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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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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1904 • Feeding Silk Worms

Two Japanese Women Feeding Silk Worms

Two Japanese women are feeding voracious silk worms. Just look at how huge the basket is that the woman is pulling leaves from. After silkworm eggs were hatched in an incubator, the young worms were moved to a feeding room like the one in this image. At first they were fed mulberry leaves that had been made into an ash. Later they were fed on chopped leaves, and eventually full-sized leaves, as seen here.

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1890s • Temizu

Temizu, Japanese Women in Kimono Washing Hands

A woman carefully pours (invisible) water on the hands of another woman, while a third woman is arriving at the gate. All are wearing gorgeous kimono as if they are going to attend a tea ceremony, or a similar special event. The water is ladled from a wash basin called temizu bachi.

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