ronin, a former samurai, from Satsuma." />

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
Hiroshige & Eisen. The Sixty-Nine Stations along the Kisokaido • Andreas Marks, Rhiannon Paget

The Kisokaido route through Japan was ordained in the early 1600s by the country’s then-ruler Tokugawa Ieyasu, who decreed that staging posts be installed along the length of the arduous passage between Edo (present-day Tokyo) and Kyoto. Inns, shops, and restaurants were established to provide sustenance and lodging to weary travelers.

Read Full Article
Buy now at Amazon!
More book tips

Kobe 1910s • Motomachi Itchome

Motomachi Itchome, Kobe

Shops and rickshaws at Motomachi Itchome in Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture Japan. The shop with the elephant is Zouki. It was established in 1875 (Meiji 8) by Kihei Sodeoka. Sodeoka was a ronin, a former samurai, from Satsuma.

Sodeoka left Satsuma and started an ivory business in Kyoto. His shop in Kyoto burnt down in 1868 (Meiji 1) during the Boshin War (1868-1869) and he eventually moved to Kobe where he started a new business.

The name of his shop was derived from the Japanese word for ivory (zouge) and his first name (Kihei).1

Besides selling ivory, Zouki also sold import goods and was among the first distributors of the Asahi Shimbun when it was launched in 1879 (Meiji 12). Newspapers at this time were not delivered to subscribers, but sold in stores.

As a shop of import goods, Zouki played an important role in Kobe. It was for example the first shop to sell bicycles in this town.

Being a former samurai, Sodeoka appears to not have been really cut out to be a businessman. Samurai were proud people and Sodeoka was no exception. It is said that when customers asked for a discount, he would angrily tell them to leave his shop.

1 Yasui, Yujiro (2007). Shiru Chikara: Kobe Motomachidori de yomu no sho. Ashiya: Japan Memory, 37, 171, 174. ISBN 978-4-8354-8080-0

Photographer: Unknown
Publisher: Unknown
Medium: Postcard
Image Number 71006-0006

Quote this number when you contact us about licensing this image.
You can also licence this image online: 71006-0006 @

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

Duits, K. (2008, March 5). Kobe 1910s • Motomachi Itchome, Old Photos of Japan. Retrieved on 2020, Aug 11 from

Posted by • 2008-03-05
Add Comment

Textile help

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