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.
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  • Kjeld Duits

    Most Japanese have never seen photos like this. When I showed some of my collection …

  • harleigh fleming

    I liked all these pictures, they must be very special to the Japanese. So they …

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.

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Tokyo 1934 • Sidewalk Restaurants

Japan. Tokyo. Sidewalk Restaurants. (May 1934)

Employees pose in front of Tokyo sidewalk restaurants on a sunny day in May, 1934. The delivery bicycle belongs to Yanase Sushi (the shop with the white sign with red kanji).

At the time that the New York State Education Department commissioned this slide, sushi was basically unknown outside Japan.

The first English language guide of Japan that mentions the dish in its index is Terry’s Guide to the Japanese Empire (1920). Although the guide does describe sashimi, it only briefly mentions sushi as a local product of the Sakawa River made of trout served at stations nearby Odawara in Kanagawa Prefecture.

“A product of this stream, in the shape of a small silvery trout seasoned with vinegar, cooked with rice, and called sushi, is sold at this and other stations (16 sen), and though unsavory and unpalatable to foreigners, it is much liked by the Japanese.”1

It took a while, but eventually sushi made the jump abroad. America’s first sushi restaurant (Restaurant Nippon) was opened in 1964 in New York. Chicago had to wait until 1967 (Kamehachi).

The first conveyer belt sushi restaurant outside Japan was opened in 1980, in Los Angeles. It launched a worldwide sushi boom. Paris saw its first sushi restaurant in 1984 and the first European sushi factory, making products for supermarkets, was established in Amsterdam in 1988. Sushi restaurants are found from Ho Chi Minh City, Bali and Katmandu to Vladivostok, Kuwait and Nairobi.2

Sushi now represents Japanese cuisine, and in many countries eating sushi is seen as a status symbol. When the first Michelin Guide for Tokyo was published in November 2007, the prestigious guide awarded two sushi restaurants with three stars. A total of 15 sushi restaurants were awarded one or more stars.3

How surprised Philip Terry would be if he could see how Japanese sushi restaurants have spread all over the world and are jammed-packed with foreigners.

This glass slide is one of a series of slides of Japan that was used by the New York State Education Department to teach students about Japan.


1 Terry, T. Philip (1920). Terry’s Guide to the Japanese Empire. Houghton Mifflin Company, 368.

2 Watanabe, Zenjiro, The Development and Expansion of the Japanese Diet. Retrieved on 2008-02-21.

3 Michelin Guide Japan

Photographer: Unknown
Publisher: New York State Education Department
Medium: Glass Slide
Image Number 80121-0006

Quote this number when you contact us about licensing this image.
You can also licence this image online: 80121-0006 @ MeijiShowa.com.

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

Duits, K. (2008, March 7). Tokyo 1934 • Sidewalk Restaurants, Old Photos of Japan. Retrieved on 2021, Jun 19 from https://www.oldphotosjapan.com/photos/94/sidewalk-restaurants

Posted by • 2008-03-07
Add Comment

I liked all these pictures, they must be very special to the Japanese. So they are to me, too.

#000269 · harleigh fleming · 2008-10-02

Most Japanese have never seen photos like this. When I showed some of my collection to a Japanese visitor the other day, he told me that the thrill of seeing these photos gave him goose bumps!

#000270 · Kjeld Duits (author) · 2008-10-02

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