Japan Travel Photography on 35mm film

Earlier this year, I got to go to Japan. It was a trip a few years in the making yet it completely exceeded the expectations and hype built up in all that time. We tried to time the trip to cherry blossom season and it worked out perfectly. Matt taught me some conversational Japanese, everyone was incredibly friendly, and we managed to find a lot of great vegetarian food. It was pretty much just the most amazing trip ever.

Some of the highlights in the photos below are the Shenso-ji Temple and Hanayashiki amusement park near where we stayed in Asakusa in Tokyo, the Studio Ghibli Musuem, the Fugaku Fuketsu ice caves near Mt. Fuji, a Tanuki shrine, Fushimi Inari and Kiyomizu Dera temples in Kyoto, a giant golden Buddha statue, Kasuga Shrine, and the Deer Park in Nara. One of my favorite parts of the whole trip was the night time cherry blossom festival/street fair at Maruyama Park in Kyoto. Matt also got a badass tattoo, but that deserves a whole post of its own.

More highlights not pictured – Sega Joypolis amusement park, all of the amazing videogame shops in Akihabara, a Vampire restaurant, a maid cafe, a love hotel in Shibuya, bullet trains, Mt. Fuji (too foggy to really see it), sake, sleeping on tatami mats, the International Manga Museum, the cutest little train in the world, and I’m sure I’m forgetting even more. Just take my word for it that it was all as adorable and awesome as you can imagine.

Asakusa temple pagoda in Tokyo during cherry blossom seasonSensoji temple in Asakusa Tokyo - Japan travel photography on 35mm filmcherry blossom season in Tokyo JapanSakura cherry blossoms in JapanStudio Ghibli museum in Mitaka outside of Tokyo Japan. 35mm filmStudio Ghibli museum Tokyo with Diana Mini toy cameraIron Giant sculpture at Studio Ghibli museumsunset over the Studio Ghibli Museum in Mitaka TokyoTokyo SkyTree through fog and cherry blossomsTokyo Japan travel photographer 35mm filmHanayashiki amusement park in Asakusa Tokyo Japancoffee vending machines and Shibuya night lifeShensoji temple in Asakusa at nightShensoji temple at night. Tokyo JapanJapanese lanterns at night in TokyoFugaku Fuketsu lava and ice cave in Mt. Fuji area of JapanFugaku Fuketsu ice cave in JapanFugaku Fuketsu ice and lava cave in JapanFugaku Fuketsu ice cave in JapanFugaku Fuketsu ice cave and surrounding forestsFugaku Fuketsu forests around Mt. Fuji JapanKyoto cherry blossoms 35mm filmKyoto cherry blossom season. City Hall and small shrine. 35mm filmJapanese lantern in Kyoto 35mm filmTanuki Shrine in Kyoto JapanYasaka Shrine at night in Kyoto for hanamiYasaka Shrine at night in KyotoJapanese paper lanterns at night in Kyoto.Lantern at Yasaka shrine. Kyoto Japan travel photographer 35mm film.Yasaka Shrine Kyoto Japan. Night time travel photography.Kyoto Japan Hanami night time cherry blossom festivalKimonos for sale and paper lanterns at Japanese street fairKyoto Japan cherry blossom festival at night. Travel photography 35mm film.Japanese fortunes and wooden souvenirs at hanami festivalHanami night time sakura festival at Maruyama Park in Kyoto. Cherry blossom tree.Chion-in Temple at night in KyotoShijo Dori night time street photography in Kyoto time lapse 35mm filmKyoto Tower at night.Fushimi Inara shrine in Kyoto. Japanese travel photographer.Fushimi Inara shrine travel photography with Diana Mini toy camera 35mm filmFushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto Japan. Diana Mini lomography toy camera.Lantern hanging in torii gates at Fushimi Inari shrine Kyoto JapanRed torii gates at Fushimi Inari fox shrineJapan travel photography 35mm film - torii gates at Fushimi Inari Shrine in KyotoSouvenir foxes and torii gates to leave for blessings at Fushimi Inari shrine in KyotoFox statue that inspired StarFox videogames at Fushimi Inari shrinecolorful origami cranes in JapanTodaiji Temple in Nara. Japan travel photography 35mm film.Giant golden buddha statue in Todaiji Temple in Nara JapanDiana Mini travel photography at Todaiji Temple in Nara, Japan.Todaiji Temple Golden Buddha statue. Nara travel photographer.Travel photography on 35mm film at Todaiji Temple in Nara JapanTodaiji Temple in Nara Japan during cherry blossom seasonTodaiji Temple and plum blossoms toy camera photography in JapanDeer Park in Nara. Japanese travel photography 35mm film.Feeding the deer at the deer park in Nara. Japan travel photography.Nara deer and shrine lantern on Diana Mini toy camera 35mm film.Kasuga Shrine in Nara Japan. 35mm film photographer.Kasuga shrine lanterns lining walkway in Nara Japan.Cherry blossom tree and lion statue at Kasuga Shrine in NaraJapanese writing at Kasuga Shrine in NaraSmall shrine on the side of the road in Kyoto Japan.Amazing Kiyomizu Dera Temple in Kyoto during cherry blossom season.Kioymizu Dera travel photography on 35mm film Diana Mini toy camera. Kyoto Japan.Cherry blossoms and umbrellas at Kiyomizu Dera Temple in Kyoto, Japan. 35mm film.35mm film travel photography of sakura cherry blossoms at Kiyomizu Dera in Kyoto.

