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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1930s • Woman in White Dress

Woman in White Dress

A woman in a stylish white dress sits on a coach in a photographer’s studio. She is wearing a hat, stockings and high-heeled shoes. The well-balanced styling, as well as the choice of the clothes themselves, suggests that she is thoroughly familiar with Western fashion. Although an increasing number of Japanese women started dressing in Western clothes during the 1920s and 1930s, to be as stylishly dressed as this woman must have still been an enormous challenge for most. For more information about modern Japanese women, see 1930s • Woman with Modern Hairdo.

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1920s • Ainu Playing the Mukkuri

Ainu Woman

An Ainu woman playing the Mukkuri (a Jew’s harp). The Mukkuri is a traditional Ainu musical instrument played by women. It is made of carefully cut bamboo with two strings, and measures about 10 by 1.5 cm (3.9 by 0.6 inches). The player vibrates the tongue cut out of the bamboo by pulling one of the strings, while holding the instrument in front of the mouth. Volume and tone colors are changed by changing the shape of the mouth. Although a simple instrument, and similar to mouth harps found all over the world, accomplished players can create truly amazing music with the Mukkuri.

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1920s • Fire Drill

Fire Fighting Drill

A rare view of firemen drilling with mechanized pumps at what appears to be a factory.

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1900s • Ainu Chief

Ainu

An Ainu chief in traditional clothing. For more information about Ainu, click on Ainu under Themes.

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