18 Reasons Why Japan is So Photogenic

beautiful Japanese garden

I often consider the questions ‘Why is Japan so photogenic?’, and ‘Why is Japan so beautiful?’. I’ve been in Japan for a year now, and I’ve taken more photos than I’ve taken in the previous five years of my life combined. So is there a reason why this country wins the hearts and minds of so many people who visit, or is it simply down to its innate beauty?

Japan is an incredibly photogenic country and this is mainly due to the fact that it’s so different. It’s a country that has extreme seasons, varied terrain, a preservation of the old, and a hunger for the new weird, and wild. Also, it’s clean, and the light is completely otherworldy!

So, here are 18 of the reasons you’ll think Japan is so photogenic and breathtakingly beautiful. By the way, I’ve literally taken thousands of images, so I agree, it’s very easy to snap photos in this country!

1. Cherry blossoms in spring

cherry blossom Japanese countryside
A lone cherry blossom in Japan on a cloudy day

If you’re traveling around spring, the main reason Japan is photogenic is because of the cherry blossom. Granted, it’s not the only reason you’ll be snapping away at your phone or camera like someone who only just found out that digital photos exist after a life of shooting film, but it’s certainly one of the biggest reasons.

And while I do think seeing the cherry blossom is worth it, even managing to see one or two trees like the one above will make your trip one to remember. There are so many different types of cherry blossoms, and seeing them pop up all around Japan is an incredibly special experience.

When I ponder on the question ‘Why is Japan so beautiful?’ images of a lone cherry blossom tree like in the photo above spring to mind. Even on a grey day, Japanese cherry blossom trees are super photogenic.

2. Stunning temples and shrines

todaiji temple Nara
Todaiji temple in Nara

For the people who say “If you’ve seen one temple, you’ve seen them all” I completely disagree with you. Not only are practically all of the temples photogenic, but they each have their own history and story that goes with them.

In terms of my favorite temple, that’s a tricky one. I’ve probably been to well over 50 at this point, but if I exclude the local and lesser-known ones, Todaiji Temple in Nara is quite remarkable.

I stood in this spot for at least 5 minutes just taking in how big the structure was. It’s not until you get inside that you’ll truly appreciate its size (I won’t ruin it for you incase you’re thinking about going there yourself), but trust me when I tell you that it’s worth visiting.

3. Lush green landscapes

Hakone Mototsumiya
Hakone Mototsumiya, definitely worth a visit!

Japan is beautiful, and a large part of that is down to how green its landscape gets. In between Spring and Summer, the entire countryside is covered in lush green colors from top to bottom. Even at the height of summer, the huge fields filled with rice give a certain amount of respite from the midday sun.

That photo above is me on top of a Japanese Japanese mountain in the Five Lakes area that surrounds Mount Fuji. So, from places like Kawaguchiko, all the way to Nikko you can expect to feel like you’re in a leafy green jungle during certain parts of the year.

4. The light

light in Japan
Spring light in Japan – damn it’s beautiful!

I might be in the minority in this opinion, but I think one of the most obvious reasons that Japan is so photogenic is because of the light. If you haven’t been to Japan or haven’t spent much time thinking of the light (I wouldn’t blame you if you haven’t…), then this is going to sound like a strange point to bring up.

Specifically during spring (but also at other points during the year), the light falls so gracefully around the buildings and genuinely makes you feel as though you’re a part of an anime. I’ve found myself taking loads of photos just of the light and the interesting shapes it creates as it bounces around the different neighborhoods of Japan.

5. Ancient castles

Hiroshima castle
Hiroshima Castle

Let’s get one thing clear, I’m not always a fan of visiting castles in Japan (Osaka Castle being one of them). This is mainly because the insides of many of the castles have been turned into some sort of modern yet dull attraction, and the castle itself has been rebuilt more than a few times. The latter of which while not their fault, sadly still doesn’t make me want to visit them.

However, the surrounding gardens and grounds of all these castles are normally quite beautiful. As I said, I don’t really like Osaka Castle, but its grounds are well worth the visit. There are so many different viewpoints of the castle and so many separate areas to explore.

That said, there’s no denying that the outside of these buildings is quite incredible and absolutely worth the photograph. It’s also a sight to be seen when you’re racing through Japan on the bullet train, past the towering buildings of a city, and several temples make themselves known on the journey.

6. Autumn foliage

Akihabara in Autumn
Akihabara in Autumn

Before I moved out to Japan, I had visited a number of times but only during Summer and Spring. I thought Spring made Japan photogenic, but Autumn may be my new favorite. There’s something so beautiful about seeing the trees change to deep reds, yellows, and oranges.

