Japan is THE paradise for food photography props. Actually if you are into modern clean, dark moody, or rustic down to earth style of food photography.
You will find the most unique and well-crafted pottery, wooden and metal utensils, natural fabrics, and wooden bowls here. I brought back some of my favorite food photography props. The downside of hunting for food photography props are the prices, which one has to get adjusted to before shopping. But it is also quite hard to find the places, which sell food photography props in Japan.
First of all, the prices of the unique pottery and cutlery are absolutely in justified, but still quite unusual for people who are used to buy mass produced props or secondhand props. As a general rule estimation, a ceramic plate of a medium size could could be something around 40-150€. A piece of cutlery 20-150€, a wooden bowl 40-250€. Are some cheaper alternatives of handmade mass produced plates and cutlery though, which I already had found in Germany but also saw in the bigger Japanese stores.
The problem with the unique handmade pottery and cutlery is, that there are usually not a specific single place that sells it. In Japan, artist would usually make pottery or cutlery but not sell it in an online shop or on etsy. The artists have usually so-called exhibitions in small shops. Usually an artist would have a couple of exhibitions throughout the year in different cities. So as being in Tokyo, the chances were not so good of me catching the exhibition of each and every artist I was interested in.
The only way was to stay open to both ever was happening at the time I was in Tokyo and going to his many exhibitions and small shops as possible. The best way to keep up with the step upcoming exhibition is to follow the artist and the shops on Instagram.
The small shops usually have their signature style, so once I found the stores I like the style off, I liked almost all exhibition they curated and went back there every couple of weeks.
In my opinion, it’s almost impossible to get a specific awesome pieces when you are in Tokyo or another bigger city in Japan for just a couple of days. I need it more than a month to figure out how to get my hands on amazing food photography props, and I was also lucky not to be in Toki during the summer holidays, they probably almost no exhibitions take place.
Is it worth bringing plates, cups, any glassware back home from Japan? Most likely not, sensitive breakable items are really hard to transport on the plane when you already have lots of luggage. Also keep in mind, you might have to pay import taxes, when coming back to your home country. This is why bringing food photography props from Japan might not be such a great idea after all. Most worthy or in my opinion wooden and metal items, that can be placed in the luggage easily. Items that are available in Germany, even if more expensive, are absolutely not worth bringing back from Japan in my opinion. E.g. items from Muji, mass produced dishes, and Dollar store items.
I will add more as I edit old or take new food pictures using the props from Tokyo.
Here are some of my absolute fav artists in Japan.
Professional kitchen equipment
If you are looking for amazing and modern dishes and kitchen equipment more like for cooking and serving, rather than photographing, you will find so many amazing things on the professional kitchen equipment Street in Tokyo in Matsugaya 松が谷.
Kitchen Utensils, Knifes, bowls, pots, baking molds, cookie cutters, and modern mass produced plates and cutlery.
Cheap and affordable props
Muji, Loft, and dollar stores are a good place for finding interesting but mass produced food photography props in Tokyo, Japan.
Muji is a japanese brand for brandless household products, you can find it in many places all around the world. The selection is in japan better than anywhere else and the prices 30-50% less of what I would pay in Germany or Spain.
Shibuya Loft 渋谷ロフト is a higher end department store and they carry more expensive/fancy mass produced kitchen items. Good example is Hasami Tableware. Its cheaper in Japan, but it’s also available in Germany.
Bigger mall, like this one in Shinjuku have als artists’ exhibitions from time to time, we stumbled upon this one on accident while checking out an organic store in the mall here in Shinjuku.
Dollar stores such as Daiso and Can Do are great for affordable chopsticks, glasses, and plates. Nothing really special or worth taking back home there food photography prop wise, but the kitchen utensils such as cutters and molds are worth checking out. If you are in Japan and are about to start collecting props, this is a great place to stock up on the essentials.
Furniture store like Nutori are also worth checking out, I got some nice transparent chopsticks there.