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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Felice Beato: A Photographer on the Eastern Road • Anne Lacoste, Fred Ritchin

Felice Beato (1832–1909) lived and worked in Japan from 1863 through 1884, just as the country opened its doors to the world. He was extremely active in Japan, and portrayed the Japanese with dignity and as equals of Westerners. He was the first photographer in Japan to sell albums of his works. Most likely, it was Beato that introduced the later so diligently followed concept of “views” and “types” to photography of Japan.

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1904 • Feeding Silk Worms

Two Japanese Women Feeding Silk Worms

Two Japanese women are feeding voracious silk worms. Just look at how huge the basket is that the woman is pulling leaves from. After silkworm eggs were hatched in an incubator, the young worms were moved to a feeding room like the one in this image. At first they were fed mulberry leaves that had been made into an ash. Later they were fed on chopped leaves, and eventually full-sized leaves, as seen here.

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1890s • Temizu

Temizu, Japanese Women in Kimono Washing Hands

A woman carefully pours (invisible) water on the hands of another woman, while a third woman is arriving at the gate. All are wearing gorgeous kimono as if they are going to attend a tea ceremony, or a similar special event. The water is ladled from a wash basin called temizu bachi.

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1890s • Lantern Craftsman

Japanese Lantern Craftsman

This studio photo reconstructs the work place of a lantern and umbrella craftsman and his assistant. The name of the shop is Tojo (東城). The craftsman is writing on a lantern, while his assistant is coloring a paper umbrella. That Japanese umbrellas were made of paper never ceased to amaze Western visitors.

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1930s • Kimono, but Modern Hairstyle

Woman in Kimono

While this woman still wears a kimono in this studio photo, her hairstyle is thoroughly modern. This is very likely to have been an omiai photograph. At omiai (お見合い), two single people are introduced to each other to consider marriage. Around the time that this photo was taken, some 70% of Japanese marriages were established through omiai.

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