A (Foreign) Film Photographer’s Guide to Tokyo and Other Notes

This is an ongoing page and will be updated from time to time, so do visit it occasionally.

Tokyo is a paradise of sorts to film photographers. It may be in its twilight years, but it is still buzzing a fair bit in Tokyo. I have been travelling to Tokyo for a number of years now and can see slow decline and more of digital cameras being resold. If you get the chance, do get to Tokyo before it becomes irrelevant or the rent becomes so high, the existing enclaves become fragmented (On a sad side note, Champagne Court in Hong Kong will be demolished shortly so get there quick and who knows what will happen to the few satellite shops down the road near Chunking Express – for more information on Hong Kong stores -visit https://melbournestreetphotography.com.au/ ).

I am writing from a foreigner’s point of view who only gets to visit Tokyo for about 1 week or 2 each time with other agendas on the trips. So there will be a lot of errors of observation but I hope you find my notes helpful.

Expectation Gap

Don’t expect to find anything you want.  In many ways you are better off getting it from Ebay.  I get a lot of gear from Ebay Japan sellers without too many worries.  You will find service is an important trait in Japan and it shows through the Ebay sellers as well. Many times, the condition is much better than the description.  You should find most Ebay Japanese sellers honest and honourable.  You will find the occasional paper crane or tea bag in the post.  And Japan post is speedy.  The internet has pretty much made the market  an efficient one.  So if you are expecting to find an abundance of  Contax T2 (or even a Mju II), forget about it.  Some notes from previous trips:

Fuji 645 – probably saw 3 or 4 samples.

Hasselbald A12 backs – few and not in good condition.

Mamiya C330?  I was set on getting one during one trip.  Only saw 2 samples and they were in bad conditions (ended up with a very good condition Hasselblad 500CM at a good price) .

Pentax 67 105mm lens?  Not a chance.

However, if you are after Nikon, SLRs, Leicas,  Canons, Minolta bodies then plenty of chances for physical examination.

First and foremost, you can find more comprehensive reviews and blogs on Tokyo film camera shops from

Japan Camera Hunter

http://www.japancamerahunter.com/

He has maps on the major camera stores at

http://www.japancamerahunter.com/2012/04/camera-shopping-in-tokyo-pt-1-shinjuku/

http://www.japancamerahunter.com/2012/04/camera-shopping-in-tokyo-pt-2-ginza/

http://www.japancamerahunter.com/2012/04/camera-shopping-in-tokyo-pt-3-northern-tokyo/

Do note that addresses in Tokyo are different to addresses and maps elsewhere in the Western world, even with the help of live googlemap, the first timers will probably get lost a number of times so my notes will include a number of visible guides to help you out.

TKB Media

This is a lesser known guide but just as useful.

Tokyo Camera Style – not much of a guide but it may give out tips on good exhibitions:

http://tokyocamerastyle.com/

If you are serious about shopping for some cameras, then I would think you need about 3 days of transiting, browsing and revisiting between Shinjuku and Ginza.  Don’t worry, there will be plenty of rest stops and distractions at these locations to make your trips fun.

The following notes are based on my last trip in October 2016.

Shinjuku (West)

If you don’t have 3 days running back and forth with Ginza, Shinjuku West is the spot to go for half a day.  You are bound to find something with any budget.  There is a small block of streets across the road and west of Shinjuku Station.  Most people know it for the Yodabashi store.  There is also a Labi (another electronic chain) store –  I used to go through it during the hot weather just to get some nice cool air.  This area is not just about electronic shopping.  It is also a place for food and drinks till late.   The only negative for eating is that there is still a strong smoking culture so some of the restaurants will be smoke filled.

We found a ramen place where you could get a basic no nonesense ramen for 400 yen. I guess peeps would just drop off their backpacks at the station, carbo load here and continue on for the rest of the day.

If you are here late at night, and continue on the side towards Keio Plaza hotel, you might find a popup noodle cart with a diesel motor running and a dude who sells Japanese peaches out of his little van.

Yodabashi 

Along with Bic Camera, this is one of the biggest and well know camera stores.  They don’t sell film cameras anymore, but they still sell film. Nonetheless, give it a visit for digital cameras and accessories.  The first time visiting it is a surreal experience.  You come out of one shop seeing all the new mirrorless, compacts and what have you, then you are inclined to cross the street to another enticing shop and it has the same cameras and almost the same layout.  Took me a while to figure out Yodabashi has 2 of the same camera shops here.

The Yodabashi film store deserves a pilgrimage of sorts  even though it is much smaller now than it used to be.  Kodak film is expensive.  The local Fuji stock is not cheap with the condition of the AUD exchange.  You may be better off bulk buying from B&H and the like but I always do buy some pack films.  You can buy Fuji Industrial by the roll or carton (100) but not bricks of 10.  And don’t forget to ask for tax free.  VISA card holders also get another 5% off.

