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Tokyo notes
Old 03-09-2009   #1
wayneb
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Tokyo notes

I just got back from a two week trip of Japan and I'd like to share some observations and tips about Tokyo for future RFF members that might be searching the forum for info.

My girlfriend and I did a little bit of shopping, but we kept it limited to areas we were already going to be in. One thing I missed, being a fan of the modern Contax cameras, is there's a shop that specializes in Contax. I went to similar shop in Ginza that specializes in Nikon, it was a tiny shop and basically had the entire history of Nikon bodies in order. (There's a list of Tokyo shops post on RFF that's helpful).

Kurt Easterwood of japanexposures.com is an old friend and was kind enough to show us around the back streets of Nakano. One of the better camera stores in Tokyo, Fujiya Camera is located there. They have a nice-sized selection and very reasonable prices. Nakano is worth a visit, as it has a feeling of a shopping district left behind by other areas that have been modernized.

Map Camera, Shinjuku. Probably more Leica bodies than you will ever see in one place. Very nice shop. There's an annex for Japanese cameras and a "sale" area of cameras that aren't in as great condition as most of the cameras they sell. One thing about buying used is that, Japanese is helpful as the little cards with the price will describe the defects. In general it seems the quality of used is higher (and of course the selection) than the states. But the exchange rate makes any "deals" difficult to find. That said, there's a great value in being able to hold and test a camera, which you can't do buying online.

Yodobashi camera, Shinjuku. Very famous and crazy, everyone will visit here, as it is the stereotype of a Japanese electronics store. Makes a Best Buy in the US seem like a monastery, quiet and tranquil. One thing that's worth seeing, if you shoot medium format, is the annex has all the Pentax and Mamiya MF gear, new in boxes (and new prices!). Yodobashi has a film fridge that has a good selection, especially of Japanese film that isn't available in the US. But the prices are not going to be as good as Freestyle, so if you are shooting in Japan, it's probably best to bring your own film.

In Ginza you'll visit the Leica store and gallery. It's worth the visit, if only for the gallery upstairs, with beautifully produced prints and some of the vintage Leicas on display in the cases (not for sale). Sankyo Camera is a much smaller (http://www.japanexposures.com/2009/0...inza-classics/) shop and it seems you can actually find deals, especially on Japanese cameras.

Lemon camera, Ginza. Map in Shinjuku seems to get the most recommendations, but I was most impressed at Lemon. Perhaps because the stock is not split up in different buildings, but also the depth is astonishing. They have less quantity of Leica M, but there's a whole shelf of Hasselblad SWC. Or a handful of Plaubel Makina 67, which you never see in stores in the states. Similar to Map, it's nice stuff and it's not cheap.

In Ebisu, Tokyo museum of photography (http://www.syabi.com/index_eng.shtml). A slight disappointment, as most of the exhibits when we visited were video-related (though they had Warhol's excellent screen tests on display, which is a treat). Has a nice cafe and small, but great bookshop and store that had a fun selection of toy cameras. The shop seems to be run by a local gallery and store called Nadiff (http://www.nadiff.com/shopinfo/shoplist/map_apart.html) which is within walking distance. They have an excellent selection of photography books, especially Japanese. Worth the walk through a nice, quiet Tokyo neighborhood.

Sokyusha in Shinjuku (search sokyusha.com in google maps for the location) is a small gallery and bookstore that is highly recommended. Perhaps the best selection of Japanese photobooks we saw on the trip. Gives you a good sense of contemporary Japanese photo culture.

In general, any larger bookstore you go to will have a better photo book selection that most art bookshops and certainly any chain bookstore in the US. For example, on a snowy afternoon we found ourselves in TSUTAYA in Roppongi. I believe this is a big media store chain, but the photo book selection was excellent.

Japan has a more intense magazine culture than anywhere I've been. The stores are also filled with "mooks" (publications that aren't quite books and not quite magazines). An example is a tiny volume called "Fun with Rollei," half of it features the history of Rolleiflex models, with the other half around town street photography by one or two photographers.

You'll see several photo magazines that might be worth getting, even if you don't speak Japanese. Half of one of the nicer ones was devoted to Robert Frank's The Americans exhibit. There are several photography magazines aimed at young women. All of the magazines featured the new Fuji 67/66 folder, both in articles and advertisements (like the entire back cover of at least one magazine). One of the women's magazines featured a small article showing how load the Fuji 67 and examples of photos shot with it. The Panasonic G1 with Leica adapter also seemed to be featured often in these magazines (and in the photo stores).

