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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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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Arima 1890s • Hot Spring Village

View on Arima Onsen
Arima Onsen
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Houses, onsen ryokan (spa inns) and white kura (traditional storehouse) are crammed together at Arima Onsen, the ancient hot water spa nearby Kobe. The Arimagawa winds itself along the edge of the village. The white bridge crossing the Arimagawa is Taikobashi (太古橋). It connects the village with the Sanda Kaido (三田街道), the highway that lead to nearby Sanda. The large mountain in the back is Mount Rokko, still largely without trees at this time. In 1902 (Meiji 35) massive tree planting programs were started. In 1903 (Meiji 36), for example, some 730,000 trees were planted in the Futatabisan (再度山) area.

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