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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Ainu: Spirit of a Northern People • William W. Fitzhugh et al
Ainu: Spirit of a Northern People

Japan’s indigenous people, the Ainu, inhabited Hokkaido, the Kurile Islands, southern Sakhalin Island, and a portion of northern Honshu. They had a unique culture and language, completely separate from that of the Japanese. By the middle of the 19th century, the destruction of this ancient culture was set in motion by Japan’s national government.


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1920s • Having Tea

Japan. Man and Two Women Having Tea Inside Room.

Two women and a man in traditional clothing are sitting on zabuton (cushions) on tatami mats in a large room divided by fusuma (sliding doors) at what appears to be an inn. The man is warming his hands at a beautiful wooden hibachi used for keeping the water warm. The woman in the front appears to be preparing tea.

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Yokohama 1929 • Ships in Port

s.s. Malolo and other Steamers and Liners in Yokohama Harbor, Japan (October 1929).

Ships in the harbor of Yokohama. This photo was taken from the s.s. Malolo which visited Yokohama Harbor in October 1929 (Showa 4). This was an important year, because by this time the city was considered to have almost completely recovered from the devastation of the 1923 Kanto Great Earthquake that destroyed 60,000 houses and killed 20,000 people in Yokohama. The city had quite literally vanished. The many ships on this photo are a silent witness to Yokohama’s remarkable recovery just six years after it restarted from scratch.

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Kyoto 1934 • Kyogoku Theater Street

Japan. Kyoto. Kyogoku Theater Street (May 1934).
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1920s • Grist Mill

Japan. Grist Mill: Women and Children.

Three women and four children stand in front of a large water powered grist mill with a thatched roof. Water powered mills of all sizes were extremely common in Japan, a mountainous country blessed with much rainfall.

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