Japan’s busy capital is a haven for photography enthusiasts, thanks to its plethora of electronic superstores and quaint second-hand shops.
Calling Tokyo a haven for photography enthusiasts would be an understatement.
Home to a photogenic mix of neon-lit streets and stunning nature spots, the city draws shutterbugs who fawn over its scenic charms and in turn, feed the booming electronics industry which seeks to equip them with the latest gear.
Whether you’re a professional, hobbyist, or amateur, the options are mindboggling if you’re looking to purchase your next camera. As such, we’ve rounded up the best places to check out.
The most obvious way to start your search is at camera superstores like Yodobashi, Bic, and Labi (formerly known as Yamada Denki). Yodobashi’s branches in Shinjuku, Akihabara, and Kichijoji are the most popular. These tend to be one-stop destinations for all sorts of electronic goods, camera equipment, and accessories spanning major brands like Canon, Nikon, and Olympus.
Fans of film photography will be pleased to find that the Yodobashi store in Shinjuku has a special section that caters specially to analogue photography. It is also known to stock popular items like black and white 35mm film rolls from camera collector Japan Camera Hunter. These big stores even sell film processing chemicals and printing materials, for those who fancy handling and developing their own film negatives.
Pro tip: When checking out various stores, try comparing prices online using this website. Then, show the price differences to the shop’s clerk and try to convince them to lower their pricing.
If you don’t mind some wear and tear in exchange for highly affordable price tags, make a beeline for second-hand camera stores. Hard Off has a number of branches across Tokyo and the more obscure the town is, the higher the chances of snagging a good buy. The chain purveys all sorts of used camera gear, from those in mint, perfectly working condition to junk yard items, which can be considered to be “buy at your own risk”.
Those who prefer pre-loved but high-end camera models from brands like Leica and the sought-after Contax T series can check out Map Camera in Shinjuku. It’s a small building with each floor dedicated to different camera brands.
Internet-savvy buyers with a quirky sense of aesthetic should visit the quaint shops helmed by Instagram-known camera sellers. Popular ones include Popeye Camera in Jiyugaoka Meguro-ku, Mitsubado Camera in Nippori Arakawa-ku, and T-Site’s Kitamura in Daikanyama Shibuya-ku. These shops regularly update their social media feeds with new camera offerings and some even accept online orders to help save time and expenses. Also, not far from Tokyo are Camera Suzuki in Yokohama; as well as Kanto Camera and Champ Camera, both located in Kanagawa.
Sometimes, you might even find what you’re looking for in convenience stores. They usually carry disposable film cameras and even waterproof ones—perfect for those who think that another camera purchase won’t hurt, even if it’s his hundredth acquisition!
It’s also useful to follow active accounts on Instagram that frequently and accurately provide information and details on all photography-related things in and out of Tokyo. Japan Camera Hunter (Bellamy Hunt) is a reliable source especially if you’re looking for a specific camera. Tokyo Camera Style (John Sypal) features an unending array of hand-held cameras throughout the prefecture, and showcases various photography events that you shouldn’t miss as well.
Nevertheless, the best thing about Tokyo is that hidden gems are everywhere to be found. Whether you’re wandering the back lanes or exploring random train stations, you might easily chance upon nondescript camera shops and photography labs.
And when I say gems, I meant you might even score a unit signed by Japanese photography masters like Araki or Moriyama—it happens!