According to the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), nearly 2.5 million visitors came to the Land of the Rising Sun last November. 2.5 million... the best November on record for Japanese tourism. This number of visitors is hard to imagine. Though, I am not surprised in the slightest by the staggering count.
Japan is experiencing a historic tourism boom. Years ago, the JNTO began a drive that would bring 20 million leisure visitors annually by the 2020. In the past years, the folks at the tourism board have done a better job than expected. Last year Japan welcomed nearly 29 million tourists, smashing the goals set by the tourism board.
The numbers are impressive and, by walking around Tokyo on a beautiful day, I can actually see the influx. Tour buses are parked at monuments, exclusive districts like Ginza are buzzing with foreign shoppers, and restaurants are constantly filled with foodies.
Many would frown at a massive wave of tourism like this. But the perks, in this case, perhaps outweigh the cons. The economic benefits of tourism are boosting the ailing Japanese economy. I am glad that so many people want to see Japan, one of the most beautiful and fascinating countries in the world. I am also grateful that many of these visitors need a portrait photographer in Japan to capture some of their time here in the capital.
A few weeks ago, I heard from Noel and Mel, a couple from Singapore who were searching for a Tokyo-based portrait photographer to document a sliver of their winter holiday. Their initial correspondence read:
Hello, Andrew! We are from Singapore and are planning our 3rd trip to Japan (2nd trip this year). We love the sights and sounds of Tokyo. On every corner you find something different, something you don't expect. The city has the new-meets-old vibe and, of course, the people... We are not the posing kind and are hoping for a casual portrait photo session. Can you help?
I could, in fact, help Melanie and Noel. Every couple I work with is different. Some pairs choose to get dressed to the hilt and spend much of their session posing. Other couples just want a leisurely date, void of elaborate posing and artificial lighting. I was delighted to craft a session for Noel and Mel that that would yield some great images and that would feel relaxed and super casual.
We decided to meet outside of Sensoji Temple, one of the most crowded tourist destinations in Tokyo. Asakusa's Sensoji Temple is the oldest temple in Tokyo and is, on any given day, packed with tourists from all over the world.
Why would we select Sensoji as our location for a casual, relaxed portrait session? At Sensoji, tourists tend to move in a predictable route. Visitors typically walk down Nakamise Street, snap photos at the five-story pagoda, meander into the main hall of the shrine, and then head back out of the complex. This route is always clogged and endlessly frustrating. But I knew that we would be able to capture some great images in one of Tokyo's most iconic locations without having to brave the massive crowd.
Most visitors don't realize that the blocks on either side of the main temple complex are a maze of beautifully calm side-streets with views of the Sky Tree. Moreover, the northern end of Sensoji, accessed by an alternate entrance, is usually empty and offers a glimpse of the temple's façade without a wall of bodies.
Thankfully, our plan went off without a hitch. For an hour or so, I took Noel and Mel through Sensoji's "secret" spots, creating the casual portrait shoot the couple was after. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Mel and Noel, two of the nicest visitors Tokyo will welcome this year.
Are you planning a trip to Japan? If so, why not document some of your time here in by booking a portrait session here in Tokyo, throughout Japan, or beyond? Contact me today to start planning your custom portrait session.
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Who Is Andrew Faulk?
Tokyo photographer Andrew Faulk specializes in portrait, editorial, event, and commercial photography assignments. With over a decade of experience living and working in Asia, he collaborates with individuals, families, publications, and corporations to create timeless images under any deadline. Andrew's work is frequently featured in a variety of international travel and lifestyle publications. He is a husband, father, and lover of fried food.