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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1910s • Woman in Striped Kimono

Japanese Woman in Kimono

A melancholic image of a young Japanese woman with a slightly modern Japanese hairstyle. She is holding her hand, hidden in a piece of cloth, close to her chin. It makes her look very bashful and shy. During the early 20th century, picture postcards of bijin (beautiful women) were extremely popular in Japan (see Woman with Rose)

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Osaka 1930s • Osaka Station

Steam Train Arriving at Osaka Station

A steam locomotive arrives at the overhead platform of Osaka Station sometime during the 1930s. Originally a wooden building, Osaka Station became a stone structure in 1901 (Meiji 34). Compared to the current Osaka Station, the platforms look a bit deserted. Largely through the enormous efforts of the Japanese government, traveling by train was extremely popular and common, though. When this photo was taken, Japan already had one of the busiest and most advanced railway networks in the world.

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Tokyo 1890s • Yoshiwara Brothel

Brothel in Yoshiwara, Tokyo

Women sit in the window of a Meiji period brothel in Yoshiwara, Tokyo’s well-known red light district. For more in formation about Yoshiwara, read Tokyo 1900s • Yoshiwara Omon. For other photos of prostitution in old Japan, see Prostitution.

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Kobe 1910s • Oriental Hotel

Oriental Hotel, Kobe

The Oriental Hotel was Kobe’s face for more than a hundred years. At the time that this photo was taken, it was known as one of the best places in Japan to stay, and even more, one of the best places to eat. It didn’t attract only foreigners visiting Kobe, but also well-to-do Japanese who used the hotel as a high-class meeting place. In author Junichiro Tanizaki’s masterpiece The Makioka Sisters (細雪, Sasameyuki), the Makioka family often went to the Oriental on special occasions. They even did their omiai there.

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