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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Kobe 1930 • The Bund

The Bund in Kobe, Japan (1930).

The Kobe Bund in 1930 (Showa 5) lined with the offices of steamship companies and trading houses. The tall building in the back with the rounded ornament on the corner is the office of Osaka Shosen Kaisha, a major Osaka-based steamship line. It is one of the only buildings on this photo that still stands today. The original seawall has been replaced by a train-track, warehouses and a quay, greatly extending the port into the harbor. Where the warehouses and the quay end, at the top-right, the old American Hatoba starts. It was through this pier that once all visitors entered Kobe. That location is now the entrance to Meriken Park.

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Osaka 1870s-1880s • View from Enokojima

Enokojima and Osaka City View

A beautiful and extremely rare—I haven’t seen this photo anywhere else yet—panoramic view of Osaka from the Osaka Prefectural Office, looking towards the North East. During the Meiji (1868-1912) and Taisho (1912-1926) periods, Osaka’s Prefectural Office was located on the small island of Enokojima, between the Kizugawa River and the Hyakkenbori Canal. Completed in July 1874 (Meiji 7), the gorgeous Neo-Renaissance style building featured a dome on top. Next to the building stood a tall tower. The photographer somehow managed to lug his heavy and cumbersome equipment to the top level to preserve this incredible view of Edo-style Osaka for future generations.

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1890s • Farmer with Loaded Horse

Farmer with Loaded Horse

Looking at the huge amount of cargo this horse is carrying, you’d expect the poor animal to keel over any moment. Japanese horses, in spite of their small size, were as strong as European horses, though, and regularly carried enormous loads. It also looks like this particular cargo consists of charcoal, so the load is probably not as heavy as it appears from the volume. Notice the flimsy “horse shoes.” They were made of straw, and naturally wore out extremely quickly.

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Osaka 1910s • Shinsaibashi Bridge

Shinsaibashi Bridge, Osaka

The Shinsaibashi Bridge in Osaka’s Minami district sometime during the 1910s. The Bridge was named after Shinsai Okada, one of four merchants who dug the Nagahori canal that flowed below the bridge. This image shows the stone bridge which in 1909 (Meiji 42) replaced the steel bridge built in 1873 (Meiji 6). For a photo of the steel bridge, and the history of Shinsaibashi Bridge, see Osaka 1890s • Shinsaibashi Bridge.

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