OLD PHOTOS of JAPAN, a photo blog of Japan in the Meiji, Taisho and Showa periods

Old Photos of Japan
shows photos of Japan between the 1860s and 1930s. In 1854, Japan opened its doors to the outside world for the first time in more than 200 years. It set in motion a truly astounding transformation. As fate would have it, photography had just been invented. As the old country vanished and a new one was born, daring photographers took photos. Discover what life was like with their rare and precious photographs of old Japan.
Partner Site

MeijiShowa
License all the photos on this site at our boutique photo agency for vintage photographs, illustrations and maps of Japan between the 1860s and 1930s (Meiji, Taisho, early Showa)

Recent Comments  
  • Kjeld Duits

    For more detailed information about albumen photos and their coloring I can recommend the following …

  • Kjeld Duits

    And this is how it looks over a hundred years after the coloring was actually …

  • Tornadoes28

    The coloring is very well done.

  • Kjeld Duits

    Japan secretly invented color film long before the West. No just kidding! Photographers in Japan …

  • Tornadoes28

    How come these photos are in color?

Yokohama 1890s • Isezaki-cho 2-chome

Isezakicho, Theater Street, Yokohama

The area between Isezakicho and Nigiwai-cho was known among foreigners as Theater Street. Since around 1877 (Meiji 10), the street was filled with theaters, teahouses and restaurants which attracted lots of crowds and made this one of Yokohama’s most lively areas of the middle of the Meiji Period (1868-1912). This photograph shows the area around Isami-za theater (勇座) in Matsugae-cho (松ヶ枝町, current Isezaki-cho 2-chome) as it looked sometime between 1887 (Meiji 20) and 1897 (Meiji 30). In 1899 (Meiji 32) the area burnt down and all this vanished forever.

When you see all these flags advertising the theaters, productions and certain artists you understand Japan’s current love affair with neon signs. They are really electrified flags. I think that I prefer the flags, I just love how they move in the wind and the sounds they make. They are a whole lot better for the environment, too.

For more information about Isezaki-cho and to see a photo of the same area during the 1910s, read Yokohama 1910s • Isezaki-cho 2-chome.

Photographer: Kimbei Kusakabe
Publisher: Kimbei Kusakabe
Medium: Albumen Print
Image Number: 71005-0007

Quote this number when you contact us about licensing this image.
You can also licence this image online: 71005-0007 @ MeijiShowa.com.

IMPORTANT
Usage of this image requires a reproduction fee.
Posted by • 2008-10-02
Add Comment

How come these photos are in color?

# Tornadoes28 · 2008-10-03

Japan secretly invented color film long before the West. No just kidding! Photographers in Japan hired artists to color their photographs. Many of these artists used to work as woodblock colorists so they were very well-skilled. They also used special water colors that allowed the photo to shine through. At the time, this work was very highly regarded in the West and even received several awards. It is really beautiful, isn’t it?

# Kjeld Duits · 2008-10-03

The coloring is very well done.

# Tornadoes28 · 2008-10-04

And this is how it looks over a hundred years after the coloring was actually done. The chemicals of the pigments, paper, air and humidity have had the freedom to interact for more than a century and this usually doesn’t make the photo look any better. When the images were still fresh, the coloring was exquisitely soft and gentle. I recently was able to acquire some images that for some reason were in much better condition than any of the other images in my collection and I was flabbergasted. It is lifelike and almost fragile in a way, and oh so beautiful.

# Kjeld Duits · 2008-10-04

For more detailed information about albumen photos and their coloring I can recommend the following articles:


NINETEENTH CENTURY JAPANESE PHOTOGRAPHY: TECHNIQUES, CONSERVATION AND RESTORATION (by Annabelle SIMON, Photograph Restorer)


SCIENCE OF ALBUMEN & ALBUMEN PRINTS (Stanford University)

# Kjeld Duits · 2008-10-04








Textile help

NOTE: Your e-mail address is required, but will not be displayed.