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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Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World, 1852-1912 • Donald Keene

When Emperor Meiji began his rule, in 1867, Japan was a splintered empire, dominated by the shogun and the daimyos, who ruled over the country’s more than 250 decentralized domains and who were, in the main, cut off from the outside world, staunchly antiforeign, and committed to the traditions of the past. Before long, the shogun surrendered to the emperor, a new constitution was adopted, and Japan emerged as a modern, industrialized state.


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Tokyo 1910s • Asakusa Nakamise

Asakuse Nakamise

The Nakamise souvenir shops at the Buddhist temple Senso-ji in Asakusa, Tokyo. These brick shops were built in 1885 (Meiji 18). They were destroyed during the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, but they were rebuilt in concrete in 1925.

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Yokohama 1930 • Bentendori

Benten-dori in Yokohama, Japan (1930).

Yokohama’s Bentendori was a popular shopping street that lost most of its charm when it was destroyed during the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. This photo shows the rebuilt Bentendori. Interesting is the Ten Sens Store (1 sen was one hundredth of a yen so this was basically a Ten Cents Store) on the right. These days, 100 yen stores are very popular in Japan. Except for the price itself, not much seems to have changed. For a photo of the original Bentendori, see Yokohama 1890s • Bentendori.

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1930 • Washing Clothes

Women Washing Clothes in Small Tubs at Public Washing Place in Kamakura, Japan (1930).

Women in traditional clothing are washing clothes in small tubs at public washing place in Kamakura. Before the general introduction of the electric washing machine, washing clothes took many hours and was extremely hard and tiring work.

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Tokyo 1934 • Traffic in Nihonbashi

Cars and Street Cars on Ginza, Tokyo (May 1934).

Cars and street cars on Nihonbashidori in May 1934. The photographer took this photo from the intersection of Chuodori and Eitai-dori (永代道り). The building in the back is Takashimaya Department Store, which was founded in Kyoto in 1829 as a shop selling cotton cloth and used clothing. The same building is still used today. Chuodori is a wide shopping street that runs from Ginza to Nihonbashi. For information about Nihonbashi, read Tokyo 1890s • Koamicho, Nihonbashi. For more photos and information on Ginza, see Tokyo 1890s • Shinbashi Bridge, Ginza, Tokyo 1910s • Ginza and Tokyo 1910s • Hattori Building, Ginza.

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