It was always a goal to photograph this iconic view of skyscrapers with a huge Mt. Fuji looming in the background. In this post, I’ll explain how to get to this place.
Before you even think about tackling this shot, check the weather. I can’t emphasize this enough! It might be a very clear day in Tokyo, but Mt. Fuji could be completely covered in cloud, ruining your shot. If you’re hoping to see Mt. Fuji, or are planning a sunset or twilight shot, please check the weather just before you plan to leave.
Set up for above photo was:
Mt. Fuji View
As in the above photo, you'll be able to see Shinjuku's incredible skyline, with the prominent skyscrapers of The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (look for the twin towers), the cocoon-shaped tower of Mode Gakuen and various other skyscrapers. And of course, depending on the weather, Mt. Fuji. On the opposite side of the building, you'll have views of Skytree and a partial view of Korakuen Amusement Park, an amusement park in Tokyo Dome City. With 330 degrees of viewing angle, you can almost see the entire city.
Nearest Train Station
Since Kasuga Station is the closest station, I'll explain the way from there.
Once you get off the train (subway), either Toei Oedo Line or Toei Mita Line, go up to the exit and look for this sign. You want to go to Bunkyo Civic Center, a ward office in Kasuga.
Incidentally, this station also serves Tokyo Dome, the home of the ever-popular Tokyo Giants baseball team. Be aware that if there is a game on, the station and trains can be crowded (I mean, even more crowded)!
One of the great things about this location is that you don’t have to go outside - the building is connected to the station and it’s a short one-minute walk. You know you're in the right place when you see this. Head through the doors and up the escalator.
Bunkyo Civic Center in Google Maps
If you read on Bunkyo Civic Center's official website that its closed, it means the offices are closed after business hours and on weekends. The observation deck is open until 8:30 pm everyday, including weekends.
From here, go to the elevators at the back of the sitting area and head to the observation deck on the 25th floor.
When Is The Best Time To Photograph Mt. Fuji?
The most popular times are sunset and night (note, 8:30 pm closing time). With regards to sunset, please check your weather app. Most smartphones have weather apps, displaying local sunrise and sunset times. On a very clear day, expect it to be very crowded.
If I know conditions will be good, I try to get there at least an hour before sunset. If it’s Diamond Fuji day (when the sun sets directly behind Mt. Fuji, creating a sparkling diamond effect on the peak), arriving 2.5 to 3 hours prior is recommended.
When Is Diamond Fuji At Bunkyo Civic Center?
Although Bunkyo Civic Center is open everyday, (9 am - 8:30 pm), in my opinion, weekdays are the best days to shoot. Why? A lot of the skyscrapers in West Shinjuku are company offices. Most are closed on weekends, which means less lights in the buildings and perhaps less impact in your shot.
Once you leave the elevator, head to this area. It has a ledge where you can set up your gear.
But notice the signs - no tripods or monopods. They are quite strict on this, and they have security staff patrolling and keeping an eye on the photographers.
No Tripods in Bunkyo Civic Center?
How can I take 30-second or longer exposures without a tripod? When I first came here, I set my camera up on top of my bag. It’s not ideal, but it gets the job done. I did have some camera movement between exposures which I had to adjust later in Photoshop.
I tried many different methods over the years to make my camera more stable. Some were better than others.
Now I use a compact stand. It’s very compact, yet able to support my Nikon D810 and my 120-400 mm telephoto lens. With its low profile, I just put a light jacket around the base and it looks like everything is resting on my jacket - everyone’s happy!
Check these posts for other locations to shoot Mt. Fuji
Shooting Through Glass
Remember, since you're shooting through glass, and these windows are on a weird angle, there will be some nasty reflections to deal with. On the back of your camera the shots may look fine, but when you get up close and take a good look, you'll notice that things don't look that great. There will be some strange lights and weird reflections - you might even end up capturing a ghostly reflection of your hand or body! Not good...
So a few quick tips:
Move your camera as close as possible to the window.
Try to shoot straight through the glass, I mean, not on angle (the more of an angle, the more problems with reflections). Not always possible I know, but your results will definitely be better.
Also, be sure to use a lightweight, dark towel or similar around the end of lens (see my camera set up in the photos below).
Should I Use The Raised Counter?
There is a long raised counter that looks good for shooting, but I wouldn’t recommend using it. The reason being, lots of people lean or rest on it, making small vibrations which can make your long exposures blurry.
You’re better off here, right next to the raised counter.
Things To Remember:
Get there early
Don't use a big tripod
Be prepared for big crowds (especially if it's Diamond Fuji day)
Bring a long lens (I use 120-400 mm)
Have a way to block reflections from the window
At A Glance:
Location: Bunkyo Civic Center
Station: Kasuga Station (Oedo Line and Mita Line)
Ease of Access: Easy
Hours: Everyday 9:00 am to 8:30 pm
Views: 330 degrees
Tripods: Not allowed
Tip: Check the weather!
Bunkyo Civic Center is another gem of a shooting spot in Tokyo. Perfect for dramatic shots of Mt. Fuji and Shinjuku's skyscrapers. And if the weather isn't so clear on the Mt. Fuji side, you can still take unobstructed shots of Tokyo Skytree. It's a win-win.
If you are interested in seeing other twilight and blue hour photos of Tokyo, please feel free to visit my Flickr feed.