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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A Career of Japan: Baron Raimund Von Stillfried and Early Yokohama Photography • Luke Gartlan

A Career of Japan is the first study of one of the major photographers and personalities of nineteenth-century Japan. Baron Raimund von Stillfried was the most important foreign-born photographer of the Meiji era and one of the first globally active photographers of his generation. He played a key role in the international image of Japan and the adoption of photography within Japanese society itself.

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1910s • Girl with Baby

Japanese Girl with Paper Parasol Carrying her Baby Sister

A young girl holding a paper parasol and a chochin (lantern) is carrying her baby sister on her back. In the back the thatched roof of a farm house can be seen, with a farmer sitting in front. As in other countries, rural Japanese children started helping with home and farm chores from a very young age.

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Utsunomiya 1890s • Panoramic View

View on Utsunomiya

View on Utsunomiya, (宇都宮市), the capital of Tochigi Prefecture. The photographer most probably looked south-east from Futarayama Shrine (二荒山神社). Utsunomiya prospered as a temple town before it became a castle town and subsequently a town for accommodations along the Oshu Kaido highway, connecting Edo (current Tokyo) with Mutsu Province in the North, and the Nikko Kaido, which connected Edo with Nikko. The town was destroyed during the Boshin War (a civil war fought from 1868 to 1869) and once again during WWII. As the majority of the photographs during the Meiji Period were created for sale to foreign visitors, this image of a town that didn’t attract that many of them is quite special. Early English language travel guides only mention the city as a station on the way to the very popular tourist attraction of Nikko.

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Kyoto 1934 • City Hall

Municipal Building, Kyoto, Japan (May 1934).
Kyoto City Hall
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The municipal building of the city of Kyoto was designed by Goichi Takeda (1872-1938, 武田五一), in collaboration with Shinichi Nakano (中野進一). Constructed in two stages, the first stage was finished in 1927 and the second one in 1931. This photo, taken in May 1934, therefore shows the building when it was still quite new. Goichi Takeda, who founded the department of architecture at Kyoto University, played an important role in the establishment of modern Japanese architecture in the Kansai area.

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Yokohama 1890s • Nectarine No. 9 Brothel

Nectarine (No 9) Brothel, Yokohama

Gorgeously dressed prostitutes are standing in the windows of the Nectarine brothel in Yokohama, a world-famous house of prostitution also known as No.9 or Jimpuro (新風楼, occasionally romanized as Jinpuro or Shinpuro). Until the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, Jimpuro was one of the top brothels of the city. It was originally opened in 1872 (Meiji 5) in Yokohama’s Takashima-cho (高島町). In 1882 (Meiji 15), Jimpuro moved to the less visible area of Eiraku-cho (永楽町). A branch specifically for foreigners was opened at the red-light district of Kanagawa’s Nanaken-machi (七軒町). The brothel was called No. 9, because this was Jimpuro’s original address in Takashima-cho.

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