As well as the official photos sold by the Johnny’s Shop there are a number of stores on and around Takeshita Dori in Harajuku where you can buy paparazzi photos. These are photos taken by the press of the boys live in concert, plays or press conferences. When you walk along the street you’ll see signs layered with big beautiful photos. These are often at the top of dark, scary looking stair cases that lead to dingy, underground stores. These photos are technically illegal so whether you choose to support these businesses or not is up to your own discretion. JE obviously just turn a blind eye on these stores though as they are literally everywhere on and around Takeshita.
I don’t generally shop in the scary underground stores so I can’t shed much light on these from personal experience. Some of them have gachapon machines out the front (like gumball machines but with toys inside) that sell photo keychains for about 200-500yen and these are always fun to try your luck at. Most of these stores themselves though have mysterious buying systems that I never managed to work out and a bit of a creepy vibe but… fear not! There is one diamond in the rough of the black market of JE paparazzi photos.
Updated June 2020
There are two PhotoBank stores in Harajuku and unlike the other paparazzi stores, PhotoBank is bright, user friendly and well above the ground! (A friend told me once that they have some kind of deal with JE so they may not actually be illegal either. Not sure… they’re still pretty secretive… ).
You can find their Twitter HERE They keep you updated on when photos from certain concerts and events become available (all in Japanese). They also have some very vague, one line directions about how to get to the stores which I have elaborated on below.
First take the Yamanote line 山手線 to Harajuku Station 原宿駅
To get to the Takeshita Dori 竹下通り店 store… walk down Takeshita Dori! It’s directly opposite the main station exit. About half way along there’ll be a Seven Eleven. Take the stair case on the left that leads up to more stores on the second floor. It’s just on you’re right at the top of the stairs.
To get to the Harajuku Station store 原宿駅前店 take the second Omotesando exit 表参道and cross the road towards the GAP then walk right up the street. There will be a big grey building with a tiny PhotoBank sign on the outside. Take the elevator up to the third floor. It’s literally right in front of the park where you queue to go to the Johnny’s shop.
When you enter the store you’ll see a room full of mounted iPads. Find a spare iPad and settle in. Unlike the JE store that is stuck in the past, PhotoBank is entirely digital.
On the iPad you can select from the list of different JE groups, and then narrow your search by selecting photos of your favourite member, and then photos of specific events. It’s really easy and fun to scroll through all the different pictures. The pictures they have are usually back dated to about four years old as well, so you’ll never have to worry about missing out.
When you find a photo you like, just press the plus to add it to your cart. The cart and a running total of the price are displayed in the top right of the screen. It’s just like online shopping.
10 Photo Bonus
For every 10 normal photos you buy you get a free big print. So if you buy 42 regular prints then you’ll get 4 bonus big prints. Once you’ve confirmed your order the system lets you go back and pick out your big photos. You can choose a second copy of a photo you already have in your cart, or a different one. Try to keep the bonus photos you earn in mind as you go. If you’re not a fan of doubling up like me then save your favourite shots to add to your cart after you’ve confirmed the rest of your order.
Paying and getting your prints
Once you submit your order the iPad will give you an order number. Tell this number to the lady at the register and she’ll bring up your order on the screen. After you’ve confirmed all the photos, you pay and wait for them to be printed. This usually takes less than 10 minutes, depending on how busy the store is on the day.
The Takeshita Dori store is all in the same room but the Harajuku Station store has two levels. You order on level 3 and then pay for and collect your photos on level 4.