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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Art of the Japanese Postcard: Masterpieces fom the Leonard A. Lauder Collection • Kendall Brown et al

From the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century, Japan was a vital world center for postcard art. More than just casual mail pieces, these postcards were often designed by prominent artists and had a visual impact that belied their modest format.


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Osaka 1890s • Dotonbori Canal

View on Dotonbori Canal, Osaka

This image still kind of baffles me. According to the title on the negative this is a view on the Dotonbori canal in Osaka. But all other photographs of Dotonbori show a much wider canal and very different buildings. The scene on this image actually very much resembles images of Kita-Shinchi, Osaka’s famed entertainment area in the North of the city. If you happen to have information about this image, please do let me know. For images of the Dotonbori canal, see Osaka 1880s • Dotonbori Canal and Osaka 1890s • Ebisubashi Bridge.

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Yokohama 1890s • Bentendori

Bentendori, Yokohama

Festival lanterns cheer up the business district of Bentendori 2-chome and 3-chome in Yokohama. During the Meiji Period (1868-1912), this was Yokohama’s premier shopping street. Foreign visitors came here to buy porcelain, curios, ivory, silk and photographs. The photographer of this very image, Kimbei Kusakabe, actually had a studio on this street between 1881 and 1889. Later Nobukuni Enami, Kozaburo Tamamura and others set up shop here as well. Japanese shoppers loved to come here, too, to shop for imported items. In the background is the clock tower of the watch and clock merchant Kawakita Naozo Shoten (河北直蔵商店), for many years the street’s most important landmark.

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Kyoto 1890s • Pagoda at Kiyomizu

Pagoda at Kiyomizu, Kyoto

The three-tiered Koyasu Pagoda (子安の塔) at the entrance gate to Kiyomizudera, possibly one of the most celebrated buddhist temples of Japan. The temple itself is behind the photographer. The pagoda contained an image of the buddhist deity Koyasu Kannon, which is believed to ease childbirth. In 1911 (Meiji 44), the pagoda was moved to a valley next to Kiyomizudera. It still exists and looks beautiful in Spring when it is surrounded by countless cherry trees in full blossom.

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Kyoto 1880s • Kiyomizudera

Kiyomizudera in Kyoto

A beautiful view on the huge wooden veranda of Kiyomizudera in Kyoto’s Higashiyama area. Kiyomizudera is the head temple of the Kita Hoso sect (北法相宗). It was first founded in 798, but the buildings in this photo were constructed in 1633. It is a fudasho (an office where amulets are distributed to pilgrims) among the 33 spiritual places of western Japan. The temple is especially famous for its enormous overhanging wooden veranda. One person can be seen sitting on this veranda, apparently in prayer.

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