Updated: Feb 8, 2019
Sponsored by JNTO (Japan National Tourism Organisation)
I was recently invited by JNTO to visit Japan and explore, experience and photograph the incredible night life in both Tokyo and Hakuba. The trip was super interesting, and I had such a blast learning about the different histories of the areas and night activities each location had to offer. In this blog post, I will be sharing with you what I got up to in Japan, as well as sharing some of my favourite night photography spots in Tokyo and Hakuba.
Tokyo Tower is the most iconic landmark in Tokyo, standing at 333m tall, it is the second tallest structure in Japan. The bright international orange colour and illumination at night makes it stand out from the rest of the city skyline. Built in 1958 from the vision behind Hisakichi Maeda along with designer Tachu Naito, the aim of the Tokyo Tower was to give a focal point to the city as well as creating a monument that was visible from high vantage points all around Tokyo. At night, the tower is lit up with various coloured lights (you can check what lighting it is on different days here), and there are so many different angles of the tower that makes for an epic photograph!
You can also go up to the top the tower and experience a 360-degree view of Tokyo from two observation decks (the middle and the top). I would recommend checking out the view from the new top-deck as it was so incredible seeing the endless the city lit up at night. This top-deck observation area has just been recently opened and it also comes with a quick audio tour that teaches you about the history of the Tokyo Tower! #topdecktour
The main street in Ginza consists of 8 blocks of Tokyo's most famous upmarket shopping, dining and entertainment, and it was such a fun experience walking around and photographing this area at night! The shops/restaurants all close quite late (around 9pm-11pm) so the street is always super packed with people and is always lit up too.
It is home to Tokyo’s newest shopping centre Ginza 6, which has a public rooftop that you can check out to see some cool views of the Ginza area, as well as the Kabukiza Theater which hosts traditional Japanese Kabuki plays if you are keen for a cultural experience – super interesting to see the contrast of this old building amongst the modern buildings around it!
There are also heaps of cool little restaurants and bars in the side streets of Ginza, including Ginnotou which is a speciality restaurant that serves this delicious 'stew' (a western dish) which has been adopted and ‘Japan-ised’ into the Japanese culture – perfect during winter nights! Definitely check out the Ginza area if you are visiting Tokyo!
Both Shinjuku and Shibuya are MUST VISIT places in Tokyo - you have not experienced Tokyo properly if you have not been to these two areas! Both are major commercial and business centres, and Shinjuku Station and Shibuya Station are the two busiest railway stations in the world! Experiencing the busy-ness and hectic nature of these places is definitely what makes Tokyo such a unique place! No matter what time of day or night it is, there is never a dull moment in both Shinjuku and Shibuya!
In Shinjuku, I explored the iconic streets that are lit up by the countless number of neon signs as well as Memory Lane, which is infamous for its Yakitori restaurants that salary-men (business men) visit after a long day's work making it the perfect place to do some street photography, especially at night! Even if you're not into taking photos, just observing the people and listening to the sounds of Shinjuku is an experience in itself!
Shibuya is home to the famous Shibuya Crossing - one of the busiest pedestrian crossings in the world! Walking across this intersection and taking in the atmosphere was such a fun experience, especially because I've seen it so many times in movies and all over social media! There is also a new observation deck in the Magnet by Shibuya 109 building which looks down onto the crossing which is really fun to see! This area is also known as one of the fashion centres of Japan (Harajuku is also nearby), particularly for young people, and is a major nightlife area.
teamLab Borderless + Planets
teamLab Borderless and teamLab Planets are digital art museums that have amazing light installations and artworks that are super immersive and experiential! Both these museums are quite new and are super popular amongst not only tourists but locals as well. Visiting both teamLab Borderless and teamLab Planets was definitely the highlight of my recent trip to Japan! Make sure you buy your tickets to both a few weeks prior to arriving in Tokyo so that you can visit on the days you want.
When visiting teamLab Borderless, I would recommend going either super early (around 10am when it opens) or super late (around 7pm/9pm when it closes) so there are less people inside. There is no set time inside so you can technically spend the whole day in there if you want - the place is quite big and has two levels. My favourite rooms has to be the 'Forest of Resonating Lamps' and the room with all the spotlights - unsure what the name of the room is..
teamLab Planets is a completely different experience. Unlike teamLab Borderless where you can just roam around any of the rooms freely, teamLab Planets is a much more linear experience where you follow a single path into all the different rooms. Personally, I think that this exhibition is a lot more immersive and definitely a funner experience, especially when we had to walk through a room that was filled with knee-high water! My favourite rooms in teamLab Planets has to be the "The Infinite Crystal Universe' and room full of balloons.
I highly recommend visiting these two exhibitions if you are in Tokyo!
During my week in Japan, I also spent a night exploring the ski-town of Hakuba, a village in the Japanese Alps just outside the city of Nagano (1.5 hour Bullet Train ride from Tokyo + 1 hour bus ride from Nagano Station). Hakuba is known for its world-class snow and ski/snowboarding conditions and it was such a magical experience walking around such thick and powdery snow - something that I've never done before!
Hakuba's nightlife is quite diverse and offers something for everyone. Whether you are in the mood for a quiet pub, live music performances, traditional restaurants, or even a relaxing outdoor onsen (hot spring baths), Hakuba has it all! The snowfall also gets super dense at night and really makes for super moody photographs under the bright street lamps and traffic lights!
On the night I was there, there was an Old Town Cultural Festival in the village. During this festival, I was able to try traditional Japanese mochi dipped in red-bean which was so delicious - we also experienced how they make the mochi too!
I had such a blast exploring the night-life in both Tokyo and Hakuba during my week in Japan! The activities I wrote above were what I experienced during my trip and I know for sure there are so many more things to do at night in Japan which I will do next time! Special thanks goes to JNTO for the amazing trip and also to my friend Kohki for assisting me during the campaign!
To see all the photos from the trip, make sure you check out my Instagram feed @demas. Also, let me know in the comments below what you thought of this blog post and what else you'd like to read about from me!
Exhibition view, MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM: teamLab Borderless
June 2018 - permanent, Tokyo
Exhibition view, teamLab Planets TOKYO
July 2018 - Fall 2020, Tokyo