LOCAL TOKYO PHOTO (Koenji)

9 Street Photography Spots in Koenji
[published November 2019]

Street photography has become quite popular on Instagram and in galleries throughout the world. Tokyo is an amazing location to get some very unique and original street photos. Most people go to the popular touristy spots like Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Ginza to sharpen their street photography chops. These are great locations but if you are in search of a truly unique place off the beaten path, Koenji will not disappoint. The unique aspect of Koenji is the smaller scale of buildings that encourages interaction within the community. It is also a mecca for used clothing, music, and counterculture. I have lived in this area for almost two decades and here are my suggestions for street photography in Koenji.

-Mark, Experience Suginami Tokyo writer and photographer

Kitakore Building

The Kitakore Building is a fashion mecca. The building houses some of the most original and sought after fashion designs in Japan and attracts famous shoppers like Lady Gaga and Pharrell. There are also a few dive bars inside. It is artist friendly and there is some amazing lighting inside with a grungy city vibe, so feel free to explore inside and out but please be respectful, this is not an official tourist destination.

Address:
3 Chome-4-11 Koenjikita, Suginami, Tokyo
Distance from Station:
5 minutes on foot from JR Koenji Station, North Exit
Phone:
080-6566-4057 (Japanese only)
  • no-smoking
  • no-credit-card

Under the Tracks and Koenji Street

Outside KFC headed towards Pal shopping street, here is a general passageway for people headed south down Pal shopping street or under the tracks toward Asagaya (to the right coming from the north side). This area is a regular spot for local street musicians which encourages a lively atmosphere.

Address:
3 Chome-70-1 Koenjiminami, Suginami, Tokyo
Distance from Station:
1 minute on foot from JR Koenji Station

Koenji Station North-side Square

Just head north out the ticket gate and cross the street. This is a general meeting place for most people in Koenji. Any night of the week you will find an eclectic mixture of musicians, businessmen, artists, tourists and pretty much anyone else you can imagine.

Address:
2 Chome-5 Koenjikita, Suginami, Tokyo
Distance from Station:
1 minute on foot from JR Koenji Station, North Exit

The Corner Outside the North Entrance of Koenji Street

On this small side street Toritsukare Otoko and S.U.B. Store are two destinations popular with artists, musicians, and especially photographers. The owner of Toritsukare Otoko, Ichi-san, is a photographer himself and takes some amazing portraits of anyone willing to model, right in front of the shop. One unique aspect of this location is that it’s on a corner that has a lot of foot traffic and encourages people to have impromptu interactions. There is a lot happening here.

Address:
3 Chome-2-19 Koenjikita, Suginami, Tokyo
Distance from Station:
3 minutes from JR Koenji Station
Open:
6:00pm - 12:00am Daily
Website:
https://spanish-restaurant-35.business.site/
  • no-smoking
  • no-credit-card

The Narrow Alleys Behind Takano Produce

These are some of the narrowest alleys in Tokyo. It’s a great place to take some up close shots of everyday life and night time shots. There are also some pretty amazing restaurants and bars that even locals don’t know about so feel free to stop in. Just walk between the vegetable and fruit market and the fish store. This shot is of the night path in the rainy season.

Address:
3 Chome-22-17 Koenjikita, Suginami, Tokyo
Distance from Station:
1 minute on foot from JR Koenji Station, North Exit

In Front of U-Takaraya Market

This is just a grocery store but it sits at a crossroads in north Koenji that encourages lots of foot traffic and you will see every day Japanese life here.

Address:
3 Chome-21-17 Koenjikita, Suginami, Tokyo
Distance from Station:
2 minutes on foot from JR Koenji Station, North Exit
Website:
http://www.u-takaraya.jp/s24.html

Koenji Events

Koenji has some great events like the Awa-Odori Festival, the Bikkuri Street Performance Festival, or Koenji Fest which present tons of opportunities for interesting photos. Because the scale of Koenji is smaller than other areas of Tokyo the size of the buildings allows for a unique interaction with the sunlight. Have some fun getting that perfect lighting that shines through the spaces in between buildings in the different seasons. Golden hour is especially amazing in Koenji, whether you can catch these events or not.

Price:

Free admission
Address:
(Koenji's events take place in the areas around Koenji Station. Please see individual event pages fro more info.)
Website:
https://experience-suginami.tokyo/menu/info/plan/event_calendar/

Shops and Staircases

Koenji is a bit retro and random with many great photo locations. My suggestion here is not to miss all the great storefronts and their customers. Because Koenji is a mecca for musicians and used clothing, each shop caters to a specific style, so you will get some unique photos at each. Staircases represent all the in-betweens you don’t want to miss along the way.

Retro and Digital Camera Stores

While shooting you may be in need of some film, memory cards, printing, or want to shop for some used camera gear. Void Lens and the Fujicolor store (Asahi Shokai) are two places you won’t want to miss. You may have noticed the Fuji store in the photo of the area outside KFC (Under the Tracks and Koenji Street). You can’t miss it.

So there you have it. Koenji from a street photographer’s perspective. I won’t reveal all the secret spots and leave some for you to explore, but if you want to see more of my photos please check out my instagram @tokyo_tableaux

Address:
3 Chome-2-12 Koenjikita, Suginami, Tokyo
Distance from Station:
4 minutes on foot from JR Koenji Station, North Exit
Phone:
050-3595-1983 (Japanese only)
Open:
1:00pm - 8:00pm
Website:
https://voidlens.thebase.in/
  • no-smoking