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.
Good Book Tip
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.

Read Full Article
Buy now at Amazon!
More book tips

Kobe 1910s • Steam Launches

Steam Boats at America Hatoba in Kobe

Harbor launches at the American Hatoba, for many years the main pier in Kobe. Until 1922, large ships couldn’t dock in the harbor, so the hooting launches maneuvered continuously through the multitudes of junks and other small vessels to shuttle passengers and their luggage between anchored ships and the pier. As the harbor developed, American Hatoba lost its importance as place of entry and in 1987 the pier finally vanished as it was incorporated into Meriken Park, Meriken being the local pronunciation of American.

At the time that this photo was shot, Kobe Port had already transformed into one of Japan’s main ports with lots of traffic. An Official Guide to Eastern Asia, published in 1914, gives an impression of the port at that time:

The merchant vessels of all kinds in both home and foreign trade, which entered and cleared the harbour of Kōbe during 1909 amounted to 15,327, of which those engaged in foreign trade numbered 2,418.

During 1909 passengers by sea landing at Kōbe numbered 213,405 from ships coasting in home waters and 19,407 from ocean-going steamers. The total was 232,802, of which 6,183 were foreigners. Among these latter Chinese numbered 2,476, Britons 1,493, Americans 1,090, Germans 320, Russians 308, and French 146.1

The harbor was divided into the the area between Wakinohama (#1 on map below) and the Kawasaki promontory (#7), used for merchant ships and junks, and the area between the Kawasaki promontory and Wadanomisaki (#8), used especially for vessels of the Japanese navy. Passengers landed at American Hatoba (#5) and the nearby Daisan Hatoba, located about where Kobe Port Tower is now.

Port of Hiogo, L'Univers Illustré, 1868
The port of Hiogo (later known as Kobe), just before it opened to foreign trade. British and American fleets are at anchor. A graphic from the French newspaper L’Univers Illustré, 1868.

Kobe Port was first opened to foreign trade in 1868. At that time it had no wharfs to serve large vessels so loading and offloading had to take place offshore. This situation persisted for a long time.

Finally in 1907, due to dramatic increases in trade, plans were made for extensive new port facilities. During the so-called First Stage Kobe Port Development Plan the Shinko (New Harbor) piers No. 1 through No. 4 were constructed (1907-1922). In 1919, work began on the Second Stage, which included the construction of Shinko piers No.4 (East) through No.6, Naka Pier and Hyogo Piers (No.1, No.2 Piers). This was completed in 1939. Kobe had now the largest berth in Japan, with a depth of 12m.

Timeline of Kobe Port2

1868 Hyogo Port is opened
1892 The harbor is officially named “Port of Kobe”
1896-1899 Construction of Hyogo Channel
1907-1922 Construction of Shinko Piers No.1-4 (West)
1919-1939 Construction of Shinko Piers No.4 (East)-No.6, Naka Pier, Hyogo Piers (No.1 & 2)
1923 Kobe is designated a national principal port
1934-1940 Reclamation work for the Eastern Home Trade Zone
1940-1952 Reclamation work of the area west of Togagawa river

Map of Kobe Port, 1914
1914 (Taisho 3) Map of Kobe: 1. Wakinohama; 2. Former Foreign Settlement; 3. Kaigandori; 4. Kobe Station; 5. American Hatoba; 6. Planned Harbor Development; 7. Kawasaki Dockyard; 8. Wadamisaki.


1 Imperial Japanese Government Railways. (1914). An Official Guide to Eastern Asia Vol. II: South Western Japan. Imperial Japanese Government Railways.

2 Port & Urban Projects Bureau Kobe City Government. Port of Kobe. Retrieved on 2008-07-21.

Photographer: Unknown
Publisher: Ueda
Medium: Postcard
Image Number 70330-0022

Quote this number when you contact us about licensing this image.
You can also licence this image online: 70330-0022 @ MeijiShowa.com.

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

Duits, K. (2008, July 21). Kobe 1910s • Steam Launches, Old Photos of Japan. Retrieved on 2021, Sep 28 from https://www.oldphotosjapan.com/photos/304/steam-boats

Posted by • 2008-07-21
Add Comment

Textile help

NOTE: Your e-mail address is required, but will not be displayed.