PhotoFAQ Index

Index of FAQ (frequently-asked questions) pages:

PhotoGuide Japan FAQ
FAQ about this Web site.

Japan Photos FAQ
FAQ about our online photo collection/gallery/albums at PHOTOGUIDE.JP/pix/.

PhotoWho’sWho FAQ
FAQ for famous Japanese photographers and their biographies at PhotoWho’sWho.

PhotoVendors FAQ
FAQ about camera stores in Japan, stock photography agencies, buying vintage photos, renting camera equipment in Japan, and photo schools.

PhotoRepairs FAQ
FAQ about camera repair centers for major camera manufacturers in Japan as listed in PhotoRepairs.

PhotoSpaces FAQ
FAQ about Japan’s museums, galleries, photo salons, and other exhibition spaces listed in PhotoSpaces.

PhotoBookstores FAQ
FAQ about major Japanese bookstores stocking a good selection of photo books.

PhotoReviews FAQ
FAQ about PhotoGuide Japan’s book review page for Japanese photo books, magazines, and CD-ROMs.

PhotoPostcards FAQ
FAQ about vintage and modern Japanese postcards.

PhotoOrganizations FAQ
FAQ about major pro photographer associations and imaging industry-related organizations in Japan, as listed in PhotoOrganizations.

PhotoLibraries FAQ
FAQ about museum libraries in Japan that have a good collection of photo books and magazines, as listed in PhotoLibraries.

PhotoSpaces FAQ

What is PhotoSpaces (under construction)?

Listings of Japan’s museums, galleries, photo salons, and other exhibition spaces (such as department stores) which hold photography or camera exhibitions regularly or occasionally.

For the Tokyo area, Tokyo Art Beat provides an excellent list of photo exhibition museums, galleries, and other spaces.

What types of photo exhibition spaces are there in Japan?

Basically, we can categorize exhibition spaces as follows:

  • Photo galleries (Free or rental)
  • Art galleries
  • Museums (public and private)

Almost all photo and art galleries have free admission, while museums usually charge admission.

Where’s the exhibition schedule of the photo galleries and museums?

PhotoSpaces does not provide exhibition schedules. In English, you can find exhibition schedules as follows:

In Japanese, you can find exhibition schedules as follows:

  • The gallery or museum’s Web site (if available)
  • Major camera magazines such as Asahi Camera and Nippon Camera.

Exhibitions run for only one to two weeks at most galleries. It is much longer at photography museums.

What should I know before visiting a photo museum or gallery in Japan?

You should make sure that the place will be open. The gallery or museum can be closed on any day of the week. Most are open on weekends and holidays (see list below), but others are not.

For large museums, arrive at least 30 min. before the closing time. Otherwise, entry might not be permitted. Also note that on the final day of an exhibition period, the gallery may close earlier than usual.

What days are national holidays in Japan?

New Year’s Day (Jan. 1)
2nd Mon. in Jan. (Coming-of-Age Day)
Feb. 11 (National Founding Day)
Mar. 21 (Vernal Equinox)
Apr. 29 (Greenery Day)
May 3 (Constitution Day)
May 4 (Children’s Day)
(The week-long period spanning Apr. 29 to May 4 is called “Golden Week.”)
July 20 (Marine Day)
Mid-August (Obon summer vacation)
Sep. 15 (Respect-for-the-Aged Day)
Sep. 23 (Autumnal Equinox)
2nd Mon. in Oct. (Sports Day)
Nov. 3 (Culture Day)
Nov. 23 (Labor Thanksgiving Day)
Dec. 23 (Emperor’s Birthday)
Year end and New Year’s period refers to the last few days of the year (around Dec. 28-31) and the first few days of the year (around Jan. 1-4). Many museums are closed during this period.

Note that if a national holiday falls on a Sunday, Monday becomes the holiday.

How long do photo exhibitions run?

At most galleries, one to two weeks is the average exhibition period. It is much longer at photography museums.

What about maps to the photo museums/galleries?

For Tokyo-area venues, see Tokyo Art Beat. Also see etc. magazine for art museum/gallery maps in English (might be slightly outdated).

Lastly, check the museum or gallery’s Web site to see if they have a map in English (they would have a map in Japanese). PhotoSpaces may provide Web site URLs for museums and galleries.

