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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Geisha: Women of Japan's Flower & Willow World • Tina Skinner, Mary L. Martin
Geisha: Women of Japan's Flower & Willow World

Over 500 beautiful photographs and postcards, mostly of between 1900 and 1940, take you back to Japan’s now-extinct licensed pleasure districts. You will keep opening up this book again and again. A beauty!


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Osaka 1909 • Great Kita Fire

Osaka Taika Around 5:00 PM

On July 31, 1909 (Meiji 42) a fire broke out at a knit-wear factory in the northern part of Osaka that would eventually engulf 122 ha. of the city and rage for no less than 24 hours. One of the most scary moments of the day happened around 5:00 PM when thousands of refugees found themselves in front of the Osaka Court of Appeal, trapped between the Dojima River and the rapidly approaching flames. The photographer caught this dramatic moment in this image. The dark smoke of the fire can be seen over the court building, barely visible on the left, while a crowd with all their belongings is in front. All the buildings in this image would soon be reduced to ashes.

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Nikko 1890s • Yumoto

Yumoto, Nikko

A view of Lake Yunoko and the hot spring hotels of Yumoto, near Nikko in Tochigi Prefecture. Hemmed in by mountains, there barely seems enough place for both a lake and a spa resort, but they did somehow manage to squeeze themselves in. Yumoto’s sulphur baths have attracted weary travelers and people hoping to heal their body and soul for many centuries, and still do so today. Priest Shodo (735-817), who founded the two temples which became the origin of Nikko, is said to have found the hot spring in 788. He called it Yakushiyu (doctor’s hot spring). During the 14th century, it became extremely popular with aristocrats. The village was not always called Yumoto. Before the area received its current name, it was called Futarasan Onsen, after a nearby mountain.

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Osaka 1900s • Osaka Station

Osaka Station

This glass slide shows the second Osaka Station in all of its glory. Opened in July 1901 (Meiji 34), the Gothic style building was two stories high and built of granite, giving it a massive and imposing look. Osaka Station was one of the city’s three must-see tourist attractions. The other two were the Osaka branch of the Bank of Japan, built in 1903 (Meiji 36), and the Sempukan (泉布観), the guest house for the Mint Bureau. Completed in 1870 (Meiji 3), it was the first Western-style building in Osaka.

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Osaka 1870s • The Octopus Pine

Tako no Matsu

This very rare image shows the Tako no Matsu (鮹之松, Octopus Pine) on Osaka’s Nakanoshima. This pine tree was located in front of a kurayashiki (蔵屋敷, a combined warehouse and residence) of the daimyo (lord) of Kurume (久留米), a town in Fukuoka Prefecture. During the Edo Period (1603-1868), the banks of Nakanoshima were lined with many kurayashiki of daimyo who brought their domain’s rice and other products to Osaka for sale. The daimyo would also rest here on their way to Edo (current Tokyo). The Shogunate’s requirement that daimyo spent alternate years in the capital (Sankin Kotai), meant that daimyo ended up traveling a lot, so the kurayashiki was far more than merely a branch office.

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