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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Osaka 1910s • Prefectural Office

Enokojima Prefectural Office in Osaka

A boat passes in front of the Osaka Prefectural Office on Enokojima Island, between the Kizugawa River and the Hyakkenbori Canal. Completed in July 1874 (Meiji 7), the Neo-Renaissance style building featured an impressive dome on top. These days, Osaka’s prefectural government buildings are located in Otemae, facing Osaka Castle. But during the Meiji (1868-1912) and Taisho (1912-1926) periods, it was the small island of Enokojima which performed the role as Osaka’s governmental area.

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1890s • Women Having Tea

Women in Kimono Having Tea

These five women posing in the photographer’s studio as if having tea at home look a bit forlorn. Maybe the photographer took a bit too much time?

Photographs like this one were known as Yokohama Shashin (横浜写真, Yokohama Photographs) and were geared at the tourist market.

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Tokyo 1930s • Imperial Hotel

Imperial Hotel Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

Today, few people in Tokyo will recognize this impressive Mayan Revival-style building with its wide courtyard and reflecting pool. But between 1923 (Taisho 12) and 1968 (Showa 43) it was Tokyo’s top luxury establishment, the Imperial Hotel (帝国ホテル, Teikoku Hotel) located in Hibiya. The hotel was one of six buildings that legendary American architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959) built in Japan.

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