How do I hold a photo exhibition in Japan?

Basically, there are several ways to exhibit in Japan:

  • Use a rental gallery where you pay money to rent the space for a certain period.
  • Apply for an exhibition at one of the free photo galleries operated by the major camera and film makers.
  • Enter and win a major photo contest whose winners are given an exhibition.
  • Become famous enough to be invited by a museum or gallery to hold an exhibition
  • Become friends with a gallery owner who is willing to give you an exhibition.
  • Participate in local art festivals or exhibitions.
  • Negotiate with department stores, coffee shops, and other local public establishments which may allow you to show your photographs.

If you are rich enough to rent a gallery, it’s quite easy. Just contact the gallery and reserve a time slot. Be prepared to pay around 20,000 yen per day to rent the gallery. The minimum rental period is usually 7-10 days. Some rental galleries require certain standards in the quality of the work to be exhibited. If your work does not meet their standards, you might be rejected. Exhibition-quality prints may also be required. The gallery may also take a large commission (as much as 50%) on any print sales. You will also have to pay for frames/matting and publicity postcards. The total bill will be considerable.

A cheaper (but more difficult) way is to apply for an exhibition at one of the galleries operated by a film or camera maker such as Fuji Film, Canon, Nikon, and Kodak. Find out the deadline (usually every month or once every few months) and entry rules, then submit the required number of sample photos. If you pass the judging, you will be notified of an exhibition slot which is usually about a week long and a year in advance. You are competing against many other people, so the chances of getting in are pretty slim. Places like the Nikon Salon have applications in English. Most other galleries require you to communicate in Japanese only.

If you’re a famous photographer, you may be invited to exhibit in Japan by a major gallery or museum. That’s when you got it made.

Having a gallery connection is also a secure way. If you know a gallery owner or know a friend who knows a gallery owner, you may be given an exhibition if the owner likes you and your work.

Some small cities like Kamogawa in Chiba are very art-oriented and welcome participation from the public or foreigners during city-sponsored art events. If you get involved in your local community, there may be local venues to show your work. Sometimes there are exhibitions where anybody can submit a photo. For example, the Month of Photography event in Tokyo has the 1,000-Person Photo Exhibition every year for this purpose.

Japan also holds many, many photo contests. There’s even a magazine called “Photo Contest” which lists all the photo contests that are held. Some of them are major competitions from which major photographers made their debut. Besides an exhibition, the winners get a lot of media attention.

*Also see an excellent article by Tokyo art critic Monty DiPietro on trying to hold an exhibition in Tokyo. He even writes, “Forget it” was the response I got from most of the Tokyo-based artists, and gallery and museum people I queried on how a North American might arrange a Tokyo exhibition.”

And oh, if you do not live in Japan and want to exhibit in Japan, you should find someone in Japan to help you or represent you. The person will have to do all the translating and paperwork submissions for you. It might be difficult to do everything from overseas.

How do I make a phone call in Japan?

All phone numbers shown in PhotoSapces are for calling within Japan. To call from outside Japan, dial Japan’s country code (81), then the local area code without dialing the first zero. For example, to call or fax (03) 3280-0033 (Tokyo), dial 81-3-3280-0033.

In DirectoryZONE, the phone number’s local area code is indicated in parentheses. It need not be dialed if you are in that area. For example, if you are within the 23 wards of Tokyo, you need not dial the 03. Also, toll-free numbers (usually starts with 0120) work only within Japan. Note that most people in Japan cannot speak English, so be prepared to communicate in Japanese.

Japan Photos FAQ

by Philbert Ono

What’s Japan Photos at PHOTOGUIDE.JP/pix ?
It’s an ever-growing collection of tens of thousands of online photos and videos of Japan, organized mainly according to prefecture and city/town/village. It is to help promote travel to Japan and pique your interest in the places, things, events, and people the photos show. Be great if the pictures help you better understand Japan and see that it is much more than just Mt. Fuji, geisha, and cherry blossoms.

How are the photos organized?
Basically, there are top-tier categories such as the prefecture (all 47 prefectures of Japan), then secondary categories such as the city, town, and village. The secondary categories contain photo collections called albums (called “photo sets” at Flickr). Each album can contain up to 250 pictures of a certain subject or theme. Toward the top of the page, there are breadcrumb links (ex.: Home > Tokyo > Shinjuku > Album name) showing you exactly where you are within Japan Photos.