Street photography: Tokyo is a great place for street photography. This is one of the world's great cities, remarkably much of what you see is less than 50 years old. I can't recommend visiting enough. Once you filter out the obvious things (a wall of neon! people are wearing medical masks!), the city is so large, with so many people (moving at a pace that makes NYC seem quaint), that you can't help find interesting things to take photos of. Theft isn't as common in Japan as other countries, so it's nice to be less concerned about your gear or being pick-pocketed while you are being a tourist with a camera around your neck. The people are generally more friendly than you encounter in the US, so that makes shooting a bit more relaxed.

I expected to see more people with cameras and/or more of them taking cell phone photos. You see more people with DSRLs in the US. I guess I had a fantasy of an 80 year old guy with his Canon 7, but I never saw that. I was there before cherry blossom season, so that might be when the cameras appear.

Getting around - highly recommend using the iphone 3G. You pay $50 for "international data roaming" that gives you 50MB and can use Google maps with GPS. It's pretty great. The only frustrating thing is getting your 5 picks in a neighborhood to save on the phone as bookmarks. You can save 'my maps' on the desktop version, but you can't access these from the phone.

Post trip addition: Here is my (public) set of photos from this trip: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bremser...7615803793905/
nearly the entire set was shot with one camera/lens - Contax G1 with 28mm.
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Last edited by wayneb : 06-25-2009 at 17:30. Reason: added link
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Old 03-09-2009   #2
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Tokyo is one of my favourite places on the planet. Great post.
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Old 03-09-2009   #3
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Thanks for posting. Tokyo is on my 'must go' list, for sure.
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Old 03-09-2009   #4
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I had planned to go when I was 18. Had the money, had the time. Trip fell through. I'm 32 now and have been trying to get there since but I now have a house and kid.
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Old 03-09-2009   #5
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A comprehensive post Wayne. Thanks for sharing the info. Tokyo is truly a photo wonderland. I've been visiting Tokyo a lot lately and have been to many of the places you mentioned above. But one thing I have yet to do is see some photography galleries. I've been to the Leica Gallery but I'm sure there are other great ones. If anyone can recommend any, please do.

One Japanese magazine I really like is Camera. It's dedicated to film cameras and has a lot of rangefinder related content. They'll usually review the newest gear from Cosina and Leica. And they'll have a story on a Japanese Rollei 35 club. The photography and printing is stellar.
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Old 04-01-2009   #6
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Wayne - thanks for the review. I'll be in Tokyo next week and look forward to browsing the camera shops and doing some street shooting.
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Old 04-01-2009   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wayneb View Post
Lemon camera, Ginza. Map in Shinjuku seems to get the most recommendations, but I was most impressed at Lemon. Perhaps because the stock is not split up in different buildings, but also the depth is astonishing. They have less quantity of Leica M, but there's a whole shelf of Hasselblad SWC. Or a handful of Plaubel Makina 67, which you never see in stores in the states. Similar to Map, it's nice stuff and it's not cheap.
Lemon-sha has a great range and its great fun to browse there, but an advantage of buying at MAP (and also Fujiya) is that they offer a 10 day return policy and a six month warranty on most of their used gear, whereas Lemon-sha does not. With Lemon-sha, once you walk out the door, that's it. A friend recently purchased an M3 there for a decent price that developed a shutter problem a few weeks later. He wasn't very happy about that
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Old 04-01-2009   #8
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Nice post Wayne, although I work in Japan I've never spent anytime in Tokyo. Going there next week to stock up on film and look for a Black paint MP!
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Old 04-01-2009   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chut View Post
One Japanese magazine I really like is Camera. It's dedicated to film cameras and has a lot of rangefinder related content. They'll usually review the newest gear from Cosina and Leica. And they'll have a story on a Japanese Rollei 35 club. The photography and printing is stellar.
I think the magazine's title is "Camera magazine" written in Katakana. It is really worth having a look at it.
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Old 04-01-2009   #10
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Up with Tokyo!
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Old 04-02-2009   #11
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Ahh, the memories.