Perhaps my love of seeing Japan in Autumn comes from my yearning to get through this summer, but in any case, it’s 100% worth seeing the country at this time of year. The Kōyō is breathtaking and makes taking great photos almost too easy.

The picture above shows just how beautiful Japan can be with the blend of natural and man-made. Here we have ginkgo trees at a time when their leaves are the most yellow they’ll be for the whole year, against a backdrop of Japan’s most noisy and eccentric area, Akihabara.

7. Snow-capped mountains

Mount Yotei from Niseko
Niseko last season, Mount Fuji next!

Skiing in Japan had been on my bucket list for years. This past season I was finally able to make this happen, and it was extraordinary!

If you’re considering having a ski holiday in Niseko, flipping do it! It was honestly one of the best experiences of my life and the snow in Japan definitely lived up to its reputation.

This side of Japan is incredibly photogenic, and if it wasn’t absolutely dumping snow for the entire time we were there, I could have easily taken thousands more photos. Oh, and if you find yourself in a snowy area of Japan in the future, take a dunk in one of the many onsens, relax, and get some kick-ass photos!

8. Quaint rural villages

Oshino Hakai rural japanese village
Oshino Hakkai – A picture-perfect village in Japan

I love taking photos in the big cities of Japan, it’s a massive playground for those of us who like street photography. The problem is I’m always drawn back to the sleepy countryside.

Not only are the countryside of Japan photogenic, but they’re also beautiful areas where you can watch the daily life of rural Japan pass you by.

I urge you if you have time in your itinerary to spend at least one day in the countryside of Japan with absolutely no plan. Just have a wander, find a kissaten, and slowly sip your tea until the sun goes down.

Trust me, that’s an experience that you’ll remember forever and will give you more than a few photograph opportunities.

9. Scenic coastal views

kamakura beach
Kamakura Beach in Summer – A well-needed rest from the heat of Tokyo.

Why is Japan beautiful? Why is Japan photogenic? Both questions I’ve been asked a number of times and the photo above probably explains it better than I could.

Japan has such a wide range of environments which means you could be at the beach one day and skiing down a mountain the day after. This is one of the reasons I think so many Japanese people aren’t interested in international travel and they’re absolutely content traveling domestically.

After living here for a year, I’m starting to understand what they’re getting at! Some of the best sandy beaches and bluest waters in the world, the best skiing in the world, and access to practically every outdoor activity you could think of. What more could you want?

10. Intricate garden designs

Japanese house topiary
A carefully created tree in suburban Japan

I’ve spent way too many hours on the internet staring at visually pleasing Japanese topiary. Maybe this reason why I think Japan is so photogenic is mine alone, but have you seen that tree?!

Near where I live, these things are practically abundant. The shapes often seem to defy gravity and yet they still sit so gracefully where they’ve been placed.

It’s not just to topiary and the bonsai trees that are so intricately and beautifully designed. 90% of the gardens I pass in suburban towns seem to be picked and pruned into living works of art.

Again, maybe that’s just me who thinks they look awesome, but with half of my hard drive filled up with photos that look like the one above, this is definitely a good enough reason to think Japan is photogenic.

11. Tight streets

tight Japanese street
The tight streets of Koenji

Tight streets, overhanging buildings, and messy wires. Is there a more quintessentially Japanese photograph? I mean, probably, but this is one that I won’t ever get bored of.

I could happily spend weeks just shooting tiny alleys in Tokyo (great name for a series) and I would end up with an interesting exploration of the city’s underbelly. Something about them is just so photogenic, and it’s the reason why every time I pass one, I turn my camera and snap a shot.

I’m also intrigued by the wires hanging over the streets. Japan is such a clean and organized country, and those messy wires are a juxtaposition that works very well.

For a country that is often believed to be in the future, it still uses a lot of retro technology. Phone lines and wires fall into that category, at least the ones that are above the ground anyway.

It’s the millions of messages passing through those wires that make seeing them all the more interesting. It’s like you’re peaking into the beating heart of the city!

12. Gardens & parks

rikugien garden
Rikugien Garden – my favorite zen garden in Tokyo

It’s not just the suburban gardens in Japan that are beautiful, it’s also the public parks. At this point in time I’ve been to more than I can remember, and they’ve never failed to disappoint.

My favorite at the moment is Shukkeien Garden, in Hiroshima. Not only is it the most photogenic park in Japan, but it’s also dirt cheap to get into.

Most of these parks have been designed in such a way that every turn you get to and every place you’re able to stop at provides you with another awesome view of the garden. I like to think of it as a Japanese secret garden where you have to find all the trails and areas of the garden before you leave.

