The pulsating vertical neon lights lining the major streets is a quintessential Japanese spectacle. Futuristically sexy, visually stunning; reminiscent of (and likely responsible for) many movies set in the future, from Akira to Bladerunner.
In Hong Kong, the neon is horizontal, hanging over the street. In Vegas, it’s gaudy. In Tokyo, the verticality is distinctly Japanese, rising and changing every 3m, symbolizing the business on each successive floor. The streets are left clear, forming vast illuminated canyons, a river of automobiles flowing at the base.
While it may not be high on everyone’s Japan bucket list, Tokyo’s neon signs certainly make an impression on travelers to Tokyo, and should certainly be on your itinerary if you’re a photographer.
There are several areas in Tokyo to best capture the neon signs, each with its own style and atmosphere. Here are 4 of the best places to experience and photograph Tokyo’s beautiful neon lights.
The best examples of Toyko’s neon lights can be found northeast of Shinjuku station, in the red light area of Kabukicho. Here the city never sleeps, and the lights from bars, restaurants, and hostess club signs stay on until the early hours.
Also nearby, we recommend taking a look west from just outside the South Exit to see the Shinjuku Park Tower dominating the colossal neon canyon of Koshu Kaido.
Where to see neon lights in Shinjuku: Shinjuku Kabukicho
Outside the Hachiko Exit of Shibuya station the world’s busiest pedestrian intersection is draped with radiating signage leading away in all directions. This image is often at the forefront of people’s minds when you you’re going to Tokyo.
Where to see neon lights in Shibuya: Hachiko Exit
At the heart of Ginza, take a look in four directions from the corner of Harumi and Chuo Dori, to see the tidier, ordered vertical lights of this upscale shopping district. Smaller, local versions can be found at virtually every station in central Tokyo as well.
Where to see neon lights in Ginza: Chuo Dori
Akihabara is a mecca for ‘Otakus’ (geeks) and hobbyists collecting hard-to-find electronics, video games, manga and figurines. Electric Town in Akihabara is a softer-spoken, subtle neon labyrinth with alleys meshing the blocks together, towering luminous beacons at each exit.
Where to see neon lights in Akihabara: Area near Yodobashi Camera
What’s your favorite area to photograph Tokyo’s neon lights? Let us know in the comments!