Shooting Sunrise at Sensoji Temple, Tokyo

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Japan Photo Tour – Day One Sunrise at Sensoji Temple

Walking through the historic streets of Asakusa at 5:30am, it was hard not to wonder what on earth we were doing awake.

Usually buzzing with atmosphere, the streets were quiet and almost completely empty at this crazy hour of the morning. Not to mention the temperature was hovering just above freezing.

As I repeat to myself often, all good photos come to those who rise early and while sunrises and I might not be best friends, I knew this one would be pretty special!

Not only was it a historic location, it was the first sunrise of my Japan Photo Tour and I was SO excited to share the beauty of Tokyo with my group.

First up…here is where I’m talking about –

Sensoji Temple (also known as Asakusa Kannon Temple) is Tokyo’s oldest temple and boy is it impressive. Having visited before in summer during the daytime I knew that anytime after 8am it was crowded, really crowded.

Luckily though, the temple grounds are open 24hours so you can wander through and explore Sensoji under the stars or like us, as the sun rises over the city.

The actual temple opens at sunrise but the rest of the grounds are completely open including the Kaminarimon and Hozomon Gates. You can even walk up the stairs in front of the temple too for a great view over the area and once the temple opens up you’ll hear it!

Walking towards Sensoji temple is a photogenic experience in itself. The long alley called Nakamise is usually filled with street stalls but come the morning, it’s like an outdoor art gallery. The closed stalls have murals painted on their doors with scenes of daily life from the past and beautiful oriental designs. In fact most of the Asakusa district has these paintings on the front of closed restaurants and stores so it’s well worth exploring after dark.

Photographing sunrise at Sensoji provides a lot of potential perspectives. From the five storey pagoda to the ever-burning incense and giant red paper lantern. If you’re lucky there might also be a gathering of cute puppies in prams…only in Japan!

Take a peek below at some of the images I captured while shooting sunrise alongside my photography tour group.

If you’re interested in joining a tour to Japan in 2018, I’d love for you to register your interest here and once exact dates are confirmed I’ll be in touch with more details.

Camera settings are noted in the captions and all images are taken with the new Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III.

Camera Settings – ISO 1600, 1/2 sec hand held exposure, f/14 with the 12-40mm M.Zuiko PRO lens on the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III * This image was taken at around 8pm on the night before we shot sunrise…it’s definitely worth visiting the temple in all lights, sunrise, daylight and then just after sunset!

Camera Settings – ISO 1600, 1/6 sec hand held exposure, f/3.2 with the 12-40mm M.Zuiko PRO lens on the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

Camera Settings – ISO 1600, 1/2 sec hand held exposure, f/2.8 with the 12-40mm M.Zuiko PRO lens on the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

Camera Settings – ISO 1600, 1/30 sec hand held exposure, f/2.8 with the 12-40mm M.Zuiko PRO lens on the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

Camera Settings – ISO 1600, 1/80 sec hand held exposure, f/4.5 with the 12-40mm M.Zuiko PRO lens on the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

Camera Settings – ISO 640, 1/80 sec hand held exposure, f/2.8 with the 12-40mm M.Zuiko PRO lens on the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

Camera Settings – ISO 320, 1/100 sec hand held exposure, f/2.8 with the 12-40mm M.Zuiko PRO lens on the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

Camera Settings – ISO 320, 1/800 sec hand held exposure, f/2.8 with the 12-40mm M.Zuiko PRO lens on the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III using an iphone screen for the reflection.

Purely included for the puppies…in the bicycle basket and behind in little outfits!

Camera Settings – ISO 200, 1/800 sec, f/2.8 with the 12-40mm M.Zuiko PRO lens on the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

Camera Settings – ISO 200, 1/20 sec hand held exposure, f/6.3 with the 12-40mm M.Zuiko PRO lens on the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

Camera Settings – ISO 200, 1/40 sec hand held exposure, f/4.5 with the 12-40mm M.Zuiko PRO lens on the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

I’ll be sharing a lot of content over the coming weeks from my photo tour in Japan including a destination guide to the best photography locations in Tokyo, updates to my Kyoto guide and also where to photograph autumn foliage in places like Arashiyama and Nara!

Also, to have a peek behind the scenes, take a look at this great video by Becky from wearetravelgirls.com who co-hosted this tour with me! Check out Travel Girls Getaways for upcoming trip info!

Photographing sunrise in Tokyo at Sensoji Temple, Asakusa for the Japan Photo Tour with The Wandering Lens

If you’ve been to Japan, feel free to share a link to your photos in the comments below…

Lisa Michele Burns

Lisa Michele Burns

Photographer at The Wandering Lens
Hello! I'm the founder and photographer behind The Wandering Lens. You won't find me in one place for too long as I have a slight addiction to travel. I prefer wearing flippers to heels, chocolate to gourmet meals and love a good road trip with plenty of photo stops.
With 10+yrs experience as a professional travel and landscape photographer, all advice found on this site is from my personal experience on the road.
Lisa Michele Burns

10 Comments

  1. Zoe

    December 9, 2017 at 9:54 pm

    Amazing experience!! I would love to visit one day.

    • thewanderinglens

      December 10, 2017 at 3:59 pm

      It’s so photogenic! Definitely a must see when you’re in Tokyo 🙂

  2. Cat

    December 9, 2017 at 10:15 pm

    Your photos are absolutely glorious. I’m hopefully visiting Japan next year, this post made me even more excited 🙂

    • thewanderinglens

      December 10, 2017 at 4:04 pm

      Thanks Cat! How fun, where are you thinking of visiting next year? Japan is one country I recommend everyone to experience at least once, it’s crazy beautiful!

  3. Shivani

    December 9, 2017 at 10:19 pm

    Ok, you’ve convinced me to get up early 😀 I am – like you – not a morning person,but agree with you that sunrise = amazing pictures!! I wasn’t aware Sensoji is the oldest temple in Japan. Well, guess now I have two reasons to visit the temple 🙂

    • thewanderinglens

      December 10, 2017 at 4:04 pm

      Glad I’m not alone in my lack of morning energy haha. It was so worth it though 🙂

  4. Sarah

    December 11, 2017 at 4:10 am

    This is one of my favorite places in the world and your pictures are just stunning. The last time we were in Tokyo we stayed right near the temple and woke up stupid early our first morning due to jet lag and ran right over. While we didn’t see the sunrise, it was absolutely incredible to be there without all the other tourists – instead with locals making their way to work. So lovely!

  5. Never Stop Travelling

    December 13, 2017 at 1:00 am

    Nice website and lovely pictures!
    An an extra tip for the area, the Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center allows a nice view of the Sensoji temple and the Nakamise Shopping Street from its terrace in the last floor. It might not have enough space to setup a tripod but still well worth a (free) visit.

    Keep the good work!

  6. Akshay

    December 13, 2017 at 10:21 pm

    How many places we have seen getting at their best on either Sunrise/Sunset. Desert view, beach view etc. However, this Sensoji temple in Tokyo seems to be some place to visit. Keep sharing such offbeat once.

  7. Pingback: Japan Photo Tour - November 2017 - The Wandering Lens - Travel Photography

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