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

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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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Kobe 1930 • The Bund

The Bund in Kobe, Japan (1930).

The Kobe Bund in 1930 (Showa 5) lined with the offices of steamship companies and trading houses. The tall building in the back with the rounded ornament on the corner is the office of Osaka Shosen Kaisha, a major Osaka-based steamship line. It is one of the only buildings on this photo that still stands today. The original seawall has been replaced by a train-track, warehouses and a quay, greatly extending the port into the harbor. Where the warehouses and the quay end, at the top-right, the old American Hatoba starts. It was through this pier that once all visitors entered Kobe. That location is now the entrance to Meriken Park.

After Kobe was opened as a harbor to foreign trade in 1868 (Meiji 1), it quickly grew into Japan’s most important harbor. In the early 20th century Kobe handled even more trade than Yokohama, even though that city had been opened as early as 1859.

Kobe’s exports at the time of this photograph consisted of an incredible range of goods: matches, whale-oil, tea, sake, vegetable wax, refined camphor, peppermint oil, agar agar (寒天, kanten), pearl buttons, straw matting, toothbrushes, porcelain, rice, cotton, copper, woolen cloth, and so on.

The enormous wealth that the trade in these goods created is clearly visible from the imposing buildings that line the street. It is almost impossible to imagine that only some sixty odd years earlier this had been an often flooded wasteland.

Transport on Kobe Bund, 1930
This detail shows the different forms of transport in 1930: automobiles, a man on a bicycle, a horse-drawn cart, and carts push or pulled by people.

1929 map of Kobe's Kaigandori area
1929 (Showa 4) Map of Kobe: 1. Kaigandori (known in English as Bund); 2. Sakaemachi; 3. American Hatoba; 4. Osaka Shosen Kaisha.

Photographer: Unknown
Publisher: New York State Education Department
Medium: Glass Slide
Image Number 80122-0013

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You can also licence this image online: 80122-0013 @ MeijiShowa.com.

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Posted by • 2009-05-13
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