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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Conflicts of Interest: Art and War in Modern Japan • Philip Hu et al

This fascinating publication showcases the Saint Louis Art Museum’s collection of Japanese military prints and related materials―one of the largest collections of such works in the world.


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Tokyo 1910s • Ginza

Street Cars at Ginza, Tokyo

Looking north-east towards Ginza not too far from the spot where the current Shinbashi subway station is located. Two electrified streetcars, first introduced in 1903 (Meiji 36), are in the front, others can be seen in the far background. The empty space in front of the building with the tower is Shinbashi Bridge. The building itself is the celebrated Teikoku Hakuhinkan Kankoba (帝国博品館勧工場, current Hakuhinkan), established in October 1899 (Meiji 32). The building featured a large variety of shops and was similar to our modern shopping center. It is generally considered to be the origin of the Japanese department store.

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Nagasaki 1870s • Minamiyamate

View on Oura and Nagasaki Harbor

A view on Nagasaki Harbor and the southern tip of the city’s foreign settlement. The main settlement in Oura is behind the hill in the right background. The lone pine tree located on that hill marks the location of the residence of the influential Scottish merchant Thomas Blake Glover (1838-1911). The house was completed in 1863 (Bunkyu 3) and is today the oldest extant Western-style building in Japan. The area to the left of that is Kozone (小曾根). The Japanese houses in the front are located in Naminohira (浪の平). On the fields in the right foreground, a modern school (Chintei Elementary School, 尋常鎮鼎小学校) would be built in 1887 (Meiji 20). Several Western residences can already be seen, soon more would follow and by the early 1890s all the fields seen on this image were gone.

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Kobe 1910s • Sannomiya

Sannomiya, Kobe

Ikuta-mae, the street leading to the shinto shrine Ikuta Jinja. In the background the shrine’s torii can be seen. One Western style building made of stone stands out among the otherwise traditional wooden architecture. When Kobe opened its port for trade in 1868 (Meiji 1), this was a beautiful rural sand-road that lead from the shrine to the sea and was lined on both sides with plum and cherry trees and countless stone lanterns. The Dutch located their first consulate around here on the left side of the road. The consul must have had an incredibly beautiful view in spring when all those trees were in flower. The trees and lanterns, however, were removed in the 1870s and the country road became a bustling shopping street that connected Ikuta Jinja with the Foreign Settlement.

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1880s • Pilgrims

Japanese Pilgrims

Three Pilgrims are resting at a weathered pine tree in what appears to be the grounds of a buddhist temple. They are wearing white vestments, sugegasa (菅笠, sedge-woven hats) and waraji (straw sandals). They are also holding long walking sticks and carry primitive backpacks. The pilgrim on the right carries a juzu (数珠, buddhist rosary) around his neck. The sugegasa have the characters 金 (kin, gold) and 同行 (dougyou, fellow pilgrim) written on it, which indicates that they are on a pilgrimage to Kotohira-gu shrine (金刀比羅宮), better known as Konpira-san, in Kagawa Prefecture.

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