This FAQ covers camera stores in Japan, stock photography agencies, buying vintage photos, renting camera equipment in Japan, and photo schools. Updated: Feb. 1, 2016
What is PhotoVendors?
Which camera stores do you recommend in Japan and where should I buy camera equipment?
Yodobashi Camera is the biggest camera shop (probably the biggest in the world). Their megastores in Tokyo (Shinjuku, Akihabara, Kichijoji, etc.) have almost everything. They have stores in other major cities like Osaka, Fukuoka, and Sapporo. Yodobashi originally sold only camera equipment, but they have evolved into a major electrical appliance department store. Bic Camera is another chain and also good. In the suburbs and regional cities, you might find medium-size electronics chain stores like Yamada Denki. They’re good too, but the product selection is smaller. These camera shops are great to touch and feel the products you want to buy. Most major cameras are displayed as demo models.
However, Japan also has many online vendors whose prices are often cheaper than Yodobashi, etc. Even Amazon.co.jp sometimes has lower prices than Yodobashi. (This also applies to other products such as computer equipment.) If you can read Japanese, you can compare camera prices at kakaku.com. which lists the lowest prices from vendors.
Some online vendors have a small, physical shop for walk-in customers (looking more like a warehouse office). Others don’t. If you order from an online vendor, you should pay cash on delivery unless you know them to be trustworthy (like Amazon).
In Tokyo, Shinjuku is well-known for having the highest concentration of camera shops in Japan. It makes it easy to shop and compare prices. But ever since Yodobashi opened a megastore in Akihabara, Akihabara has become a very good place to shop for both cameras and electronics.
Any camera stores which sell to customers outside Japan?
We do not know of any camera retailers in Japan which accept international mail orders.
Are camera prices cheaper in Japan than in the US or Europe?
Maybe and maybe not. It depends on the camera store, product, and exchange rate. You’ll just have to compare prices yourself.
I want to know the street prices of camera equipment in Japan.
If you and your computer can read Japanese, the best place way to find out prices is at kakaku.com. Also see Yodobashi Camera’s Web site at www.yodobashi.co.jp/ or Amazon.co.jp. They list prices of most major camera equipment.
What about used camera shops?
Tokyo has many used camera shops especially in Ginza. If you are a camera collector, it’s the place to go. English is spoken at most shops. You can see this list of used camera shops. Also see the used camera ads (all in Japanese, but you might recognize the camera names and prices) in camera magazines such as Nippon Camera and Asahi Camera.
Do any of the camera shops in Japan have web sites in English?
Very few have web sites in English. They might provide almost useless and unreliable automated translation.
How do you rent equipment?
Most of the rental outlets require a hoshonin (guarantor) usually a family member or company superior. If you are not a resident of Japan, chances are that you will not be able to rent equipment.
As for underwater photo equipment, they can also be rented from scuba diving shops.
How do I find a rental studio?
If you can read Japanese, check Commercial Photo magazine’s Web site for a list of studios: http://powerpage.jp/studio.php and here.
The magazine also had ads for rental studios and the Aug. issue includes a rental studio directory. But everything is in Japanese.
How about renting a computer?
We don’t know of any shops where that you can rent and take home a computer.
However, you can do pretty much everything with a computer at a kinko’s store. Or at an Internet cafe. kinko’s is a business service center offering a wide range of photocopying and printing services, and they also rent on-site Windows and Macintosh computers with all the software and peripherals you need. kinko’s has many convenient locations in the major cities (especially Tokyo). All their computers are also connected to the Internet.
Where can I find a complete list of stock photo agencies in Japan?
A more complete list can be found in Japanese in Commercial Photo magazine’s Stock Photo Guide supplement issued every April. The magazine also has photo agency search page here (Japanese only).
Can I make a living as a stock photographer in Japan?
No, don’t quit your day job. Income from stock photography is not enough to live on.
Where can I buy vintage photographs in Japan?
The best place would be Yahoo Japan Auctions or eBay. There are more vintage photos of Japan outside Japan too (as you can see at eBay).
In Tokyo’s Jimbocho, there is Abeno Stamp and Coin and Shinsendo Shoten. Most of the stuff they have are not that rare or top-notch. But you never know.
There are also flea markets and antique fairs where you might find vintage photos and postcards.
If you want high-quality vintage, you’ll have to contact leading dealers such as Old Japan.
I’m an established photographer and I have many photos of so-and-so genre. Can you recommend any agencies to approach?
Sorry, but we cannot make any recommendations, endorsements, etc.
Where can I study photography in Japan?
Assuming that you can understand Japanese, there are a number of ways to study photography in Japan as ranked below from most difficult to least difficult:
- Enter a four-year university and major in fine arts or photography. Nihon University in Tokyo has a well-known photography department. You will need to pass the college entrance exam.
- Enter a 2-year vocational school (senmon gakko) specializing in photography or art. There is no entrance exam, but you will need to understand and read Japanese. You have to be a high school graduate and show that you have enough financial resources to pay the tuition.
- Take a short-term course at a vocational school or culture center. These are usually held in the evenings or weekends.
- Take a short-term course held by an organization (camera clubs, photo museums, etc.) or pro photographer.
- Work as a photographer’s assistant.
Taking a photography class is a great way to meet people having the same interests. The instructors teaching the courses have a wealth of information and knowledge.
What’s it like to attend a photography school (shashin senmon gakko) in Japan?
Well, you do learn how to use different cameras and studio equipment and have a few fun photo sessions with live models (always female and sometimes nude). But the school does not really train you to become a real artist. Attending a photo school in the U.S. is much better.
Nevertheless, attending a photo school in Japan will enable you to meet a few teachers who are prominent Japanese photographers and you can make a lot of friends among your classmates. Knowing people can lead to jobs.
Are there any photo schools which teach in English?
No photography schools teach in English in Japan.
You may find ads for photo lessons in English magazines such as Metropolis (Tokyo), but be wary before signing up. Meet the teacher first and obtain a clear explanation of what you will get in return for a good amount of money.