Gear aside, Tokyo also has tons of galleries and photo exhibitions where you can get your creative fix and draw inspiration.

Listings:
http://www.tokyoartbeat.com/list/event_type_print_photo_bypopular
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Old 04-02-2009   #12
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Here's the cover of a recent issue of Camera Magazine.

I'm headed to Tokyo once again next week. Will definitely check out some of the galleries listed in Tokyo Art Beat. Thanks for that link AJ_W. Will post some photos from the trip too.
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Old 04-02-2009   #13
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Nice post. Confirms many of the things I saw on my trip back in the fall.

I didn't know the iPhone 3G worked in Japan, as my regular T-Mobile tri-band GSM phone certainly didn't & I had to rent a cell (don't recall what network).
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Old 04-02-2009   #14
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Thank you Wayne, thank you!
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Old 04-05-2009   #15
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I just realized that several traveling RFFers will be visiting Tokyo at around the same time. Honus (Robert), mgd711 (Mike) and I, judging from this thread. I'm sure all of us will be hitting the camera shops and intend to do some street shooting. Perhaps we can arrange a get together? Maybe one of our local RFFers would be kind enough to host an RFF afternoon walkabout?
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Old 04-05-2009   #16
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Unfortunately I couldn't make it to Tokyo this week as were my plans because of my work ... It would have been great to meet with some RFF members over there !
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Old 04-05-2009   #17
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Hey guys... I live in tokyo, and work in meguro, 2 stops from shibuya. I just found this thread, and would LOVE to host a little walk around for any RF members that are here/coming. Let me know the details, and i'll see what i can cook up.

btw, what would you guys like to do? I have a few suggestions:
1. Tsukiji fish market shooting, and then stuff ourselves sillly with raw fish toro(fatty meat) or sushi.
2. Capture the local culture at harajuku on a weekend afternoon, and then stuff ourselves silly at a yakiniku (bbq meat) buffet.
3. Nerd/Geek hunting (おたく) at the famous akihabara on a saturday afternoon, and then stuff ourselves silly at a shabu shabu buffet. (hot pot)

Let me know.
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Old 04-05-2009   #18
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If we can organise it for a Saturday or Sunday, I'm in!

trev2401's ideas sound good.

P.S. I'm in Yokohama, just down the road.

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Old 04-05-2009   #19
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Hey Jon,

How's it going? How's the sakuras at yokohama?

I went to the local parks at shinjuku gyoen & inokashira, and there wasn't even space to STAND!!!

If you have time, let's meet for a drink/meal/Fujiya/mapcamera expedition.

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Old 04-05-2009   #20
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Hey trev,

It gets pretty hectic on a weekend at the main sakura spots in Yokohama too. Instead I took last Friday off work and went down to Kamakura. Here's a few pics.

People with cameras were out in force (me included!)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jonmanjiro/3414434938/

This many people, even on a weekday!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jonmanjiro/3413626403/

We escaped into a peaceful peony garden away from the crowds.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jonmanjiro/3414428162/

I'll PM you about meeting up some time!

Cheers,

Jon
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Old 04-06-2009   #21
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Really nice photos Jon!
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Old 04-06-2009   #22
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Great pics john! I didn't even have 2 feet of space in front of me to frame a shot! That and bringing an RZ67 to a crowded place = suicide.
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Old 04-06-2009   #23
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Trev thanks for offering to host a walkabout. Those suggestions all sound interesting. I especially like the 'stuff ourselves silly' part.

Tsukiji would be great. I've heard though that they've cordoned off the areas to tourists and photographers, as it's become too disruptive to the fishmongers. Is that true or do you have a way to get access?

Harajuku and Akihabara are cool options as well.
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Old 04-06-2009   #24
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The Tsukiji fish market ban has been lifted. Have to get there really early for the action!
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Old 04-06-2009   #25
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i was checking with a colleague at work, and the auctions on saturdays are iffy. As in, they don't do auctions every saturday so we'd have to try our luck, appearing there at around 0500-530 in the morning, depending on whether the train lines operate from where you stay.

As for stuffing ourselves silly, i find that the food in tokyo is actually quite cheap, considering the quality you get. Of course, you can't compare the amount to costco sized servings in socal.

So saturday it is. Hmm..... as for equipment, what are you guys gonna bring? (we imposing any equipment guidelines?) hehe
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