you'll find that plenty of the Harajuku crowd will be all to pleased to pose for you in their finery - Harajuku is as much about being seen as it is about anything else.

It's quite an experience - and one which nobody with an interest in modern Japanese culture and fashion should miss out on.

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