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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  • Kjeld Duits

    Dear Meta, Thank you very much for your interest in Old Photos of Japan. The download …

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    How to download the pictures with bigger size?

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Art of the Japanese Postcard: Masterpieces fom the Leonard A. Lauder Collection • Kendall Brown et al

From the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century, Japan was a vital world center for postcard art. More than just casual mail pieces, these postcards were often designed by prominent artists and had a visual impact that belied their modest format.

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Tokyo 1910s • Hattori Building, Ginza

Ginza, Tokyo
Wako Building on Ginza, Tokyo
click to enlarge

Two streetcars pass by the Hattori Building in Tokyo’s fashionable Ginza. Carts are parked under the verdant trees. This classic tree-lined avenue with buildings only three floors high is utterly different from the Ginza that we know today. The only thing that is remotely similar is the existence of a clock tower. Now there is one on Wako Department Store (和光, see left – click to enlarge).

The Hattori Building was one of Ginza’s main landmarks. It was the home of K. Hattori & Co., a watch and jewellery shop opened in 1881 (Meiji 14) by Kintaro Hattori (1860-1934). In 1892 (Meiji 25), the company started making clocks and in 1913 (Taisho 2) it started with the production of watches, the first ones in Japan. We now know this company as Seiko, one of the most famous watch companies in the world.1

The iconic Hattori building did unfortunately not survive the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 (Taisho 12). The task of designing a replacement fell in the lap of Japanese architect Jin Watanabe (渡辺仁, 1887-1973). In 1932 (Showa 7), he completed a massive granite Neo-Renaissance style building with a wide curved base. This became the home of Wako Department Store.

The building’s outer wall has an interesting relief that most people overlook. It features the letter H for Hattori, with a cane and snake that symbolize Hermes, the god of commerce; scales to symbolize precision machines; and a silver cup to represent precious metals.

The building’s predecessor was not forgotten. While the Hattori Building featured a bell that was manually struck to mark the hours, Wako has a clock that plays the chime of London’s Westminster Abbey.2

Watanabe left quite a mark on Kanto. Many architects will be happy if they get to build one landmark building, but Watanabe actually designed a whole string of them.

Besides Wako, the most renowned are undoubtedly Hotel New Grand (Yokohama, 1927), Waseda Elementary School (Tokyo, 1928), Nichigeki Theater (Tokyo, 1933-1981), Tokyo National Museum Honkan (Tokyo, 1938) and the Dai-ichi Seimei Building (Tokyo, 1938).

The Dai-ichi Seimei Building even managed to enter into the world’s history books when General Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964) decided to use it as his GHQ after the end of WWII. It was one of some 600 Tokyo buildings taken over by the Americans.

Amazingly, Ginza Wako survived the massive aerial bombing that Tokyo sustained during WWII. The US military therefore used it as a PX during the US Occupation of Japan (1945-1952), one of several in Tokyo.3

After the occupation ended, Wako managed to recapture its former glory and to this day many people consider it one of Japan’s top luxury department stores.

For another view of Ginza, see Tokyo 1890s • Shinbashi Bridge, Ginza.

Map of Ginza in Tokyo, 1911
1911 (Meiji 44) Map of Tokyo: 1. Shinbashi Station; 2. Shinbashi Bridge; 3. Ginza; 4. Hattori Building; 5. Kyobashi Bridge.


1 Seiko. History. Retrieved on 2008-04-15.

2 Shiseido. Ginza Wako. Retrieved on 2008-04-15.

3 Ginza Concierge. Ginza during the occupation. Retrieved on 2008-04-15.

4 For those interested in Ginza during its former glory days, Shiseido offers a very interesting virtual tour of Ginza on its site.

5 A detailed and extremely interesting history of the Seiko company can be found on the Seiko site. Highly recommended.

Photographer: Unknown
Publisher: Ueda
Medium: Postcard
Image Number 70124-0017

Quote this number when you contact us about licensing this image.
You can also licence this image online: 70124-0017 @ MeijiShowa.com.

Usage of this image requires a reproduction fee.
Reference for Citations

Duits, K. (2008, April 16). Tokyo 1910s • Hattori Building, Ginza, Old Photos of Japan. Retrieved on 2021, Sep 26 from https://www.oldphotosjapan.com/photos/158/hattori-building-ginza

Posted by • 2008-04-16
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How to download the pictures with bigger size?

#000423 · Meta Bawana · 2009-08-20

Dear Meta,

Thank you very much for your interest in Old Photos of Japan. The download function has now been fixed, and you can download the images straight from the site.

Please click on the “download this photo” link above the photo, and follow the instructions.

The license fee is USD 199.00 which can be paid online with a major credit card.


• 300 dpi jpg
• longest side = 2400 px (8 inches on paper)
• immediate download

You can use the image in a single medium for a maximum of 12 months. In case of books, there is no time limit.

Please free to contact me if you require a larger image, or need a wider license. I will inform you right away of the applicable fees.

Speak to you soon,

Kjeld Duits

#000424 · Kjeld Duits (author) · 2009-08-21

Textile help

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