That might sound stupid, but I’ve got a lot of good pictures that way including the feature image of this post! Also from Shukkeien Garden!

13. Kimono culture

western man in kimono in kyoto
Me wearing a kimono in Kyoto!

When you get a photo of someone in Japan in front of a historical building while wearing a kimono, it’s like you’ve stepped back in time. Those scenes transport you through the ages and honestly can’t be beaten.

Not only do they make for fantastic photos, but they also remove you even further from

As a side note, I’d absolutely suggest wearing a kimono in Japan if you get the chance. Many people seem to think that it’s offensive or cultural appropriation or something, but it’s not.

I’ve asked loads of Japanese people what they think about foreign tourists wearing kimonos and they all agreed that it was nice to see us interacting with their culture and it was a very positive thing.

14. Those bright neon lights

neon lights in Kabukicho
Bright neon lights in Kabukicho

I took this photo in Shinjuku and while it’s not yet dark in the photo, you can still see just how many neon lights are already on (and how bright they are). Once again, the extreme juxtaposition in Japan with areas like this, and then those sleepy villages we talked about early make it very easy to photograph.

I can understand how you might not call this a beautiful part of Japan, but I think it’s nice in its own kind of way. It’s just… different, from all the other ‘bright lights’ you see around the world. I can’t really explain it, but you’ll know what I mean if you’ve visited.

Kabukicho is probably the most neon-heavy area in Japan, with Akihabara playing a close second. I think the photo above was close to Kabukicho, but not on the most neon-heavy street.

15. Beautifully preserved historic districts

kawagoe historic building
Historic buildings in Saitama’s Kawagoe district

While there are a number of futuristic, neon-clad areas like we just talked about, there are also a lot of incredibly well-preserved historic areas. Yanaka Ginza, a neighborhood I visited recently is one of the oldest areas in Tokyo, and is wonderful to walk around such a historic area with the skyscrapers in the distance.

There are also a few really old areas around Japan as well. Kawagoe is another area I visited a few months ago, and the street is filled with buildings like the one above.

Again, this is one reason why Japan is so photogenic. You’ve got the really old buildings in the foreground, and modern life seamlessly existing around it.

16. Unique modern architecture

yoyogi 2nd gymnasium
Yoyogi 2nd gymnasium in Shibuya

I could have picked any number of photos for this example. Japan is filled with interesting architecture. In fact, it was because of this that I first wanted to come to the country.

From the weird futuristic-style buildings like the Yoyogi 2nd Gymnasium in the photo above to the ryokan, and temples dotted around the country, it really is an architect’s dream. The only slight problem with this is older buildings do seem to be pulled down quite regularly to make way for new ones.

Nakagin Capsule Tower is one such building. It was pulled down because it wasn’t as safe as it could have been, due to its age I imagine. Older residential houses are normally the ones who succumb to being ripped down which, while sad, is the reason you can buy so many old houses in Japan for cheap prices.

17. Traditional festivals

Japan Summer festival
A traditional Japanese summer festival

I spoke about how amazing the festivals are in this country in the recent post ‘Reasons I love Japan‘, and honestly they’re just great. Besides being one of the most photographic things in Japan, the atmosphere is electric, and there’s a buzz of excited people ready to have a good time.

Not only does it feel like the local community is coming together, but in summer especially, it takes your mind off of the disgusting heat! Just looking at the photo above you can see how colorful the scene is, the people, the instruments, materials, it’s a veritable feast for photographers!

18. The lakes

Lake Kawaguchiko from the ropeway

Last, but by no means least, the reason that Japan is so beautiful and so photogenic is because of those goddamn lakes. I’m pretty sure that most of the 2683 lakes in Japan would give you some of the most amazing photography spots, though some of the big ones (like this one next to Fuji) are honestly breathtaking.

There’s almost always something to do around the area, and Japan being Japan, they truly make use of the outdoor area and the space. This one (Kawaguchiko) has boat trips, trail walks, spas, views of Mount Fuji, ropeways, and a whole host of other things to keep its visitors busy.

This is definitely one of the most beautiful parts of Japan, and as far as I’m concerned, they’ll never lose that status.

Want to take the best photos of your trip to Japan? Here’s a list of travel cameras that’ll help you do just that.

Jonny Gleason

Jonny is the founder of A Day of Zen and has an unhealthy obsession with Japan. In 2022 he moved to Japan on a mission to give his audience the best possible information. He's helped over 300,000 plan their trip so far, and is eager to make that number much bigger!

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