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.
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Recent Comments  
  • Kjeld Duits

    Thanks for the link, Agata. I actually own the series myself and the photo that …

  • Agata

    According to Frank Brinkley 10-volume “Japan” this game is also called “kotoro”. One of the …

Okayama 1935 • Playing Toryanse

Japanese School Girls Playing a Game

Japanese school girls playing Toryanse. In this game, girls would stand behind each other with the one in front spreading her arms to prevent a loose standing girl from joining the line. The popular traditional song by the same name was sung. This song celebrated Tenmangu shrines, which are dedicated to knowledge and learning.

It appears there were several versions of this song. One source was able to give me the following words as she remembered them from her childhood:

Toryanse, toryanse
Koko wa doko no hosomichi ja?
Tenjinsama no hosomichi ja
Chitto toshite kudashanse
Goyo no nai mono toshasenu
Kono ko no nanatsu no oiwai ni
O-fuda o osame ni mairimasu
Iki wa yoi yoi, kaeri wa kowai
Kowainagara mo
Toryanse, toryanse

Toryanse, toryanse
Koko wa neifu no hosomichi ja
Kijinsama no hosomichi ja
Chitto toshite kudashanse
Nie no nai mono tōshasenu
Kono ko no nanatsu no tomurai ni
Kuyo wo tanomi ni mairimasu
Iki wa yoi yoi, kaeri wa kowai
Kowainagara mo
Toryanse, toryanse

In olden days, many children didn’t survive their early years, so making it beyond three, five or seven years of age was seen as a moment to celebrate and make offerings at a temple or shrine. This is the origin of the Shichi-Go-San ceremony still observed today. The song is a conversation between a mother with her seven year old child and guards at a check post:

Let me pass, let me pass
What is this narrow pathway here?
It’s the narrow pathway of the Tenjin shrine
Please allow me to pass through
Those without good reason shall not pass
To celebrate this child’s 7th birthday
I’ve come to dedicate my offering
Going in may be fine, fine, but returning would be scary
It’s scary but
Let me pass, let me pass

Let me pass, let me pass
Here is the underworld’s narrow pathway
It’s the narrow pathway of the demon’s shrine
Please allow me to pass through
Those without sacrifice shall not pass
To bury this child at age 7
I’ve come to offer my services
Living may be fine, fine, but going back would be scary
It’s scary but
Let me pass, let me pass1

The melody of this song can often be heard at Japanese pedestrian crossings, where it is used to let blind people know that the light is green and they can cross the street:

This photo comes from a year album for 1935 of a girls’ school in Okayama City, Japan. The 55 photographs show the female students studying, doing traditional Japanese as well Western sports, playing games, posing, at the train station and about town. The album also includes classroom scenes, portraits of teachers as well as administrative personnel and the Showa era wooden school building itself. For more information about education in Japan during the Meiji, Taisho and early Showa periods, read Okayama 1935 • School Girls Eating Bento.

Related images:

Okayama 1935 • School Girls Eating Bento.
Okayama 1935 • Girls in a Classroom.
Okayama 1935 • School Girls Reading.
Okayama 1935 • Practicing Naginata.
Okayama 1935 • Practicing Naginata.
Okayama 1935 • Practicing Kyudo.
Okayama 1935 • Practicing Table Tennis.
Okayama 1935 • Playing Toryanse.

1 Wikipedia. Toryanse. Retrieved on 2008-08-03.

Photographer: Yusa Studio
Publisher: Yusa Studio
Medium: Silver Gelatin Print
Image Number 70302-0002

Quote this number when you contact us about licensing this image.
You can also licence this image online: 70302-0002 @ MeijiShowa.com.

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Posted by • 2008-07-29
Add Comment

According to Frank Brinkley 10-volume “Japan” this game is also called “kotoro”. One of the photos from Brinkley’s collection shows boys playing this game: http://ocw.mit.edu/ans7870/21f/21f.027/gt_japan_people/gjp_gal_med/pages/gj20201.html

# Agata · 2009-01-31

Thanks for the link, Agata. I actually own the series myself and the photo that you showed has already been scanned and uploaded to be added. I am still looking for an accurate source about how kotoro was played.

# Kjeld Duits · 2009-01-31








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