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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Recent Comments  
  • Kjeld Duits

    Thanks, Chris.

  • chris

    vintage, precious and rare photos. Thanks for sharing. I would be happy to save these …

Osaka 1870s-1880s • View from Enokojima

Enokojima and Osaka City View

A beautiful and extremely rare—I haven’t seen this photo anywhere else yet—panoramic view of Osaka from the Osaka Prefectural Office, looking towards the North East. During the Meiji (1868-1912) and Taisho (1912-1926) periods, Osaka’s Prefectural Office was located on the small island of Enokojima, between the Kizugawa River and the Hyakkenbori Canal. Completed in July 1874 (Meiji 7), the gorgeous Neo-Renaissance style building featured a dome on top. Next to the building stood a tall tower. The photographer somehow managed to lug his heavy and cumbersome equipment to the top level to preserve this incredible view of Edo-style Osaka for future generations.

At the time this photo was taken, the industrialization of Osaka had barely begun and only a few chimneys can be seen on the city’s skyline. Soon there would be whole forests of them spewing out enormous clouds of smoke that perpetually hid the sky from view. But at this time the city is still pretty much as it was during the Edo Period (1603-1868), a mass of two and three-storied wooden houses and kura (white plastered storage houses) crammed along beautiful tree-lined canals and rivers that cut through the city at right angles.

Detail of 80421-0009
Detail of the above image

The large waterway in front is the Hyakkenbori Canal (百間堀). The two small boats are turning into the Kyomachibori Canal (京町堀). Both canals were filled in during the early 1950s and the area is now full of tall concrete buildings and asphalt roads. What is left over of the Kizugawa River has been lined with two meter high ferro-concrete walls. What once was a picturesque and clean river shaded by tall trees is now a dirty and polluted waterway hidden from view by cold concrete.

Kizugawa River, Osaka
The Kizugawa River today, as seen from around Matsushima Park, South of Enokojima.

In 1926 (Taisho 15), the Prefectural Office moved to its current location in Otemae, Chuo-ku. The old Prefectural Office building was used as the Prefectural Industrial Promotion Office until it was destroyed by fire bombs during WWII. After the end of the war, the area was rebuilt and totally transformed. This photo is now the only reminder of what it used to look like.

Osaka Prefectural Office Dome 1880s
The beautiful dome of Osaka’s Prefectural Office

1889 Map of Osaka
1889 (Meiji 22) Map of Osaka: 1. Funatsubashi Bridge on the Dojimagawa River; 2. Nakanoshima; 3. Kawaguchi Foreign Settlement; 4. Shinbashi Bridge (新橋) on the Kizugawa River; 5. Enokojima (江之子島); 6. Shitabashi Bridge (下橋); 7. Kyomachibori (京町堀); 8. Osaka Prefectural Office; 9. Hyakkenbori River (百間堀).

Photographer: Unknown
Publisher: Unknown
Medium: Albumen Print
Image Number: 80421-0009

Quote this number when you contact us about licensing this image.
You can also licence this image online: 80421-0009 @ MeijiShowa.com.

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Posted by • 2009-05-12
Add Comment

vintage, precious and rare photos. Thanks for sharing. I would be happy to save these photos in my collection of rare photos…though it lacks photo touch up, it’s good as it is.

# chris · 2010-05-02

Thanks, Chris.

# Kjeld Duits · 2010-05-02








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