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71005-0007 - Isezakicho, Theater Street, Yokohama

Yokohama 1890s
Isezaki-cho 2-chome

Artist Kimbei Kusakabe
Publisher Kimbei Kusakabe
Medium Albumen Print
Period Meiji
Location Yokohama
Image No. 71005-0007
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The area between Isezakicho and Nigiwai-cho was known among foreigners as Theater Street.

Since around 1877 (Meiji 10), the street was filled with theaters, teahouses and restaurants which attracted lots of crowds and made this one of Yokohama’s most lively areas of the middle of the Meiji Period (1868-1912).

This photograph shows the area around Isami-za theater (勇座) in Matsugae-cho (松ヶ枝町, current Isezaki-cho 2-chome) as it looked sometime between 1887 (Meiji 20) and 1897 (Meiji 30). In 1899 (Meiji 32), the area burned down and all this vanished forever.

When you see all these flags advertising the theaters, productions and certain artists you understand Japan’s current love affair with neon signs. They are really electrified flags. I think that I prefer the flags, I just love how they move in the wind and the sounds they make.

They are a whole lot better for the environment, too.

For more information about Isezaki-cho and to see a photo of the same area during the 1910s, read Yokohama 1910s • Isezaki-cho 2-chome.

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Reference for Citations

Duits, Kjeld (). Yokohama 1890s: Isezaki-cho 2-chome, OLD PHOTOS of JAPAN. Retrieved on September 28, 2022 (GMT) from

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Kjeld Duits

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Japan secretly invented color film long before the West. No just kidding! Photographers in Japan hired artists to color their photographs. Many of these artists used to work as woodblock colorists so they were very well-skilled. They also used special water colors that allowed the photo to shine through. At the time, this work was very highly regarded in the West and even received several awards. It is really beautiful, isn’t it?



And this is how it looks over a hundred years after the coloring was actually done. The chemicals of the pigments, paper, air and humidity have had the freedom to interact for more than a century and this usually doesn’t make the photo look any better. When the images were still fresh, the coloring was exquisitely soft and gentle. I recently was able to acquire some images that for some reason were in much better condition than any of the other images in my collection and I was flabbergasted. It is lifelike and almost fragile in a way, and oh so beautiful.