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 And Artifice: Japanese Photographs Of The Meiji Era • Sebastian Dobson, Anne Nishimura Morse, Frederic Sharf
Art And Artifice

A brief introduction to Meiji-era photographs and to the world in which they flourished. Three essays and dozens of images explore the social function of these photos, their remarkable artistry, and the personal stories of those who collected and preserved these images.


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1920s • Woman with Parasol

Japanese Woman with Parasol

An almost melancholic image of a young Japanese woman with a traditional Japanese hairstyle holding a paper parasol. During the early 20th century, picture postcards of bijin (beautiful women) were extremely popular in Japan (see Woman with Rose)

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Nagasaki 1870s • Amidabashi Bridge

Amida Bridge and Korai Bridge on Nakashima River, Nagasaki

A beautiful romantic view on Amidabashi (Amida Bridge) over Nagasaki’s Zeniyagawa (Zeniya River, nowadays called Nakashimagawa), photographed in 1872 (Meiji 5). In front of Amidabashi is a well. Buckets are seen, but no people. Possibly because of the long exposure time used by the photographer. The bridge in the back is Koraibashi. Rocks and boulders strewn all over the river bed create an image of wild untamed nature, right in the middle of the city of Nagasaki.

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1910s • Woman with Rose

Portrait of a Japanese Woman with Flower

A young woman in kimono and traditional Japanese hairstyle looks at a white rose she holds. This postcard was published sometime between 1907 and 1918. During the early 20th century, picture postcards of bijin (beautiful women) were extremely popular in Japan.

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1890s • Fish Shop

Japanese Fishmongers

Two young men are relaxing in a fish shop. Fish has always been an important part of the Japanese diet and was sold both at shops and by fish peddlers (furiuri) who walked around carrying fish in tubs that hung from a carrying pole on their shoulder.

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