Nearly one tenth of my life was spent living in Japan. The majority of my marriage was lived out in Japan. And yet despite these milestones, when people ask me what was it like to live in Japan I digress into a ramble that is part love letter and part sermon.
I’ll go on until stopped about the places you should visit, the sights you see, and what you should eat. I could give entire lecture, probably graduate level, on the drinking culture that is so close to my heart. And yet, I can’t answer the question of what it’s like to live in Japan, or at least I can’t do so concisely.
I originally wrote the three parts to these articles (part I, part II) as an outline nine months ago before moving back to the US. WIth time, I thought, would come clarity as to what made living in Japan so great for inclusion in this article, but I am still at a loss for words. In looking back at the things I wrote while compiling the notes for these articles I am provided with some evidence of how I felt at the time and perhaps an answer to the larger question of what it was like living in Japan. If asked today I would say that living in Japan feels like you’re inside of a living organism with the sunrise providing the inhalation and the sunset providing the exhalation for the day.
On inhale the streets fill with people. They scurry with precision filling streets and trains and are the lifeblood of the country. People move through the streets with an order and rhythm that although manmade has the feeling of something natural. They take on roles as businessmen, taxi drivers, and camera shop owners among other things. On exhale, the people dissipate into homes and bars and the streets, although still lively, are not as full. Viewed from above, the thoroughfares probably appear as arteries delivering oxygen and nutrients to the cores of the country.
In part III of our series on camera shopping in Tokyo I’m sharing a couple of my personal favorites, a couple of the more obvious, and have thrown in a couple of bonuses including one from Nick Susatyo on camera shops outside of Tokyo. It’s become obvious that I won’t be able to feature all of the shops that I originally intended or this will turn into a ten part series. If you have questions about anything in this article you can connect with me on Twitter or contact us.
In my opinion, the holy grail of camera stores in Tokyo is Fujiya Camera. If there is only time for you to go to one camera shop during your trip to Tokyo, make it Fujiya. Some people will say that in recent years it's been picked over quite a bit, which is true, but for those who haven't been to Japan before this represents a great chance for an equally great deal. There’s some really great deals to be had and they are consistently less expensive than anywhere else I’ve been for new gear. I know we’re the Film Shooters Collective, but just for fun lets take the Pentax 645Z — their latest and greatest digital medium format camera. At the time of writing, Yodobashi carries this camera for ¥833,110 ($6,952). The same camera at Fujiya is ¥749,800 ($6,256). If you have $7,000 to spend on a camera the difference in $700 might be negligible, but it’s worth mentioning.
Let’s come back down from the stratosphere for a second and consider something more reasonable like the new Sigma 24mm f/1.4. At Fujiya this lens sells for ¥98,600 ($822) and at Yodobashi it sells for ¥109,610 ($915). So, with the money you save by going to Fujiya you can cover your train fare, treat yourself to lunch, and buy a case chu hai. Money well spent if I do say so myself.
Fujiya has a pretty large footprint within the neighborhood of Nakano. Their junk shop is across the street from the main store and has some great deals. A Fuji 210 f/5.6 for ¥7,000 comes to mind, and I still for the life of me couldn’t figure out what the issue was. Just down the street a little is their used lighting/ tripods, and darkroom equipment where I walked out with an original Fujifilm 120 roll film holder for $1.25, and a print dryer in new condition for $6. Definitely a good day to be in Tokyo.
Fujiya Camera's information is as follows:
Address: 5-61-1 Nakano, Tokyo 164-0001, Japan
Phone: +81 3-5318-2241
This shop opens a little after Fujiya, so if you’re headed that way in the morning you’ll want to hit Fujiya first and kill about a half an hour before heading over to Nitto which is worth the short walk in my opinion. Nitto operates at a slower pace than Fujiya, which can be a good thing. Film is very much alive in this shop and he has undoubtedly a better selection of enlargers than Fujiya and likely a better selection of darkroom equipment on the whole, though the prices will be slightly higher.
What was cool
- Nikon 28mm f/2 AiS ¥32,400
- Tons of 4x5” film holders on the cheap
- Nice stainless mixing vessels for cheap
Nitto Camera's information is as follows:
Address: 5 Chome-49-6 Nakano, Tokyo 164-0001, Japan
Phone: +81 3-3387-0111
Since most people only have the opportunity to come to Japan once in their lives I wanted to throw in this bonus to make your trip as memorable as possible. Near Fujia Camera and Nitto Camera is a small bar called Tokinon 50/1.4, yes, that's the name.
It's very much a locals bar, but if you're obsessed with photography it's worth the visit. The owners passion is trying vintage lenses on his digital body, and you'll be impressed with the selection of patron's works on the walls. You might even be tricked into thinking that an iPhone panorama was shot with a Widelux, but only after a few cocktails.
