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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Tokyo 1930s • Imperial Hotel

Imperial Hotel Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

Today, few people in Tokyo will recognize this impressive Mayan Revival-style building with its wide courtyard and reflecting pool. But between 1923 (Taisho 12) and 1968 (Showa 43) it was Tokyo’s top luxury establishment, the Imperial Hotel (帝国ホテル, Teikoku Hotel) located in Hibiya. The hotel was one of six buildings that legendary American architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959) built in Japan.

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1870s • Basket Craftsman

Basket Maker

A studio portrait of a young basket maker wearing a head band using bamboo to weave a basket. All around him are his bamboo products, which include draining baskets (笊, zaru), winnowing baskets (箕, mi), and noodle-draining baskets (饂飩打ち上げ篭, udon uchiage kago).

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1890s • Broom Vendor

Broom Vendor

A street vendor carrying brooms (箒) balanced on a carrying pole. To protect himself from the elements, he is wearing a broad bamboo hat, known as a bachoukasa (バッチョウ笠). Vendors like him used special calls to make potential customers aware of their arrival.

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Tokyo 1890s • Nihonbashi Fishmarket

100908-0008 - Tokyo Nihonbashi Fish Market

Boats are docked at the fish market in Tokyo’s Nihonbashi district. If you’d ask someone in Tokyo about this spot now, they will most probably call it a staid business area. This is where the Bank of Japan and the Tokyo Stock Exchange are located. Many financial companies have their headquarters here. Even the department stores in this area—Mitsukoshi and Takashimaya—are seen as a bit conservative. Yet, until 1923, Nihonbashi housed a colorful and busy fish market, right next to the famous Nihonbashi Bridge.

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