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.
Recent Comments  
  • Kjeld Duits

    Great suggestion, Luigi. Thanks. Incidentally, Luigi is the nickname that my friends gave me when …

  • Luigi Guarino

    You may be interested in the observations on Japanese agriculture made by the Russian botanist …

  • atendra sharan

    how a rice threshing machine can be made

  • Kjeld Duits

    Thank you!

  • Alvarus

    I think it is the best photo :)

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Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World, 1852-1912 • Donald Keene

When Emperor Meiji began his rule, in 1867, Japan was a splintered empire, dominated by the shogun and the daimyos, who ruled over the country’s more than 250 decentralized domains and who were, in the main, cut off from the outside world, staunchly antiforeign, and committed to the traditions of the past. Before long, the shogun surrendered to the emperor, a new constitution was adopted, and Japan emerged as a modern, industrialized state.

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1890s • Threshing Rice

Farmer's Couple Clearing Rice (Photo by Kozaburo Tamamura)

A woman is threshing (脱穀) rice stalks with a Senbakoki (千歯扱き, threshing machine), while a man is carrying straw bags balanced on a pole. In the back drying rice plants can be seen, it was customary to dry freshly cut rice plants before threshing commenced.

The Senbakoki (or Senba) is unique to Japan and was developed during the Genroku Period (1688-1704) in Daikumura (大工村, currently part of Takaishi City in Osaka Prefecture).

It consisted of a waist-high wooden frame from which teeth protruded. These teeth were made of iron or bamboo and made this agrarian tool look like a giant comb.

Rice stalks were pulled through this comb to separate the grains from the stems. In case of wheat, barley and oats, the Senbakoki was used to separate the ears, after which the threshing was accomplished by striking them with flails.

Until the introduction of the Senbakoki, a primitive implement called Kokibashi (扱箸) was used to thresh rice. This was basically a split piece of bamboo, often compared to giant chopsticks, through which the stalks were pulled to remove the grains. It was slow and hard work.

The Senbakoki therefore greatly improved the efficiency of threshing, but it also put many widows out of work who had made a living by threshing rice with the Kokibashi.

The Senbakoki faded away after the introduction of western farming technologies during the 20th century.

An Early Meiji Farmer’s Calendar

March-April: Sowing rice on a small sub-field, ploughing fields with ox, fertilizing fields.

May-June: Transplantation of rice to larger fields, weeding fields, harvesting wheat.

July-September: Weeding fields, irrigating fields by taking water from streams.

October-November: Harvesting and threshing rice, sowing wheat.

December-February: Making goods from left-over stalks (straw slippers, etc.), maintaining wheat.


1 Wikipedia has an excellent article about Agriculture in the Empire of Japan.

Photographer: Kozaburo Tamamura
Publisher: Kozaburo Tamamura
Medium: Albumen Print
Image Number 71205-0009

Quote this number when you contact us about licensing this image.
You can also licence this image online: 71205-0009 @ MeijiShowa.com.

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

Duits, K. (2008, May 15). 1890s • Threshing Rice, Old Photos of Japan. Retrieved on 2021, Oct 26 from https://www.oldphotosjapan.com/photos/244/threshing-rice

Posted by • 2008-05-15
Add Comment

I think it is the best photo :)

#000052 · Alvarus · 2008-05-30

Thank you!

#000053 · Kjeld Duits (author) · 2008-05-31

how a rice threshing machine can be made

#000063 · atendra sharan · 2008-06-05

You may be interested in the observations on Japanese agriculture made by the Russian botanist Nikolai Vavilov in the late 1920s.

#000369 · Luigi Guarino · 2009-02-17

Great suggestion, Luigi. Thanks. Incidentally, Luigi is the nickname that my friends gave me when I lived in Italy!

#000370 · Kjeld Duits (author) · 2009-02-19

Textile help

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