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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  • Kjeld Duits

    @J Tiffany: Thank you. Interestingly, I think that relatively few Japanese people know that this …

  • J Tiffany

    A wonderful image. I would add that the street name is Chuo Dori, but I …

Tokyo 1910s • Ginza

Street Cars at Ginza, Tokyo

Looking north-east towards Ginza not too far from the spot where the current Shinbashi subway station is located. Two electrified streetcars, first introduced in 1903 (Meiji 36), are in the front, others can be seen in the far background. The empty space in front of the building with the tower is Shinbashi Bridge. The building itself is the celebrated Teikoku Hakuhinkan Kankoba (帝国博品館勧工場, current Hakuhinkan), established in October 1899 (Meiji 32). The building featured a large variety of shops and was similar to our modern shopping center. It is generally considered to be the origin of the Japanese department store.

In 1921 (Taisho 10), a modern building consisting of 4 floors was constructed. It was the first shop on Ginza using an elevator, which made it extremely popular. It also signified the first time that the Japanese word for department store (百貨店, hyakaten), was used. The word consists of the characters for hundred, treasure and shops, and was at the time widely talked about.

The English word department store written in katakana as depaatomento sutooa (デパートメントストーア) was already in use at the time. Photos of the 1910s, show it being used on the wall of Tenkado (天下堂), a store in a four-story modern building just a few buildings removed from Hakuhinkan. In the postcard image above it is the white building visible behind Hakuhinkan.

After the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 (Taisho 12), Hakuhinkan stopped functioning as a department store. In 1978 (Showa 53), on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the company’s establishment, a new 10-story building was built on this location, called Hakuhinkan Toy Park.1 It is now an extremely popular toy store always featuring in guidebooks about Tokyo. The Lonely Planet describes it as follows:

This layer cake of a ‘toy park’ is crammed to every corner with this year’s models of character toys, the hottest squawking video games, seas of colourful plastic and the softest plush toys ever invented. Hakuhinkan also harbours child-friendly restaurants and even a theatre.2

For more information, and a view of this corner of Ginza during the 1890s, see Tokyo 1890s • Shinbashi Bridge, Ginza.

1 博品館。博品館の歴史。Retrieved on 2008-10-08.

2 Lonely Planet. Hakuhinkan Toy Park. Retrieved on 2008-10-08.

Photographer: Unknown
Publisher: Unknown
Medium: Postcard
Image Number 70222-0004

Quote this number when you contact us about licensing this image.
You can also licence this image online: 70222-0004 @ MeijiShowa.com.

Usage of this image requires a reproduction fee.
Posted by • 2008-10-08
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A wonderful image. I would add that the street name is Chuo Dori, but I have also seen it referred to as Ginza Dori on old documents.

The Japanese caption says:「新橋ノ上空ヨリ俯瞰セル銀座方面ノ盛観」, written right to left as was common in the day. This could be translated as: “Sweeping aerial view of Ginza from above Shimbashi”.

Today, an almost identical view of Chuo Dori and Ginza can be had from either the concourse or platform levels of Shimbashi Yurikamome Station, which is situated approximately 150 meters southwest of where the above photo appears to have been taken, and is about 15-18 meters directly above the same street; the contrast of over 100 years is incredible.

# J Tiffany · 2015-05-09

@J Tiffany: Thank you. Interestingly, I think that relatively few Japanese people know that this street is called Chuo-dori. Not so many Japanese streets have names, and this is one of the exceptions. Some years ago, I went to this location to photograph the current situation, but for some reason never got to upload the photo. As you mention, the contrast is incredible.

# Kjeld Duits · 2015-05-10

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