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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Conflicts of Interest: Art and War in Modern Japan • Philip Hu et al

This fascinating publication showcases the Saint Louis Art Museum’s collection of Japanese military prints and related materials―one of the largest collections of such works in the world.


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Tokyo 1934 • Asakusa Nakamise

Japan. Tokyo. Approach to Asakusa Park and Temple, Toy and Curio Shops (May 1934).

This photo of a crowd walking past shops along the approach to the Buddhist temple Senso-ji was taken some time in May 1934. Notable is that while most men and even the children already wear Western clothing, the women still wear kimono. The shops, called Asakusa Nakamise (浅草仲見世) were a great crowd pleaser as can be seen on this photo. The shops’ origins are rooted in a harvest festival called Tori no Ichi (酉の市). Held in November, long lines of people would wind their way along the rice paddies to pray and enjoy themselves at Sensoji. Naturally this attracted a large number of enterprising merchants to cater to them.

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Tokaido 1930 • Car on the Tokaido

Japan, Tokaido Highway about 30 Miles from Yokohama (1930).

A single car on a modernized Tokaido, the main connection between Edo (current Tokyo) and Kyoto during the Edo Period. This photo was shot in 1930, some 48 kilometers (30 miles) from Yokohama. The Tokaido’s famous scenes of countless travelers on foot soon vanished after the first railroad connection between Tokyo and Kobe was completed in the late 1880s. Although the first cars were produced in Japan during the early 1900s, and this image shows a car on the Tokaido, the condition of most roads was so bad that cars didn’t really take off in Japan until after WWII.

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Miyajima 1930 • Fishing Boats

Japan. Miyajima. Fishing Boats (1930).

Fishing Boats off the coast of Miyajima. For information about Japan’s fish industry during the 20th century, read 1890s • Fish Shop.

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Osaka 1910s • Koraibashi

Korai-bashi, Osaka

Osaka’s Koraibashi (高麗橋) was first built during the time of Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-1598). One of only 12 government controlled bridges in Osaka, it crossed the Higashi-Yokoborigawa canal, the outermost moat of Toyotomi’s massive castle, which was completed in 1598. Koraibashi was placed in such a way that the immense castle tower could be seen from the bridge. Connecting the castle grounds with the merchant district of Senba (船場), the bridge played an exceedingly important role during most of Osaka’s history.

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