I also have theme-based categories such as festivals, people, sumo, and vintage postcards.

What kind of Japan photos are there?
They are mainly travel photos from all 47 prefectures. They intend to show what a place looks like or what happens at an event such as a festival. The photos are selected from among many and presented in a logical sequence. If it’s a festival, the photos are in chronological sequence. It’s more like a photo essay, and I avoid showing random, unrelated images.

Most of the photos were taken within the Tokyo-to-Osaka corridor since I live in Tokyo and most of my travels are done within this area. In the near future, I plan to spend extended periods in farther parts of Japan where I haven’t traveled and photographed much.

Did you take all these photos/videos?
I took almost all of them. Those labeled with “Philbert Ono.” Photos not taken by me are labeled with the respective photographer’s name.

How can I post my photos on your Japan Photos site?
I welcome photo submissions if you have photos of Japan I don’t have or don’t plan to shoot. You should have at least 12 photos of a subject in an understandable sequence. File names should be in numeric order. Images should be at least 400 pixels wide or tall for vertical shots. You send me the images and I’ll post them on the site. Contact me for more info.

How many photos are there in Japan Photos?
As of late 2014, there are over 48,000 photos and videos. This number constantly increases. Almost every month, I see a place or festival (matsuri) I’ve never seen before and shoot. It may take a while longer for me to upload the results.

Do you sell your photos?
Yes, most photos are available for licensing if you want to use it for editorial purposes in a book, magazine, etc. Give me the URL of the photo(s) you want and make an offer. Contact me for more info.

Can I use your photo in my blog?
Yes, you can use the image as is for free, as long as the copyright notice is clearly visible. Keep a copy of the image on your own site and do not hotlink images from my site.

Why not post these photos on Flickr instead?
Flickr charges money and I wouldn’t draw any income from posting photos there. I much prefer posting content on my own Web site and draw ad income at the very least. I also have total control over my site. The social networking of Flickr is great, but I started Japan Photos before Flickr came to fore.

What does “Album viewed xx times” mean?
Indicates the number of times the album (thumbnail page) has been viewed since June 6, 2010 when the system started to count the album views. The number of album views is not accurate for albums uploaded before this date.

PhotoVendors FAQ

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?

It is a list of major camera stores in Japan and a list of used camera shops in Tokyo.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Take a short-term course at a vocational school or culture center. These are usually held in the evenings or weekends.
  4. Take a short-term course held by an organization (camera clubs, photo museums, etc.) or pro photographer.
  5. 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.

PhotoOrganizations FAQ

What is PhotoOrganizations?

It is a list of major pro photographer associations and imaging industry-related organizations in Japan.

Which photographers’ associations are the most prominent in Japan?

The following three organizations are the most prominent in Japan:

The Photographic Society of Japan (PSJ)
Japan professional Photographers Society (JPS)
Japan Advertising Photographers’ Association (APA)

PSJ is a mix of photographers, amateurs, photo critics, business people, etc. They hold the annual Month of Photography event in Tokyo.

JPS is Japan’s largest organization of pro photographers. Members undergo strict screening to join. The annual membership fee is around 30,000 yen. Their newsletter booklet has an English page. They are very active in promoting/extending photographic copyrights.

APA is for advertising photographers, and like JPS, it is a high-powered group with many prominent Japanese photographers.

Unfortunately, there are hardly any non-Japanese members in these organizations.

What are the benefits of membership?

PSJ offers an informative photo almanac to members.

JPS and APA are prestige organizations and require certain professional qualifications for membership. Thus, many members see membership as a defacto certification proving that they are real professional photographers. They proudly put “Member of JPS (or APA)” on their business cards and resumes.

What about photographers’ associations for foreign photographers in Japan?

The closest to this would be the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan. Other than that, there are no professional photographers’ associations for foreigners in Japan. However, PhotoGuide Japan does have a Facebook Group.

What about camera clubs in Japan?

For amateur photographers, there are many camera clubs sponsored by camera makers (Nikon, Canon, etc.) and film makers. Anybody can join by paying annual membership dues.

Members receive a glossy club magazine, invitations to photo shoots, etc.

Most members are middle-aged and older.

