Public Photography in Japan

While living in Japan and visiting places, attending events, etc.
I learned that many places in Japan limit the number of photos allowed to be taken or completely ban them.

My first encounter of such case was when I went to Square Enix cafe that was selling products and had items on menu that are based on their popular game titles developed by Square Enix. While I was there with friends, we were told that we will be allowed to take photos during certain periods and that we will notified by the staff. When the time came, we were only allowed to take photos of the drinks and dishes that we ordered and not of the surroundings in the cafe. We were shocked, but we assumed that the cafe had few exclusive items and wanted to preserve the experience for those who visit only and as such we weren’t allowed to take photos.

The second encounter for me I thought was more understandable, which was taking photos at the gym.
Most gyms are rather small and people that attend don’t want to be disturbed or have their privacy invaded while working out, so I wasn’t bothered by this.
If anything I rather embraced the idea and thought it’s is a good for people to focus on doing what they came to do instead of taking photos of themselves or others at the gym.

Apart from the mentioned examples, there were many places where I was told that photography is prohibited , be it at exhibitions, video games events, museum, and on few occasions just filming while walking down the streets.
I even heard of cases where people were stopped by the police for filming people on the streets while walking around, they didn’t get arrested nor was it a serious crime.
However, they did get a warning and they were advised to avoid filming on the road or taking photos of people just because some people in Japan believe it is an invasion of their privacy.
I experienced something similar at Tokyo Game Show. While trying to record some of the game-play footage, reveal trailers, etc, the security showed up stating that it’s a violation of copy rights and I was asked to delete the footage before switching my camera off. Which for me seemed a bit irrational with the trailers being filmed by many people from the press and other attendees at the event and it is a good way to gain more publicity for developers to promote their products.

Having said that, Japan still remains very traditional in most of their business approach. Not to mention the recent leaks of data, trailers or in some rare cases the actual product prior to the scheduled date.
Another important point I should mention is, if you are uploading videos/photos taken on sns in Japan for personal or professional usage, then it is suggested to censor or blur out the faces of people you don’t know from photos to avoid any potential issues in the future(Unless you already acquired their permission).
This isn’t to state that photography in Japan in general is forbidden, if anything it is the opposite.
With the Olympics approaching soon, Japan is trying to promote the country and spread their image to the rest of the world all while they are trying to be more welcoming of other cultures. There are many people who are taking advantage of the rise of the internet and how easy it can be to start vlogging should you find the time. Some bloggers are Japanese are making videos for overseas viewers.
Other bloggers are sharing videos about their trip or new life in Japan and giving tips about living/visiting Japan to people from their country or region in whichever part of the world. However, it is still best to be on alert when recording and ask beforehand if you’re allowed to take photos or videos just to be on the safe side and avoid potential issues, also avoid doing things that might be considered offensive.
Popular touristy spots such as temples/shrines, busy/popular streets (such as Shibuya crossing, Harajuku or Kabukicho in Shinjuku) ,restaurants, etc tend to be a safe locations and most will allow taking photos/videos, some people may even willingly try to be in the shot especially if it is a group photo.

With this I conclude this blog, I hope you find it useful.