Tokinon 50/1.4's information can be found here:
Address: 5 Chome-47-6 Nakano, Tokyo, Japan
Phone: +81 50-3586-4452
A stones throw from Ueno station is Chikuma Camera. The sign on their awning says, “we specialize in world camera & photography.” Peer through the window of the shop and you’ll see why; the shop is packed floor to ceiling with cameras from just about every corner of the globe and of about every vintage.
The coolest thing in this shop, to me, was a Konica Hexar RF with 17mm Hexagon lens. It’s just not something you see often, and the Hexar RF has been on my list of camera lust for a while so to see the pairing was quite cool. Also, they had a couple of Olympus Pen D’s for under $100 which were in good shape and ready to shoot.
Chikuma Camera's information is as follows:
Address: Japan, 〒110-0015 Tokyo, Taito, Higashiueno, 3 Chome−19−15, コモリビル 1F
Getting to Akasaka Camera is a bit of a haul from Chikuma Camera, but worth the walk. The window at Akasaka Camera features mostly lenses and digital cameras, but inside is a pretty wide variety of used gear. They have some great junk bins on the floor, and near the door, filled with filters and odds and ends. I scored a 39mm Nikon ND filter for ¥300 in here, so be sure to dig around.
The coolest thing in this shop was definitely the Olympus Pen W in the case with a price of around ¥75,000 which is pretty fair considering the rarity. They also happened to have a Bolsey Model B in US Army PH-324A trim, which is not only handsome, but quite unique.
Akasaka Camera's information is as follows:
Address: 4 Chome-27-13 Matsugaya, Taito, Tokyo 111-0036, Japan
Phone: +81 3-6231-7811
If you love cameras and you can’t make it to Japan you still have a couple of options. If you’re interested in purchasing a camera from Japan I can tell you that I’ve personally purchased from the following sellers in Japan with a great deal of success:
Sanpou Camera (Also has a physical store in Tokyo) - http://www.ebay.com/usr/sanpoucamera?_trksid=p2057872.m2749.l2754
Clips Camera - No longer active on eBay
Tokyo Photo - http://www.ebay.com/usr/tokyophoto?_trksid=p2047675.l2559
Alternately you can contact Japan Camera Hunter who will personally find you the camera of your dreams. I had the opportunity to sit down with him before leaving Japan and can tell you that he’s an excellent resource when it comes to camera purchasing and can source you almost anything.
Finally, if you’re just wanting to browse the wares of a number of shops, j-camera.net is a great resource. You can browse the stock of several stores without leaving the comfort of your own home.
There are Yodobashi’s all over Japan, but the one in Shinjuku is monolithic. As their head office store it has nearly everything you could ever want or need. Interested in an Ebony 4x5 or a new Fuji GF670? You can get it here. Yodobashi also retails film at a number of it’s locations, but this one has by far the most. While you’re here you can also purchase a brand new enlarger, and then try to haul it around on the train just for giggles if you’re so inclined.
On your visit you’ll most likely be interested in two of the buildings, both of which lay opposite that giant Yodobashi sign seen above. These separate locations house cameras, enlargers, and film. The floor guide below is a rough estimation based on memory and their website and is for the camera building only.
1 - Disposable SLR’s and mirror less cameras (all digital)
2- Single-lens reflex camera, film camera (SLR), the interchangeable lens manufacturer, Canon lenses, Flash, Leica, Filters, film scanner, inkjet printing
3- Medium-format camera, large format camera, flash meter, dry cabinet, professional equipment, lighting equipment and for the photograph gelatin filter astronomical telescope, microscope
4 - Tripod, monopod, dry box, rain cover, desiccant, blower/air duster
5 - Camera bags and lens pouches
6- Darkroom supplies and monochrome photographic paper, slide projectors, light boxes, and chemicals
The shop handling film is pretty much limited to one floor which has color and black and white film, instant film in both peel apart and Instax varieties. They sell color photo paper in this store as well should you need to make a c-print while in Tokyo. This location also sells Lomo cameras should you be in the market. At the time I last visited they were housed near the cash register.
Yodobashi Shinjuku's information is as follows:
Address: Japan, 〒160-0023 Tokyo, Shinjuku, 西新宿１丁目１１−１
Phone: +81 3-3346-1010
Crosspoint is a great shop. It’s probably my favorite and although their stock hasn’t always been the most incredible they have been by far the most kind to me over the years. I bought my Rittreckview here, my Nikon F5 here, and I once even got a Passport camera here — for free.
