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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Tokyo 1924 • Large Private Garden

Japan. Tokyo. Extensive Private Garden, Pool of Water, bridge, Pagoda, Flowers and Trees

A very large private garden in Tokyo, featuring a pond, a stone bridge and an almost exotic looking building.

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Tokyo 1934 • Modern Obi

Japan. Tokyo. Girls Wearing Kimono and Obi. Hair Dressed in Modern Style; School Girl in Middy Suit and Hat. (May 1934)

This photo, taken in Tokyo in May 1934, shows two girls wearing a kimono, and two more girls wearing western style clothes, one of them a middy suit and a hat. The girl with her back towards the photographer is wearing an obi (the beautifully decorated sash used to tie the kimono) which must have been quite modern at the time.

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1924 • Entrance of a House

Japan. Dwelling, Two Women Standing at Entrance. Lantern

Two women in kimono stand at the entrance, called genkan (玄関), of a house of what appears to be a well-to-do family. There is a huge stone lantern and the large open area in front of the entrance suggests much space between the entrance and the gate. The word genkan was first introduced in the 17th century and used for a porch-like projection from the guard house or retainers room, built in the residences of leading warriors and shoguns.1 Other people were prohibited from having a genkan. By the 18th century, however, exceptions were made for rich merchants, village headmen, doctors and officials in charge of important shrines.2 During the Meiji Period (1868-1912) many rules like these were struck off the books and the genkan became an accepted part of an increasing number of houses.

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Kobe 1930s • Elevated Railway Tracks

Steam Train on Elevated Railway Tracks in Kobe

A steam locomotive pulls passenger cars on elevated railway tracks in Kobe. When the railroad connection between Kobe and Osaka was opened in 1870 (Meiji 3), Kobe was still a small town and the tracks didn’t appear to be in the way. But as the town grew, the tracks ended up being right in the middle of the city center, cutting the town in half. As traffic increased, this division turned into a major drawback. So in October 1931, the tracks were elevated. In neighborhoods that attracted many people, shops and even some homes were built under the tracks, people didn’t seem to mind the thundering trains above their heads…During WWII the area below the tracks serviced as a welcome shelter for countless people who lost their homes to fire bomb raids.

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