PhotoLibraries FAQ

What is PhotoLibraries?

It’s a list of mainly museum libraries that have a good collection of photo books and magazines. It’s a good place to see out-of-print photo books or to do research on Japanese photography.

Which libraries have the best collection of photography books?

The Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, JCII Library, Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art (Tokyo), and the Yokohama Museum of Art libraries. In Osaka, the Saito Media Library has a very large collection of photo books. And in Hokkaido, the Hakodate Photo Archives is also nice. (All listed in PhotoLibraries.)

Can anybody use the museum library?

Yes, the museum libraries are open to the public.

Do I have to pay to use the museum library?

No, the library is free. You do not have to pay museum admission to enter the library.

At the museum libraries, can I borrow books?

No materials can be taken outside the library. You have to do all your reading inside the library. However, photocopying services are available at cost. Photocopying services are usually available until 30 or 60 minutes before the library closes. Check with the library clerk for the exact time. You may have to fill in a simple form to photocopy library materials. (There may or may not be a do-it-yourself photocopying machine.)

For doing research on Japanese photography, which libraries have the most materials in English?

The Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art (Tokyo), and the Yokohama Museum of Art libraries have a substantial collection of art- and photography-related magazines in English, but there are still very few books in English on Japanese photography. If you want to do any substantial research on Japanese photography, Japanese reading ability will be essential.

Through the Internet, can I do an online search of the library’s holdings?

It might be possible. Check the museum’s Web site if you can read Japanese. A search for books can usually be done with a computer terminal at the library.

What about the public libraries, do they have photography books too?

Neighborhood public libraries will usually have photography books. You can borrow the books usually for 2 weeks. To borrow books, you must have a library card which means you must be a local resident to be able to apply for one.

PhotoBookstores FAQ

What’s PhotoBookstores (discontinued)?

It was PhotoGuide Japan’s list of major Japanese bookstores stocking a good selection of photo books. (Listing discontinued.) Besides bookstores in Japan, it also has a list of Japanese bookstores outside Japan. You can always buy books online, but it’s always nice to be able to pick up the book in a bookshop and thumb through it before buying.

Which bookstores in Tokyo have a large fine-art photo book section?

In PhotoBookstores, see Kinokuniya, Maruzen, Aoyama Book Center, Yaesu Book Center, and Sanseido.

Which bookstores in Tokyo have a large J-pop idol photo book section?

See Kinokuniya, Yaesu Book Center, Sanseido, Shosen Grande, Shosen Book Mart, and Shosen Book Tower.

Which bookstores in Tokyo have a good selection of secondhand, fine-art photo books?

See Genkido in Jimbocho.

But the best place by far is at Yahoo Japan Auctions for greater selection and lower prices. Most sellers do not ship internationally though. Fortunately, PhotoGuide Japan offers an auction proxy service. We can bid for you and ship the item to you from Japan. Details here.

Which bookstores in Tokyo have a good selection of secondhand, J-pop idol photo books?

The best place by far is at Yahoo Japan Auctions for greater selection and lower prices. Most sellers do not ship internationally though. Fortunately, PhotoGuide Japan offers an auction proxy service. We can bid for you and ship the item to you from Japan. Details here.

Which bookstores in Japan sell English books?

For the big ones, look for Kinokuniya, Maruzen, Logos, Tower Records, Tuttle Bookshop, Yaesu Book Center, and Sanseido.

I’m a book publisher in the US and I want to approach bookstores in Japan to sell my books in Japan.

Bookstores in Japan do not deal directly with publishers. They procure all their books from wholesalers who deal directly with publishers. Bookstores procure books from the wholesaler which then orders the books from the publishers. This system saves the publisher a lot of time and trouble since they don’t have to keep supplying thousands of bookstores individually in Japan themselves. The bookstore also need not deal with hundreds of publishers individually. Approaching bookstores in Japan will be useless.

So how can I sell my books in Japan or import books to Japan?

There are a few book importers that you can negotiate with. Yohan used to be the largest one until it went bankrupt on July 31, 2008. See the list of book importers in PhotoBookshops.

Where can I buy used books in Tokyo?

Kanda-Jimbocho (the biggest), Takadanobaba, Ochanomizu, and Hongo (adjacent to Univ. of Tokyo) are the major places for used books.

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