Careful when photographing in Japan


When taking photos/video in Japan, be careful. While in most places it’s fine, some shop/restaurant owners may take offense – especially inside stores.

In restaurants, owners worry about their customers getting annoyed and driving away their business.

Inside shops, owners worry about competition and may think you are a competitor doing recon in their shop.

In general it’s best to ask permission in advance before taking photos or vids. To ask permission, politely ask: Sumimasen shashin daijobu desuka? (Excuse me, are photos ok?). “Hai” means “yes”, “Iie” (ee-yeah) means “no”.

In general, the Japanese are a little shy about having their photo taken in public so be aware of peoples’ reactions. Many won’t mind, as long as you are not rude about it or bother them, but occasionally some Japanese may get upset.

Use common sense. Be discrete.


This restaurant owner in Shimbashi accosted us on the sidewalk and demanded we stop taking photos immediately – even though it was a very public sidewalk in a very public area.

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