Shooting Osaka, Japan: Photography Examples and Tips


Osaka has to be my favorite city in Japan. You get all the excitement and charm of the country with less of the smothered-in-bone-crushing-crowds and the being-hopelessly-lost feelings that accompany visits to Tokyo. Today, we're going to showcase some photography from around Osaka, along with some tips if you're planning on a visit.

Getting Around

While Osaka is a massive city of nearly 18 million people, getting around the city is surprisingly easy. Typically you're no further than 15 minutes from a subway or train station.

Osaka's subway system is colored coded with lines that intersect throughout the city in a logical format. The JR Train Loop line also runs a circle around the city's core. But since JR Stations also intermingle with trains leaving for destinations outside the city, the train platforms can sometimes be a little tricky to navigate. I recommend using the subway system until you get comfortable with using the JR trains.

Taxis are prohibitively expensive in Japan. Unless you have yen to burn, stay out of the cabs.

Most destinations can be reached within a short walk of a subway or train station. It's helpful if you know the exit number you'll need when leaving the station as some stations have a ton of exits. Maps in Japan are often confusing. For example, one map may show directions with the north point up (as is common) while another map on the street may display with West or another equally confusing direction pointing up. Trust me, it's confusing enough to drive you mad.

Here's a helpful Japanese phrase you can use when you get lost (which you probably will): [Name of destination] wa doko des ka?

With this phrase, you'll be basically asking where such-and-such a place is. Now, chances are, you won't have a chance of understanding what the person is say when they answer, but if you've come off a station in the vicinity of where you need to go, just watch for which way they point to get the general direction.

Also, if you ever find yourself hopelessly lost, look for a policeman or a police box (koban). The police in Japan are experts at helping lost foreigners find their way around.

Shoot the Landmarks

There are so many attractions to shoot in Osaka that it's difficult to pick only a few. Chances are you'll find plenty of opportunity for amazing photography all over Osaka.

Osaka Castle

Even if you know next to nothing of Japan, you've probably heard of Osaka Castle. This famous castle played an important role in the unification of Japan under the Nobunaga and Tokugawa shogunate. Although the original castle has been replaced by a concrete reconstruction, the castle and surrounding park are filled with photo opportunities.

What makes Osaka Castle one of my favorite castles is that you can enter the park and go right up to the castle without paying a dime. So feel free to shoot photos of the castle and surrounding parks to your heart's content.

Photo by Travis King

Photo by Christopher Chan

Photo by JoopDorresteijn

DÅ tonbori

Dō tonbori is a world famous avenue that stretches through Osaka City. The street is lined with restaurants and stores and many of Osaka's tourist landmarks can be found here including Glico Man, Kuidaore Taro (the drum beating clown) and the Kani Doraku Crab.

Stretching along Dō tonbori is its famous canal where you may be lucky enough to witness Osaka's rabid Hanshin Tiger baseball fans launching themselves into the water after a victory.

The Ebisubashi Bridge can be found right next to the Glico Man neon sign. Come here in the evening to witness the strange and unusually dressed Japanese teens that use this as a meeting place or for trying to pull foreigners into their respective clubs and hostess bars. Some of the boys that have bigger hair than the girls!

Photo by fidelramos

Photo by Miguel Michán

Photo by Miguel Michán

Photo by Héctor de Pereda

Den Den Town

If you a fan of electronics or anime, you won't want to miss Den Den Town. It's heaven for anime and otaku fans from around the world. While wandering the side streets, you'll no doubt find plenty of Maid and Cosplay cafes. If you're into photographing the wild and bizarre, you'll want to explore this area!

Photo by jcruz2000

Photo by jcruz2000

Photo by jcruz2000

Osaka Aquarium

If fish and the underwater world is your thing, be sure to check out the Osaka Aquarium (Kaiyukan). With its walkthrough displays that wind down through massive aquariums, bring a fast lens and a steady hand as lighting is low but photo opportunities are high.

While in the area be sure to visit the Tempozan market and the massive Osaka Ferris Wheel to get some great shots of the city. You'll be shooting through the glass of the ferris wheel cars so use a rubber lens hood to cut down on reflection.

Photo by Christopher Chan

Photo by KIUKO

Photo by TenSafeFrogs

Photo by idua_japan

Food Photography

There's a saying in Osaka that Tokyoites will spend their last yen on clothing but people in Osaka will spend it on food. Osaka is famous in Japan for its love of food and you'll find plenty of wild and delicious food to photograph.

Photo by circle

Photo by JanneM

Photo by Andrew Wong

Photo by Travis King

Sakura Season

If you happen to time your visit during Osaka's cherry blossom season (usually mid April), you will be blown away by the Sakura season.

Prime locations include Nishinomaru Park near Osaka Castle and Sakuranomiya Park with its nearly 5000 cherry trees that line the Osaka river. If you want to get away from some of the crowd, the park near Tempozan Market is a wonderful location to photograph these beautiful trees.

Photo by Travis King

Photo by Miguel Michán

Photo by showbizsuperstar

Handy Japanese Phrases for the Photographer

While it's not necessary to learn much Japanese before visiting, any effort you put into learning a few Japanese phrases will be greatly appreciated. Along with learning how to say thank you and ask for directions to the bathroom, here are a few phrases custom made for the visiting photographer.

Can I take a photo?

There are a few ways to ask permission to take a photoraph in Japanese. The following phrases get increasingly more detailed and slightly more difficult as they go on. Take some time to memorize one of these to make your photography session easier.

Shashin ii des ka?

Shashin (sha-sheen) is Japanese for photograph. Here you're basically saying "Photo OK?" It's a pretty simple phrase that most Japanese will have no difficulty understanding. The problem with this basic question is that some people may think you are asking to take a photo of the area or would like them to take your photograph. Our next phrase is a little more specific:

Anata no shashin ii des ka?

Here you are being more specific by asking to take the person's photograph.

Anata no shashin o totte mo ii des ka?

This is the more grammatically correct phrase for asking to take a picture of a person. Be warned, however, the person you are asking may think you're fluent in Japanese when using this sentence.

While most places that do not allow photography will have a sign with a picture of a crossed-out camera on it, should you need to ask if photography is permitted, use this simple phrase:

Shashin o tottemo ii des ka?

Pretty simple, right?

Share your Osaka Photo Spots

We'd love to hear about your favorite photography spots in Osaka. If you have a hot spot that we've missed, please tell us in the comments below!

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