Advice request: Laws and ethics when taking photographs in Japan

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RussStoop Forum Member • Posts: 68
Advice request: Laws and ethics when taking photographs in Japan

Advice request: Laws and ethics when taking photographs in Japan

Hello. I have lived in Japan for more than 20 years, and I am always taking photos. I first took photos as a sight-seer when I first arrived, but I’ve mainly been a nature/wildlife enthusiast. Of course, it would be sad to go back to my home country after many years, and look at my photos as an old (er) man and not have any photographs of cultural events, shrines and other important experiences. I have visited many places and I am usually carefully trying not to capture humans in my photos. This is not possible when visiting very popular places in Kyoto and Nara, and especially dance festivals, etc. I think all my photographs in these places have crowds in them. In another way, I have also taken photos away from popular tourist attractions, which brings me to a question I have tried at ask about on another thread, though I unfortunately didn’t express my words carefully. (I am very happy with the support and advice I have had here).

I have visited one shrine a few times a year for about the last 16 years, and seen it in all seasons and weather conditions. I have been drawn to huge, beautiful trees in the grounds and I love standing under them and seeing them in each season. It is usually quiet, with only a few (and sometimes no visitors) there. Early in November 2020, I was trying my new Zeiss Milvus 50 1.4 lens on my Nikon Df and trying to frame the corner of the shrine with the roots of the huge trees with their autumnal colours, when a young girl ran in from stage right, and headed towards the shrine. At the time I felt I shouldn’t take any photographs, but at the same time I wanted to capture the moment and took a couple of snaps. The event is probably better in my mind than the resulting photo, but it left me with the dilemma, that

1: was it ok to take such a photograph in the grounds of the shrine, and

2: am I allowed to show or display it anywhere?

Another time, 10 years ago, I was photographing wild swans in the snow at the edge of a lake, when a young father lifted his two kids over a boundary rope with keep-out signs on it, then they went up to the swans and fed them. The photos are all unexpected and unplanned but special to me because of the thrilled expressions of the children meeting wild swans the same size if not bigger than them.

I’d would greatly appreciate advice on the laws and ethics of taking such photographs in Japan, please. I am not professional, but I had an exhibition last year and I deliberately omitted all images containing people. I would have liked to include at least some images with unwary people from such situations. I have some older Japanese friends into wildlife photography but they have given me mixed advice.

I am very happy with advice I have received on these forums although I discovered the need to express myself more carefully.

Thank you for your feedback.

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 RussStoop's gear list:RussStoop's gear list
Sony RX100 III Nikon Df Nikon D500 Nikon AF-S Micro-Nikkor 105mm F2.8G IF-ED VR Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 2,8/25 +7 more
Nikon Df Zeiss Milvus 50mm F1.4
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