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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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Unbeaten Tracks in Japan • Isabella L. Bird
Unbeaten Tracks in Japan

In 1878, just 19 years after Japan opened it first ports to the world, and a mere ten years after the fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate, an adventurous 47-year old woman from the UK set out to explore the interior of Japan. The country was virtually unknown to Westerners, and a woman traveling only with a guide seemed outrageous. Everybody advised her not to, but she went anyway and wrote this unique and vivid journal of what she saw and experienced.

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Tokyo 1920s • Tokyo Station

Tokyo 1920s: Tokyo Station
Tokyo Station
click to enlarge

Located in the Marunouchi business district of Tokyo, near the Imperial Palace grounds and the Ginza commercial district, Tokyo Station was designed by architect Tatsuno Kingo to celebrate Japan’s victory in the Russo-Japanese War. Unfortunately, the beautiful domes and the top floor were destroyed during fire-bombings on May 25 and June 25, 1945 (Showa 20).1

Although Tokyo Station is now Japan’s most important train station, it was built almost half a century after Japan’s first railway tracks were laid.

Japan’s first daily train services started on June 12, 1872 (Meiji 5) between Shinagawa and Yokohama. Because the military would not allow tracks on their land, it would take until October of the same year before the tracks were extended to Shinbashi (also: Shimbashi) Station. On October 14, 1872 the line was officially opened by Emperor Meiji

In 1889 (Meiji 22), a plan for an elevated railway line connecting the Tokaido Main Line terminal at Shinbashi to the Nippon Railway (now Tohoku Main Line) terminal at Ueno was drawn up by a Tokyo municipal committee. In 1896 (Meiji 29), the Imperial Diet decided to construct a Central Station on this line.

The First Sino-Japanese War and Russo-Japanese War delayed the construction of the new station, but it was finally started in 1908 (Meiji 41). Tokyo Station was completed on December 18, 1914 (Taisho 3), and officially opened on the 20th.

Initially, the station had gates on the Marunouchi side only. The north side was the Station’s exit and the south side the entrance. Prime Minister Takashi Hara was assassinated by railway switchman Konichi Nakaoka at these south gates in the evening of November 4, 1921 (Taisho 10).

Hara was the leader of the Seiyukai (Association of Friends of Constitutional Government) and organized Japan’s first “true party based cabinet.” He intended to board the 7:30 p.m. sleeper to Kyoto to attend the Seiyukai’s Kinki Conference when the switchman, upset by Seiyukai policies, stabbed him to death.4

It was the first assassination since Japan had set up a constitutional government and it shocked the country. His successor Korekiyo Takahashi would lead a new Seiyukai Cabinet, but it soon fell. As part of efforts to create a single-party state, Seiyukai dissolved itself into the Imperial Rule Assistance Association in 1940.5

After the station was destroyed in 1945, it was quickly rebuilt. But instead of the elegant domes, simple angular roofs were built. There was no money to rebuild the third floor.

After the rebuilt Yaesu side was damaged by fire in 1949 (Showa 24), it received a contemporary exterior. At the same time, Daimaru department store was also added. The new facilities opened in 1953 (Showa 28) and were used for the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) when services began in 1964 (Showa 39).1

On May 30, 2007 (Heisei 19) a ground-breaking ceremony was held for the restoration of the Marunouchi side of Tokyo Station. It will be restored to its original design, with the surrounding area becoming a broad plaza. The station will also be made more earthquake proof. The overall project cost is estimated at approximately 50 billion yen (469 million dollars) and will take until 2011.6

Many sources claim that the station was inspired by Amsterdam’s Central Station, but architectural historian Terunobu Fujimori believes that this is not the case.3

Tokyo Station is Tokyo’s main intercity rail terminal and the busiest station in Japan in terms of number of trains per day (over 4,000). It is the eighth-busiest in Japan in terms of passenger throughput. Tokyo’s Shinjuku station is number 1.1

Tokyo Station has been designated an Important National Cultural Asset.

Japanese Railways Timeline7

1854Commodore Matthew Perry introduces a model of a steam locomotive to Japan
1865 – A demonstration of a steam locomotive is given in Nagasaki
1872 – Opening of Japan’s first railway between Shinbashi (Tokyo) and Yokohama
1874 – The first return tickets are sold in Japan for the railway connection between Osaka and Kobe, started this year
1881 – Foundation of Nippon Railway, Japan’s first private railway company
1882 – Opening of Horonai Railway, first railway in Hokkaido
1888 – Opening of Iyo Railway, first railway in Shikoku
1889 – Opening of Kyushu Railway, first railway in Kyushu
1889 – Completion of the Tokaido Main Line
1893 – Class 860 steam locomotive, first locomotive built in Japan
1895 – Opening of Japan’s first streetcar in Kyoto
1895 – Japan’s acquisition of railway in Taiwan
1899 – Opening of Keijin Railway, first railway in Korea
1906 – Opening of first railway in Karafuto
1906 – Foundation of South Manchuria Railway
1906-1907 – Nationalization of 17 private railways
1914 – Opening of Tokyo Station
1925 – Inauguration of the Yamanote Loop Line
1927 – Opening of Tokyo subway, the first subway in Asia


1 Wikipedia, Tokyo Station. Retrieved on 2008-02-03

2 Aoki, Eiichi (1994) Japanese Railway History: Dawn of Japanese Railways, Japan Railway & Transport Review No. 1: 28–30

3 Fujimori, Terunobu (1997). 建築探偵 雨天決行. Asahi Shimbunsha. ISBN 9784022611796

4 National Diet Library, 3-10 Assassination of Prime Minister HARA. Retrieved on 2008-02-03

5 Wikipedia, Rikken Seiyūkai. Retrieved on 2008-02-03

6 East Japan Railway Company, Press release: Commencement of Preservation and Restoration Work on the Tokyo Station Marunouchi Building. Retrieved on 2008-02-03

7 Wikipedia, Rail transport in Japan. Retrieved on 2008-03-27

8 Additional reading: Aoki, Eiichi (1994) Expansion of Railway Network, Japan Railway & Transport Review: 34–37

Photographer: Unknown
Publisher: Taisho Hato
Medium: Postcard
Image Number 70111-0007

Quote this number when you contact us about licensing this image.
You can also licence this image online: 70111-0007 @ MeijiShowa.com.

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

Duits, K. (2007, April 15). Tokyo 1920s • Tokyo Station, Old Photos of Japan. Retrieved on 2021, Oct 26 from https://www.oldphotosjapan.com/photos/17/tokyo-1920s-tokyo-station

Posted by • 2007-04-15
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