OLD PHOTOS of JAPAN, a photo blog of Japan in the Meiji, Taisho and Showa periods

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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.
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  • NyNy

    A lovely picture! The theater is amazing.

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Unbeaten Tracks in Japan • Isabella L. Bird
Unbeaten Tracks in Japan

In 1878, just 19 years after Japan opened it first ports to the world, and a mere ten years after the fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate, an adventurous 47-year old woman from the UK set out to explore the interior of Japan. The country was virtually unknown to Westerners, and a woman traveling only with a guide seemed outrageous. Everybody advised her not to, but she went anyway and wrote this unique and vivid journal of what she saw and experienced.

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Yokohama 1900s • Tomitake Theater

70130-0017 - Tomitake Theater

Tomitake-tei (富竹亭, Tomitake Hall) on Bashamichi-dori, Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, a stone’s throw from Yoshidabashi Bridge. The theater, which was active through 1912 (Taisho 1), was owned by Takejiro Takeuchi (竹内竹次郎), who ran three other yose theaters in Yokohama.

Henry James BlackTomitake-tei opened in December 1878 (Meiji 11). One of the theater’s first performers included the now largely forgotten Australian born rakugo story teller and kabuki actor Henry James Black (1858-1923).

Black performed as Kairakutei Black (快楽亭ブラック), but was also known as Ishii Black (石井貎刺屈). His father was John Reddie Black (1826-1880), publisher of several newspapers in Japan, among which The Far East and the Japan Gazette.

During the 1880s and 1890s, rakugo was a catalyst in bringing modernity to the Japanese masses, and Black did much to disperse concepts of modernization.

However, with modernization becoming synonymous with Westernization, Black also warned that Japan might loose the unique facets of its culture. As a sample he gave the reforms then occurring in Japanese theater:

Theatre forms in my country England, and in Japan, are fairly different. Above all, there are gentlemen such as Fukuchi Genichiro doing their utmost to reform the theatre. One of the issues is whether it is better to reform by adopting the Western approach, or whether the Japanese theatre is better reformed while retaining its uniqueness entirely.1

Perhaps Japanese theater was the last thing that Black needed to worry about. Although much Japanese culture has been lost forever, most modern audiences will undoubtedly say that at least Japanese theater has managed to maintain its uniqueness.


1 McArthur, Ian Douglas (2002). Mediating Modernity — Henry Black and narrated hybridity in Meiji Japan, 219.

Photographer: Unknown
Publisher: Unknown
Medium: Postcard
Image Number 70130-0017

Quote this number when you contact us about licensing this image.
You can also licence this image online: 70130-0017 @ MeijiShowa.com.

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Reference for Citations

Duits, K. (2011, January 5). Yokohama 1900s • Tomitake Theater, Old Photos of Japan. Retrieved on 2021, May 18 from https://www.oldphotosjapan.com/photos/829/tomitake-theater

Posted by • 2011-01-05
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A lovely picture! The theater is amazing.

#000508 · NyNy · 2013-02-22

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