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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Kobe 1910s • Fukuhara Brothels

Fukuhara Brothel District, Kobe

Women stand in front of a building with an exotic mixture of Western and Japanese architecture in Fukuhara, Kobe’s renowned red light district. Although the district never appeared in tourist guides and official histories, Fukuhara was Kobe’s main attraction. When in 1874 (Meiji 7), the local population was asked to vote for Kobe’s eight most popular areas, Fukuhara made the top spot by a landslide. Clearly, the voters were all men.

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1890s • Kakubeijishi

Japanese Acrobats

Kakubeijishi (角兵衛獅子, also: Kakubeejishi) are acrobatics performed on the street by young boys who did handstands, somersaults and the like, either alone or with their partners. In this photo, three children perform a combination act. The acrobatics were accompanied by drums, usually played by an adult leader. Kakubeijishi has its roots in the province of Echigo (now in Niigata Prefecture). The stories about the origins of Kakubeijishi, and especially the boys’ trademark handstand, are absolutely fascinating.

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Yokohama 1880s • Farms at Negishi

Negishi, Yokohama
Negishi today
click to enlarge

Farms at Negishi in Yokohama. This beautiful rural landscape was a short distance from the foreign settlement. Cross the mountain on the left of this image and you were on the Bluff at Yamate, where the foreigners had their luxurious homes. Negishi was called Mississippi Bay by the foreigners, apparently this was coined by Commodore Perry whose flagship bore that name. They also called it “the most scenic spot in the world” and would come here to enjoy the fantastic view on the sea and the faraway cliffs at Honmoku. At the foot of the cliffs, local women and children combed for shellfish at low tide.

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Kyoto 1880s • View from Higashiyama

Panoramic View on Kyoto

View on the city of Kyoto and the Nishiyama Mountain Range as seen from a viewing platform (展望台) at the Yoshimizu Hot Spring (吉水温泉) at Higashiyama. The path leads to Yasaka Jinja. On this image it does not yet have the electricity poles that would line it later. The scaffolding on the large building along the path suggests that it is under construction or undergoing maintenance (see detailed image below). The green area in the middle of this photograph would in 1886 (Meiji 19) become Maruyama Park. The building from which this photo was taken burnt down in 1906 (Meiji 39).

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