The main building also has fantastic floors for other film stuff like developers and darkroom stuff.  It is worth a visit even for a browse.  One of the floors has a few cabinets of practically all lens adaptors you need for mirrorless cameras.

Map Camera

This is another institution of sorts.  Pricey though.  Upstairs will be half digital and half film camera lenses and bodies.  But you really come here for the downstairs Leica store.

Chuuko Camera Box

This is like the Aladdin’s cave of cameras.  Come out to the outer edge of Shinjuku West.  Look for the intersection with the 7-11 and go down the basement.  It is a tiny shop full of stuff.  Go alone.  It will be too small for groups – even for 2 people.  You will get in one another’s way.  One of you will end up crowding the door way waiting impatiently for the other person.  If you are that person waiting, just go back up and look for the standing room sushi bar (opposite to Hooters)- best to go at about 2pm when it us quiet and ask for sashimi including fatty tuna.

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New Camera

I always forget about this shop after I leave Tokyo and remember how good it is when I return.  It is like Chuuko Box but with room to move.  Can be hard to find for the first timers.  Look for the ABC Mart and the stairwell going up stairs. Plenty of gear.

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The Kinda Secret Camera Box

Not sure of the name of this shop.  It doesn’t get mentioned in blogs.  I only found reference to it one time and a couple of passing mention in my photography group (hello peeps from Australian Film Photographers).  It is kind of like a messy and even smaller version of Chuuko Box.  If you are keen, come out of Chuuko Box, turn left, cross the main dori and you will come to this weird intersection and go up to the second floor.  Very small shop.  When I visited, I interrupted a young female attendant watching her midday movie – some loud revenge cop movie behind the curtains.

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Kitamura

This is smack bang in the Shinjuku West intersection. Many people have taken pictures of this intersection without realising the shop on the 4th floor. It gets good reviews for some reason – probably because it is part of a large chain store. I  get disappointed when I visit it. You have to wait for the slow lift or end up climbing 4 flights of stairs and end up finding it to be a small shop with more digital gear than expected.

However, off Shinjuku West at Shinjuku north is another Kitamura.(Kitamura Shinjuku Daiga)   I found this when I was looking for Zoetrope whisky bar (side note – there is a near complete shortage of aged Japanese whisky and this bar stocks practically every single Japanese whisky).  This doesn’t appear to be on any of the blogs.  Very spacious shop with lots to choose from.  Lots of 645 gear amongst other things.

I am pretty sure it is about here:

https://www.google.com.au/maps/dir/Camera+Kitamura+Shinjuku+Daiga+-+de+shop/Japan,+%E3%80%92160-0023+T%C5%8Dky%C5%8D-to,+Shinjuku-ku,+Nishishinjuku,+7+Chome%E2%88%929%E2%88%92%EF%BC%91%EF%BC%95+%E3%83%80%E3%82%A4%E3%82%AB%E3%83%B3%E3%83%97%E3%83%A9%E3%82%B6%E3%83%93%E3%82%B8%E3%83%8D%E3%82%B9%E6%B8%85%E7%94%B0%E3%83%93%E3%83%AB2%E9%9A%8E+Camera+Kitamura+Shinjuku+Daiga+-+de+shop/@35.6943674,139.6979468,19.61z/data=!4m13!4m12!1m5!1m1!1s0x0:0x6631ef45805ee66!2m2!1d139.6982424!2d35.694774!1m5!1m1!1s0x60188cd630f2b1b9:0x6631ef45805ee66!2m2!1d139.6982424!2d35.694774

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Shinjuku East

At the east Side of Shinjuku West, you will find 3 shops about 10 minutes from one another.  They are all worth visiting and is a busy section for eating and shopping.

Camera Alps

Camera Alpsdo – nice little shop not far from Studio Alta.  It is easy to miss.  If you miss it you will probably end up under the big Labi TV screen blaring out the latest Kpop and Jpop.  Nice shop with bit of everything.  There is also a nice cabinet of large format gear.

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Lucky Camera
JCH site needs updating for this. The building is demolished and they have moved further down. The old shop was messy and the new one is much nicer. You can follow the webpage instructions and catch metro to Sanchome and come out of the C4 exit, turn left and turn left again into the first little lane. But it is nicer to walk on the street level.

20161018_180828

Miyama

Nice shop. One short hop from Isetan. A variety of stuff including digital. I seem to have bad luck there. I pick something up and the salesman says fungus, or missing eyepiece on a Mamiya 645, or some other fault.

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One thought on “A (Foreign) Film Photographer’s Guide to Tokyo and Other Notes

  1. Pingback: Japan Film Camera Shop Guide | Lifting Shadows

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