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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Nagasaki 1900s • Buildings on the Bund

Hong Kong Shanghai Bank and Nagasaki Hotel on the Bund, Nagasaki

This postcard of around 1907 shows two important buildings on the Bund in Oura-Sagarimatsu. The large white building is the Nagasaki branch of the Hongkong Shanghai Bank, the brown building on the right is the Nagasaki Hotel. At that time, they were right on the edge of Nagasaki harbor and just a short walking distance away from Deshima (also: Dejima) island.

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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
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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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