The Ritteckview was on the floor when I walked in one day. I had just sold all my 4x5 gear when I saw it with it’s greenish gray exterior and the price rage that said ¥8,000. I asked the owner if it was light tight and he said he wasn’t sure, but he believed it was. He could tell I was fretting about it a little and said the price was now ¥6,000 and if it wasn’t light tight I could bring it back.
Another time I walked in with even less money, but saw a unique Fuji Passport camera in a corner, loaded with FP-100C for the whopping price of ¥100. If you read the $40 Camera Challenge then you know I have an affinity for ¥100 cameras and so I bought it. Well, I tried to buy it, but when I brought it to the counter the owner told me to take it for free.
I could go on, but you get the point. Out of all the shops in Tokyo this, in my opinion, is the most friendly. They have a good selection of gear to choose from, but at times it is well picked over, so if you’re looking for something specific you may want to call first.
The last time I went in there I was looking for an RZ67, which to my surprise they did not have, and left with a Nikon F5. If I had called I wouldn’t have the F5, but I would have also known that they didn’t have any RZ’s.
Crosspoint is not the most convenient shop of the bunch to get to. It does however make a good stop if you’re planning to go to SX70 Forever as they’re only a few stations apart.
Crosspoint Camera's information is as follows:
Address: Japan, 〒140-0013 Tokyo, Shinagawa, Minamioi, 6 Chome−13−8, 第三浜野ビル 1F
Phone: +81 3-3766-7122
Nick Susatyo was kind enough to compile a bonus round of camera shops in Nagoya, Japan. If you're planning on doing some camera shopping outside of Tokyo, take a look.
Bic Camera ビックカメラ
Area: Nagoya Station
Where: Outside Nagoya Station, Taikodori side exit. The camera section is on underground level (B1).
What: For getting new cameras, camera bags, tripods, filters, scanners, this is probably the biggest shop in Nagoya. They have a small section for film, and also darkroom accessories (printing papers, slide mounts, projectors, loupes, magnifiers, etc). They also offer duty-free for tourists, so don’t forget to bring your passport.
Top Camera トップカメラ
Where: Go to Sakae station, and exit on Exit 6. The shop is just up the stairs.
What: The best part of this shop is on the 3rd Floor – they have huge selection of used cameras, both digital and film. It’s so big that you should get ready to get some headache as you’re going through their shelves. The bad news is that many of their stuff are junk – I’d say about 30-50% of them. If you think the price is much cheaper than it should be, then it’s probably a junk. Some of the staff is completely, utterly clueless about the equipments, so be aware of it.
For film, there’s Nikon, Canon, Leica, Rolleiflex (and other TLRs), Hasselblad, a shelf full with mixed P&S cameras, and a shelf full of Canon EF lenses (useable on both film and digital EOS), among many others.
For digital, they normally have old DSLRs, Fuji X series, and Ricoh GRDs. If you find something you want and is ranked A, AB or B, I think their prices are generally good – sometimes you can get like-new EF lenses, Fuji X cameras, or very clean Leica for a good price. When buying these used equipments, they will usually include one-week warranty.
On the same floor, they have camera bags, filters, films, tripods, and darkroom equipments too. The 2nd floor of this shop has watches, and the 1st has printing kiosks and mobile phone accessories.
This shop also offers duty free for tourists.
Where: From Sakae station, exit on Exit 16, and then it’s about 1km walk. It is right next to the Apple Store. The shop is somewhat crammed in between huge shops and can be hard to find, so my suggestion is to go to the tourist information in Oasis 21 (right by Sakae station), and ask where Apple Store is, and then they will hopefully give you a map of Sakae.
What: This is a small shop owned by a friendly Japanese man who speaks a little English. The shop’s selection is not as big as Top Camera’s, but still very nice nonetheless. Whenever I visit this shop, they have something that I’ve never seen in my life before, so I think it’s worth a visit. Many of this shop’s items have papers (certificates) for CLA. The friendly owner really knows the condition of each camera and will point out if there’s something wrong with it.
Area: Osu shopping district
Where: From Kamimaezu station, exit on Exit 9. Follow the street, and turn left on the next block, and you should see the Osu shopping district. The location of the shop itself is a bit hard to describe because Osu is like a maze… There are three Komehyos, and the one dedicated for camera shop is this one in the picture. They were closed when I took this picture because I was late, but they’re actually still operating as normal everyday.
What: Komehyo is one of those buy/sell trading shops. They made sure the items are working and usable, and they graded them.
This shop mainly sells used digital gears, although they have some film gears, too. They have huge shelves of Canon EOS bodies, EF lenses (some giant 300mm and 400mm lenses, too), mirrorless cameras, P&S cameras, as well as small selection of Nikon film SLRs and Leicas. I think their pricing on digital gears is fair, but their film gears are a little expensive.
I believe this shop also offers duty free for tourists.