Because I wanted to travel lightly with camera gear but I also wanted to shoot film, I brought my smallest 35mm cameras – my Canon AE-1, which is manual focus, and my Diana Mini Jiyu because I can’t think of a more perfect camera to take cherry blossom photos with. The only digital camera I brought was my iPhone, and you can see all those photos on flickr, including some of the stuff I didn’t get on film. These photos were a mix of Fuji 400H and Kodak Portra 400.

  • Monika said:

    These are really beautiful. Such a great idea to time your trip when the blossoms were plentiful!

  • Dave said:

    Hey Jessie,

    Dave Taylor here. Absolutely stunning photos! You've made me miss Japan terribly! You guys were so lucky to be there during Hanami.

    Some of my favorites are:
    -the "three trees" photo from the grounds of Senso-ji lining up Tokyo Sky Tree with a blossom-filled tree on the left and an ancient and bare tree on the right. Lesley and I went to that very spot. those old trees were cool!
    -the one of a shrine with a cat (fox?) statue and lantern.
    -the badass Buddhist deity statue that looks like Akuma from Street Fighter.
    -the tanuki statue. Looks like he could spring to life at any moment.
    -and the photo of the famous path in Kyoto with all the orange torii gate-looking thingies, the one with the lantern closeup.

    Thanks for sharing. Would you mind if I reblogged this or linked to it on my Asian Studies blog?

    • Jessica said:

      hi Dave! Thanks for all the tips you gave us before we went. Matt definitely made the same connection that the Golden Buddha in Nara was just like Street Fighter! And the foxes at the Fushimi Inari shrine were what inspired the StarFox videogames too. Please feel free to share or link to these on your blog.

  • I loved your insight into Japan and the photographs are lush! :)

  • Elissa said:

    You're making me crazy nostalgic/homesick (even though Japan isn't exactly home) and I'm so jealous you got to go to the Ghibli museum!!!

  • Lyn said:

    Spectacular work, Jessica! I'm so jealous you got to see Japan!

  • Johanna said:

    Stunning photos, Jessica! <3 Looking at these makes me want to hop on a plane and fly to Japan immediately.

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  • Looks like you guys had a blast. Vegetarian food? Yummmmm!

  • Xanthe said:

    Oh yay! Equal parts jelly and thrilled for you that you got to go to Kiyomizu during hanami! I'm not even going to talk about how jealous I am that you got to go to Ghibli.

  • I'm curious: were there other reasons you decided to shoot this entire trip with a film camera? (minus the weight)

    Fascinated with your post as it's been 4 years since I was back and I'll be finally returning in early April and can agree that it's one of the best places I've ever visited!

  • Pingback : Film Fridays – Japanese Gardens in Van Nuys » Los Angeles Indie Wedding & Portrait Photography by Jessica Schilling

  • Zakk Brown said:

    what where the settings used to take the night shots with film???

    • Jessica said:

      Zack Brown, I don't remember entirely, but most of them were shot on 400 or 800 speed film, probably f/1.8 or 2, handheld down to 1/30 or 1/60. For some of the shots at direct light sources, maybe stopped down more or 1/125.

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