Festival lanterns cheer up the business district of Bentendori 2-chome and 3-chome in Yokohama.
During the Meiji Period (1868-1912), this was Yokohama’s premier shopping street. Foreign visitors came here to buy porcelain, curios, ivory, silk and photographs. The photographer of this very image, Kimbei Kusakabe, actually had a studio on this street between 1881 and 1889. Later Nobukuni Enami, Kozaburo Tamamura and others set up shop here as well.
Japanese shoppers loved to come here, too, to shop for imported items. In the background is the clock tower of the watch and clock merchant Kawakita Naozo Shoten (河北直蔵商店), for many years the street’s most important landmark.
Unfortunately, the exotic amalgamation of Japan and the Western world that existed on Bentendori was forever destroyed by the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. Now it is a boring street with unimpressive buildings and very little to do.
Kimbei Kusakabe shot at least two versions of this image. The first one was shot before the clock tower seen in the background was built. After the clock tower’s construction in 1894 (Meiji 27), Kusakabe went back to the original location and shot the same image again, giving the photo the same number as the original.
In other words, he actually updated his view of this street to correspond with the real-world situation.
Reference for Citations
Duits, Kjeld (). Yokohama 1890s: Bentendori, OLD PHOTOS of JAPAN. Retrieved on May 27, 2022 (GMT) from https://www.oldphotosjapan.com/photos/418/bentendori
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